Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Message July 29, 2007

Waldron Methodist Church July, 29, 2007
On the Road to Emmaus
Luke 24: 13-33
Humans are fascinated by journeys. From the shenanigans of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby on the roads to Rio and Morocco, something about traveling grips us. Willie Nelson can't wait to be on the road again, Nat King Cole gets his kicks on Route 66.
Have you ever noticed that the saddest words in the English language begin with the letter “d”? There’s: death, disappointment, doubt, despair, defeat, discouragement, despondency, depression. I have no doubt that if you were to ask Cleopas and his companion how they felt that day, their reply would have included all of these words.
1. Everyone will go to Emmaus:
If you live long enough you will make it to Emmaus. It is that place we have all visited or will visit. It is the place we come to when the hurt is enormous, the pain is too great. We get there when all hope is lost and life doesn’t turn out like we planned. It is that place we journey when we have known great loss and only the greatest of disappointments.
A. We go to Emmaus when we are angry, bitter or irritated:
Emmaus is not far away. It’s about the distance between Waldron and Needmore. In our heads Emmaus may be even closer than that. Some who come to Emmaus are irritated, angry, and bitter. The news was not good on that Sunday morning. The previous week leading to the time of the Feast of the Passover, was one in which hope abounded. This is just a scant few days from Palm Sunday and the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Remember the story? In Luke 19 we read:
“As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near to the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples joyfully began to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
Jesus himself said, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out’”
Boy those were the days. It was to be the culmination of all their hopes and dreams. His followers just knew that the glory of God was about to break loose and all these Romans were leaving. Man things were exciting.
Now it was all gone. He was dead. His closest followers were hiding out. Everyone else had scattered. Where there was once great joy, now there was sorrow. Happiness and joy was replaced by pain. One of their own betrayed him. Now he was dead. It was over.
B. We go to Emmaus when it is hopeless:
“Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.” “We had hoped he was going to be the one to redeem Israel.” Cleopas said, “We had hoped.” Emmaus is that place you go when your hopes are dashed. Cleopas thought that Jesus was to throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. I personally have no doubt that Judas felt the same way. He hoped to force Jesus’ hand by bringing in the Romans. Surely Jesus would break forth in combat when they showed. The conflict could then begin.
Eugene Land was a self made millionaire. According to a Parade magazine article he was invited to speak to 59 sixth-grade students in East Harlem. What could he say to inspire these children who were the poorest of the poor? He wasn’t sure he could even get the predominantly black and Puerto Rican students to look at him. He scrapped his notes and spoke to the students from the heart. “Stay in school,” he admonished, “and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.” At that moment their lives changed. One boy said, “I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling.” Nearly 90% of those students graduated from high school and most went on to college. Eugene Land took them out of Emmaus.
Some on the Road to Emmaus are in denial. Jesus tells them they are “slow of heart.” Jesus never intended to be a militaristic messiah. He made that plain in his teachings. His disciples, “just didn’t get it.” They wanted to be free of Rome and here was a man with the power, charisma, and wisdom to make that happen. Our emotional programming is such that we seldom hear what we do not want to hear. Cleopas and his companion had visions of grandeur, and that is what they heard in Jesus’ teaching. Now they were sad.
Still others on the road to Emmaus are worried. “Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said (empty), but him they did not see.” Those were the ones who were worried about the body. What had happened to it? These particular disciples were probably the only ones to even venture outside. The others were in hiding. They were afraid for their lives. What a difference a week makes. This is Emmaus.
Emmaus is that place where:
You wake up face down on the pavement.
You call Suicide Prevention and they put you on hold.
Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.
You turn on the news and they’re showing emergency routes out of the city.
Your twin forgets your birthday.
Your boss tells you not to take off your coat.
The bird outside your window is a buzzard.
Your income tax check bounces.
Your wife says, “Good morning, Bill”, and your name is George.
2. Even if you don’t see him, Jesus is on the road with you:
Keep in mind that the whole time they were discussing all that had happened with the stranger, they didn’t recognize him. It did not seem to occur to them that if the report of the empty tomb was true, then the report of his resurrection might also be true. He was right there with them and they had no clue.
3. When you get to Emmaus leave! Do not get a room there:
Whatever brings you to Emmaus, there is something important you should know. Do not get a room there. Do not give in to the depression, despair, doubt, disappointment, defeat, despondency, or discouragement. Fight it with every fiber of your being. Do not give in to it one iota. As the poet Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Our text says, “But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’”
I know a woman who suddenly lost her husband to a heart attack. He was only forty-seven. For the last five years she has stayed in Emmaus. She is still angry at him for being gone. She is still bitter at her world. She still cries herself to sleep at night over him. She is still in Emmaus.
They clung on to the one person who gave them hope. They were insistent that he stay with them. In their heart of hearts, they sensed the hope that could burn again inside. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
4. Seven miles from Emmaus is the place to be (but only for a short time):
Jerusalem was the place where life was going to happen. Jerusalem, not Emmaus, is the place to be.
“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem there they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace is with you.”
Jesus appears and they are startled and frightened. They think he is a ghost. Unbelief continued to reign in the face of incontrovertible evidence.
He calmed them by allowing them to touch him. Jerusalem, not Emmaus is the place to touch Jesus. Seven miles from Emmaus they not only saw Jesus but could touch him. Yet there is one more thing we need to remember. Even Jerusalem is not a place of permanent abode. It is simply that place we go to prepare to get back out into the world. We get there and sort things out and the healing can begin. More importantly, we can begin to get the power to go on and do our work.
5. Stay seven miles from Emmaus only until you get your marching orders:
Jesus opens their minds in order that they may learn the true meaning of his teaching, life, death, and resurrection. He then tells them to stay in the city only long enough to receive his power and leave.
We would all like to stay close to Jerusalem. That’s a comfortable place. We can sing songs; read the Bible; pray; and generally have a “feel good, touchy, feely” thing going. The trouble with that is we are not doing what we are to do.
Airplanes are made to fly. They last longer when they fly. An airplane that is always on the ground will deteriorate more quickly than one which is in use. I think Christians are a little like that. If we are not about the business of doing what God has called us to do, we are deteriorating. We are not living up to our purpose.
This story of the road to Emmaus is a symbol of the Christian life. It’s about ordinary Monday morning drudgery and ordinary despair. It is a story to tell us that the risen Lord gives hope and joy. Without seeing him all we will know is disappointment, discouragement, and despair. When we see him as a part of our life this world is not just a place of death, decay and defeat but is a place that groans towards God’s final victory. It’s a story about everyday life.
The changes to the disciples were described like this:
“Their lives prior to this moment were like a smoldering fire that gives no light, just smoke to cloud things up. But once they came into the presence of the Risen Lord their hearts were ablaze! A burning fire gives light for all to see, and they saw, understood and believed! All because of the Risen Lord! Jesus’ victory became their restoring hope. It became the anchor of their lives.” (Author unknown)
That stranger that comes up to us when we are hurting or lonely is Jesus. Come away from Emmaus and back to Jerusalem.


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