We Are Not Alone 5-4-14

Today’s sermon is based on Luke 24:13-35, the well known passage of the Road to Emmaus. You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/we-are-not-alone-5-4-14

This sermon combines not only the notion that God meets us on the road between the cross which is behind us and regular life that is before us. This sermon also brings in the notion of Confirmation, which we celebrated with 5 young people during worship.

You can follow along with the sermon text here….though note that there are a few differences between the text and what I actually said.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

I do not often travel alone. In the rare instances when I go somewhere for more than a few hours, I’m usually with someone. Perhaps this comes as no great surprise to you. I’m married with two school aged kids…and as we all know, in most instances, families go along for the ride.

But not this weekend…this time around we were pulled in two different directions. You may notice that my family isn’t here this morning, because they have spent the weekend, and are still there right now, in Decorah helping my niece and God-daughter celebrate her first communion. But I, on the other hand, obviously didn’t head that direction, both because I needed to be here with you this morning, but also because of a prior engagement up in Sioux City…the Western Iowa Synod Assembly which has been in session since Friday, and will be wrapping up here quite shortly. As the pastor, attendance is pretty much mandatory, and so there was no skipping out to head to a family function.

And so last Friday I headed up to Sioux City, and I spent the night at a hotel…following the evening’s activities for assembly, I settled myself into my room, watched some tv…and one of the last thoughts that went through my head before I fell asleep was “Man it’s weird being here alone…its just weird…its weird traveling alone…” And then I konked out.

Early the next morning…6am to be exact…much too early for this self-professed night owl…I found out just how wrong I was to think that. I might have been the only person in the hotel room…but it quickly became clear that I was not…isolated.

The first thing I heard was water coming down through the pipes from upstairs…someone above me was either taking a shower, or flushing the toilet. (pause) Next, as I laid there trying to go back to sleep again, I realized just how thin the tissue paper walls were in my hotel, when my neighbor in the next room shut his door and walked past my room…I swear it sounded like he was walking right past the bed…And so between hearing things in the hallway and continuing to hear water in the pipes…and even the elevators 50 feet down the hallway…I realized that I was not…alone…Sometimes our perceptions are wrong aren’t they? I thought I was by myself…but I was…incorrect.

And that is precisely the situation that we find in today’s story. (pause) Here we are…the third week of Easter…in our reckoning Jesus was raised from the dead 14 days ago…but in today’s story, its still Easter Sunday…and truly, Easter has been a busy day…you know everything that’s happened…The women found the tomb empty…they heard from the angel…then Peter went and checked things out…and in the midst of all that, these two guys…Cleopas and his unnamed companion decide that its time to skip town.

We’re not exactly sure what has set them on their way, it could be fear as fellow disciples of Jesus that they might be caught and killed…it could also be quite simply because the Sabbath is over and they are free to walk the long distance home.

But regardless of the motivation that put them on the road, that is exactly where we find them…walking along the road, discussing the events that have been happening around Jesus…and it is quite depressing for them…and understandably so…they’ve been following Jesus…and now he’s dead…and even if the women have found the tomb empty, they themselves haven’t seen him…and as far as they know…its all over…everything they’ve been hoping for…everything they’ve been expecting is out the window.

And so they trudge along…and they are joined by a stranger who falls in with them and engages them in conversation….asking them just what’s got them so down in the dumps. (pause) Now we know who this stranger is don’t we? Jesus himself…but for whatever reason they don’t recognize him…we don’t know if their eyes are closed due to divine intervention…or because of the lack of evidence of his resurrection…or because Jesus looked different in his resurrected form…we just don’t know what causes it, but the reality of the situation is, Jesus meets them on the road…and he walks along with them…they are not alone, because God refuses to leave them alone. (pause)

This is a road that all walk…the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus…the road between the cross and our regular lives…that’s all Cleopus and the other guy were doing, moving from the cross of Jesus to their day to day lives, and God comes along side them…it doesn’t matter if they recognize him or not…because he’s there…walking with them…engaging them as they try to make sense of the cross…and as the try to understand how this new reality…this reality of a crucified Christ will affect their day to day life. (pause)

In preparation for today, which is of course a very special day in the lives of these 5 young people sitting in the front row…I gave them a task…to sit and think about their faith…to think about God and Jesus, and the commandments and the creed…to think about all the things that we’ve discussed this past year, and all the things that they’ve learned throughout the course of their lives…and then, I invited them to write about it…to create their own creed…their own statement of belief. (pause)

As I read through them, I was amazed by a trend that emerged, across the board…and that trend…that theme was the recognition that God is always with them…and that God will always be with them….not only in the times when they recognize his presence…but also when they aren’t looking…just like the two disciples in today’s story, God is walking along the road…the road between the cross and regular life with our Confirmands…and not just them…but for each and every one of us.

The day of confirmation is truly wonderful…when an individual stands before the congregation and more importantly before God to affirm the faith in which they were baptized…and I love the connection between the two…today, you will continuing the promises that were made on your behalf in your own baptism…and if you compare the two services, you’ll hear a lot of the same things. (pause)
Go ahead and pull out the insert for the service of confirmation…open it up and take a look at the promises listed there…and while you’re looking at that, listen to these words taken from the service of baptism… As you bring your child to receive the gift of baptism, you are entrusted with responsibilities: To live with them among God’s faithful people, bring them to the word of God and the holy supper, teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, place in their hands the holy scriptures, and nurture them in faith and prayer, so that your child may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace. (pause) Sound familiar? It should.

These are the promises made by parents during baptism…your parents made the same promises for you…and if you remember, the congregation joins together in those promises as well…and the within the congregation we find the fellowship modeled in today’s story…once everything has taken place, the walk with Jesus, his interpretation of the scriptures…and the sharing of the meal when their eyes are opened to recognize Jesus for who he really is…the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ…the two disciples go into fellowship with each other…and this is precisely what we are to do as well.

As we walk the road to Emmaus…the road between the cross and regular life, we can rest easy in the knowledge that Jesus himself walks with us, even in those times when we fail to recognize him…and at the same time, Jesus gives us an example of life together in fellowship. They read the scriptures, he interprets it, and they share a meal…through in a couple songs and offering and you’ve got worship don’t you?

In the breaking of the bread, Jesus identity is revealed…but he’s been there the whole time…even if they couldn’t see it. Likewise in our lives, lived together in fellowship with one another, we share in all these things…and just as the two men were compelled by the recognition of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ…we are also called to come together and proclaim our experience with those we encounter…and we never know just where it will be that we will encounter him as we walk that road…but we do…because he’s there.

And so today, on this special day, I want to share a story with you…perhaps you’ve heard it before…it is, after all very common…the story is called footprints in the sand.*

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

Today is simply one day…one step along the road between the cross and your lives…but as you walk through this day, know this…whether you recognize him or not…he’s there…and you are not alone. Amen.

 

*Story by Margaret Fishback Powers

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Teri on May 7, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Great message. Loved it

    Reply

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