Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Road to Emmaus

The Road to Emmaus

Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he wa sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She'd barely said "hello" when - "sssoppp!". Chippie got sucked in.
The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie- still alive, but stunned.
Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do...she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.
Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
A few days after the trauma, the reporter who'd initially written about the event contacted Chippie's owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore. He just sits and stares."
It's not hard to see why. Sucked in, washed up and blown over...that's enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.
(from Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)
Have you ever felt like Chippie? I think there have been times when each person in this room has felt sucked in, washed up and blown over. The question today is how did you handle that disappointment? What do you do with difficulties? with despair?
Let's take a look at today's Gospel reading about the 2 guys from Emmaus.
They grew up thinking a king was going to be their Savior. They had learned that, at their Synagogue. All of their oppression would be lifted when this King/Savior came into the world. Their grandparents waited for it. Their parents dreamed about it. And the 2 men hoped for it. Every day. Every single day they looked with their eyes peeled open. They needed a Savior. Too many years had gone by. Too much oppression. Years of waiting for something more. Years of longing. Have you ever felt like that?

Then Jesus comes. He's not exactly what they expected, but they followed him. They watched his miracles. They saw Jesus cure the lame, give sight to the blind. They saw Jesus bring people back to life. So the men watch Jesus attentively full of hope, full of expectation. Is he the One? Will He be our Savior/King? Will he bring us the peace we've been looking for? Will He make all of this make sense? They hoped so.
They right before their eyes, Jesus is arrested. He's charged with blaspheming. The men must have secretly thought - any minute now Jesus will be surrounded with angels who will save him. Any minute now his Father will come to rescue him from the road to Calvary. Trumpets will blare. There will be shouts of joy. They Jews will be redeemed and take their rightful place as leaders. See, the 2 men just KNEW it would happen that way. They had it all figured out. Jesus will be King - in rich, red robes, sitting on a throne. Yes, that's the way it will happen.

But it doesn't. Jesus finishes the walk to Calvary and is nailed. He doesn't come down off the Cross in a miraculous blaze of light. Jesus bleeds. He is stabbed. He drinks vinegar from a sponge. The 2 men from Emmaus must have been stunned. "No," they thought, "this isn't happening".
But it did happen. And Jesus dies. The 2 men must have waited to see if he'd come down from the Cross. But Jesus doesn't. He dies. Their hoped for King just dies. And it's all over.
How do they feel? Sad. Confused. Disappointed. Maybe angry. They wasted all that time following Jesus. They had all their hopes pinned on him. They just knew that wasn't the way it was supposed to go. Have you ever put your hopes into something or someone? Has that person disappointed you? Has that job consumed your energy? Was that car or house NOT the answer to all your dreams? If so, you might have a taste of what these men felt.

So the 2 men from Emmaus walk away. They leave their dreams behind and take their disappointment with them. And they start toward home. As they walk, they talk with each other about their despair. They say things like, "How could this happen to us? We followed him. We believed in him. We're good people. We did everything we were supposed to do. Jesus was supposed to be King. We would have been in his Army." You see, the 2 men had it all figured out. But I guess they figured wrong. You've been there, haven't you?
You've been gravely hurt by others. Some of you sitting here today are hurting now, or recently have been hurt. I can guarantee all of you will be hurt again someday. You've felt like Chippie the parakeet. Sucked in. Washed up. And blown over. You've stopped singing and just stared.
And like the 2 men, you've walked away licking your wounds. Disappointed beyond belief. You thought you had figured out how it should go... but it didn't go that way. That job didn't come. That friend betrayed you. That spouse wasn't faithful. That person didn't meet up to our expectations.
So where do you go from here? Like the 2 men from Emmaus you may walk away complaining. Maybe not just complaining- crying. You may sink into days of sadness. You may wrap yourself in a blanket of despair. Any you may just walk away. Give up on your friend, on you husband or wife. You may just give up on Jesus. Where was he? Why wasn't he what you expected him to be? Why didn't it all work out the way YOU thought it should?
The answer is -because it works out better! You see, Jesus sometimes say No to what we want and Yes to what we need. Like a good parents he'll say, " No, don't touch that flame on the stove." He sees something we don't see. We see the glow, the dancing movement. God says No because he sees more. But then we feel disappointed.

The 2 men from Emmaus were disappointed and blinded by their sadness. Jesus didn't meet their expectations so they abandoned him. What if Jesus HAD been a ruler on a throne as they had hoped? What if he did start a huge army for these 2 men to join? Just as they wanted. History would be different. We wouldn't have been saved by a King who was born in a stable and died on a Cross.
Sometimes our petitions are limited to what we can imagine to ask for. We piously ask for God's will and then pout. Our eyes are so filled with tears and disappointment that we get distracted and we can't see the person walking beside us. That's the point of this whole Gospel. Jesus was right beside them and they almost missed it. He got off the cross and came to them. Jesus met them at THEIR point of pain and healed their disappointment. Jesus had gone to hell and back to give heaven to earth. Now he was right there beside them. When these 2 men finally realized who they were breaking bread with, they were overcome with joy. It wasn't all over. It was just beginning! and the Gospel says, "They ran out to tell everyone."
Hope isn't hoping for what you expect. It's for what you'd never even dream Christ coming off the Cross to meet you where you are. Hope is zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and our confident expectation of Him. To hope is to open your eyes and realize that Jesus is walking right beside you. To hope is to trust in the man who was born in a stable and who died on the Cross for you. To hope is not to pout but to pray, not to be sad but to sing, not to despair but to dream.
The next time you're upset, don't give up. Close your eyes, be patient and let God remind you he's still in control. And then open your eyes and look. You'll see him right beside you.

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