Pentecost Sunday and Confirmation
May 23, 2010
My friend Heather Davis wrote a wonderful book about her conversion to Christianity during the health crisis of her baby girl. Kathleen Norris wrote about her conversion as she moved back to South Dakota to live in her grandmother’s house. And Sara Miles will be at our Synod Assembly next week, talking about her conversion after eating a piece of bread identified as the body of Christ. Conversion is so often pictured as a BAM moment in which everything begins to fall into place and life changes dramatically.
That is not my experience. And I suppose it is because my conversion has been long and filled with ups and downs that I have come to love this story that I wanted to share with you today. Jesus comes as a stranger, willing to walk with these two as they wend their way home to Emmaus. He asks about their sorrow and gets the hot news from town. And bit by bit he leads them through a reading of their own Scripture, showing how the ministry and death and resurrection of the Messiah has been anticipated throughout their history. As their journey ends they invite this stranger to join them in the evening meal. And behold, the stranger becomes the host, breaking the bread and giving thanks and offering the cup of blessing. Their eyes are opened to the One with whom they have been walking, the One who lead them so clearly through the teachings and stories and prophesies. Jesus is revealed, and they recall the power of the story he has shared with them. “Were not our hearts burning within us.”
I have come to think of our life as believers as a similar walk. A journey in which Jesus walks beside us opening God’s love and promises as we walk. Often we don’t recognize that it is Jesus beside us, until he is revealed in a word or a taste of bread and wine. Step by step we grow in understanding as our life unfolds. The stories of God’s people take on new meaning for us as we live through disappointment, tragedy, abandonment, and other sorrows which we think will break us. Jesus’ suffering touches us powerfully as we undergo our own suffering. And Jesus’ promise never to abandon us takes on new meaning as we cope with loss.
Jesus is revealed to us as we grow in knowledge of God’s Word, and Jesus becomes God’s Living Word to us as we grow. If Jesus’ walk with his disciples was confined to that time and place, we would all be “secondhand Christians” says Fred Craddock in his commentary on Luke. But Jesus walks with us as the living Christ, opening the Scripture to us as we turn to it over and over again. And Jesus is revealed to us as we break this bread every week. His presence makes us all “first-generation Christians” and makes every place we meet him our Emmaus.
And so we share our experience with each other, strengthening and encouraging each other, deepening our faith and confirming our experience. In the community which is created, Jesus comes to us again, living and active and loving and forgiving. When we feel the most unworthy, this meal reminds us that we are invited to God’s table because God loves us and has made us worthy. When we fail to live up to our own expectations, Jesus reminds us that our sin is forgiven and our healing guaranteed in his resurrection.
I especially wanted to share this resurrection story with you this morning, Chelsea and Lakota. I want you to remember wherever you go and whatever you do in this life, that Jesus walks with you. The life that awaits you may have great joy and great sorrow in it. You may experience disappointment and pleasure, and through it all, Jesus will be walking with you. He will be opening Scripture to you as you grow, deepening your understanding of his love and of his presence. He will surround you with loving community to walk with you, if you will let him. You will always be welcome at God’s table to be reminded of your place there forever, God’s gift of faith. That Holy Spirit which we celebrate here this morning will be calling you, guiding you, refreshing you, and enlivening you through your walk, that walk that never ends. As you come to the end of that walk in this life, you will be getting ready to meet Jesus fully face-to-face to continue to walk beside him. That is his promise to you, and the hope by which all of us live.
And now may the peace which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.