Read Luke 24:13-35.
I have a confession to make. I think the church today is broken.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a Christian and believe with my whole heart Christians should gather with other Christians, sharing life, reading GOD’s Word together, serving and worshiping.
But here’s why I think church is broken….while I rarely doubt the presence of God in my life and the world, I often struggle with figuring out what it is to LIVE a Christian way of life. And I think I’m not alone. You see saying I’m a Christian and living as one are two different things.
Let me give you an example to make it clear. I’m from MN…and I love baseball, and am a MN Twins baseball fan. Not only do I enjoy watching baseball, but I love getting to know the stories of the players and following their progress throughout the year. That’s all good, especially when the year is going well. But if you’ve followed baseball these past few years….the MN Twins haven’t had a very good run. And losing 100 games a season means watching lots of games when ‘your’ team comes up short. And believe me, the Twins have figured out all kinds of ways to lose – they can lose close games, be out of the game from the start…and everything in between. And, as the team tries to regroup, things get tough – your favorite players are traded, injured or sent back to the farm team. And all these changes make it hard to stay connected and invested.
Throughout the season I’m given the choice – stay faithful to being a fan or hang it up. So far, with the help of family members, other Twins fans at work or in my community, and continuing to show up and support the team…I’ve found a way to stay a Twins fan in the good moments as well as the bad.
Now I’m passionate about baseball, but baseball…when the day is done…is just a game. But this ‘game’ wants me as a fan…they know I follow them on Twitter, buy tickets to their games on StubHub and buy Twins gear from their store. And through all kinds of ways, both targeted at me personally and within the greater Twin Cities area, they encourage me…inform me…invite me to join both the Twins community and the greater Major League Baseball community.
Now I’m sad to say my church, the Christian church, has not done the same. You see, living a Christian way of life is hard most days, perhaps like being a fan of a struggle sports team. Why? Because being a Christian is complicated today. While many of my neighbors and friends say they are Christian…or at least note a connection to a Christian faith community…many of us don’t know what it means when it comes to living it out in our daily life. Things like parenting our teenagers and college kids, making choices about how we will spend our money, or what impact our faith has on our daily work. And in fact, when we do talk about, our ideas vary and we often don’t know how to find our way forward. This leaves us hiding behind denominational issues or ecclesial practices we might not even understand, so we drop the subject. And church, the weekly worship gatherings and small groups, talk about churchy things, or at least use churchy words, which often remain disconnected from my daily issues. And when I’m gone, or going through a tough spell, they don’t know…don’t connect…or know what to do and It’s easy for me to fall away from the very community that might help me figure these things out.
And, at times, I wish…like my being a baseball fan…I could just walk away and believe it doesn’t matter. But here the deal…I know it does.
Christians around the world just walked through the season of Lent…a season not confined to a religious calendar…but a season which highlights what all humans know and experience – life is frail and broken. My season of Lent started the day after Christmas as I met a friend and his family at the hospital as their 17 year old son was admitted to the ICU. Three days later he died. I cried. We cried. Asked questions. Challenged God. Prayed. And in a very real way, these days marked the beginning of MY season of lent. And for the past 4 months, grief and loss and disappointment have been very real in all areas of my life. It’s been, or me, a season of Lent.
But, people of God, Lent is not the end. The cross does not have the final word. The tomb is empty, we are Easter people, people who live on the other side, people who have another story to tell.
Walking outside of Jerusalem, to a nearby village, the people who had been following Jesus were talking. They were talking about the events that had taken place…the crazy events of Holy Week and now the discovery that the tomb Jesus was laid in was empty…and they encountered a man on the road. This man, Jesus, joined in, asking questions and listening, and they continued on their journey.
The time for supper came, and the travelers stopped, gathered around a table for a meal and did what came natural…they prayed, gave thanks, and broke bread. And when they did…their eyes were opened. Jesus, God incarnate, was in their midst.
You see post-resurrection, the story changed. Jesus joins us in the breaking of bread, yes. The meal is a reminder that Jesus is alive and GOD’s promises are true. But that’s not all. Jesus is also present with us on the road…in our daily life. And on the road, Jesus didn’t offer them answers or tell them what to do. Rather he reminded them of the Importance of accompanying each other on the journey, of talking about the events of our lives and trying to make sense of them.
People of God, …and you do have the promise of abundant life. Yes, the journey is real, it’s hard, it mysterious, and it’s complicated. Don’t worry so much about the answers, but join each other on the journey and help each other hold on to hope, not the hope of a winning baseball season, but the hope which can only be found in the empty tomb.