Scripture Reading: Luke 24:13-35
On Thursday evening I went to a public meeting at the Emera Centre for Northside Rising. With 15 months of research and planning, Northside Rising made gave the community an update as to what they were up to. They shared their research, they shared stories of the struggles of young people on the Northside, and they shared they want to see things change.
And I agree, things need to change.
There were some interesting stats in their report. They had consulted over 500 people on the Northside about their impressions of living in the area. They asked questions like:
“How connected do you feel?”
“What keeps you up at night?”
“What needs to change?”
Those are just a couple of examples, and they also gathered some basic demographic data, such as age, gender, work status, to name a few.
When you break down the data a bit, a few interesting patterns emerge. Those who identified most with “being connected” were those over 65. And this was overwhelmingly so when compared with younger respondents. My immediate feeling was that this group is much more inclined to attend church, so I wondered if there might be a correlation there. Especially since younger generations replied at roughly half the rate than seniors that they felt connected and we know the church attendance of these groups is far lower.
It was also noted that it’s the young adults in their 20s who most identified that it was addiction issues which kept them up at night. While not quite as overwhelming a difference than in the connected question, the difference was still around 10% higher than older age groups.
This echos my experience in dealing with young adults. They are quick to point out how many friends they have lost due to addiction related deaths. They see it far too often. I’ve even heard the comment, “I know more people my age who have died than old people.” That’s a very sad statement to hear.
So I’m hearing all these stats and plans, as well are remembering the stories I’ve heard, as well as in the back of my head I’m thinking about the things Jesus did after the resurrection and before he returns to God, and in particular our reading for this morning as two disciples make their way home from Jerusalem.
These two, Cleopas and an unnamed disciple, are making their way home after their friend and leader, Jesus, has died and then disappeared. They are sad, they are feeling a bit lost, and they aren’t quite sure what to expect next.
And as they are walking, a stranger comes along side of them and begins to chat. They share with the stranger what they have been talking about. The stranger then begins to teach them about the Messiah, all from the Old Testament.
As they arrived at the disciples’ destination, the stranger looks to continue on, but they urge him to stay because it’s late. So he does. And he sits down to have a meal with them.
The stranger does a strange thing. He acts as though he is the one who is hosting the meal. He is the one who breaks the bread they will eat together, and he serves it to the disciples. When he does this, the disciples recognize Jesus standing right there in front of them. They realize that their hearts had been burning with the joy of God as he taught them and then Jesus disappears from their sight.
With great joy they jump up and run the 11 kilometres back to Jerusalem so they can share with the other disciples that they have seen Jesus.
What a wonderful story of Jesus walking with his friends and sharing with them in stories and fellowship. He came alongside these two men who were sad, probably a bit afraid, and most likely feeling a bit lost as to what was going to happen next. And all Jesus did was simply share with him the stories of his own life and their hearts were burning for more. And when they had heard enough, when enough of the story was revealed to them, they finally recognized Jesus right there in their midst all along.
We’re going to spend this whole month looking at the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection. Today we look at the Road to Emmaus. Next week we’ll look at Jesus appearing to the rest of the disciples and other times. What we want to remember is that Jesus didn’t just rise from the dead and then ascend to heaven, he did stuff. He did important things, he continued to teach and also he gave directions as to what his followers are supposed to do next.
The ministry of Jesus did not end when he walked out of the tomb. It continued and still continues today!
What I was hearing at the meeting the other night is that people need someone to walk with them in their struggles. People need someone to come along and offer hope in their lives. Our young people need support and encouragement in order to make better decisions when temptation comes in drugs and alcohol. Parents need help in teaching their children how to be productive members of society. Addicts need someone to come along and walk with them towards recovery. Seniors need friends to help cope with the long times alone. Schools need positive influences from community members who care.
And they all need Jesus. We all need Jesus.
It’s been a long time since anyone ever really cared about what the church thinks. Sometimes we get invited to something just to show how old fashioned our thinking really is. In other words, to make us look bad.
But, where has all this “progressive” thinking gotten us? It certainly isn’t getting us any closer to God! And personally, I see the world becoming increasingly hard to live in.
When Jesus walks beside the two disciples, what is he doing? He is sharing scripture. He’s sharing stories about God. He’s pointing them to himself. He’s telling them that in their sorrow, in their confusion, in their uncertainty, they need to be looking to Jesus.
That’s where they will find hope. He is the one who walks with us each and every step of the way. He is the one who brings joy. He is the one who is able to give direction which leads to life and hope.
So when I think about those who don’t know Jesus here on the Northside, I wonder just who it is that is walking with them? Who is the one who is in their ear guiding them in their decision-making? And is that person the one who has their best interests in mind?
In some cases, maybe they are being supportive and helpful. But in many cases the opposite may be happening.
There is only one way to be sure that we are taking good guidance and direction in our lives, and that is to look to Jesus first and foremost.
Jesus is the only one we can count on in our darkest days because it will always be about what God has in plan for us before anyone else. There are no ulterior motives with God. God has a plan. You have a part in that plan. And God loves you and wants the very best for you.
And Jesus shows us how to act. When Jesus walked with the disciples, he shared words of hope with them. He literally shared scripture, and they felt hope.
This is how we share hope as well. We share the stories of Jesus. We read scripture in order to centre ourselves on Christ and God’s message, which then enables us to better apply it in our own daily lives, which includes being able to share God’s love and hope with others who may be having a bad day.
And when we’re stuck, then we can turn to God in prayer and ask him for the words we need.
We aren’t the ones who will ultimately reveal Jesus to people. But we can share in the stories so that when they are ready, when they are able to fully open their eyes, they will see Jesus for themselves.
Doesn’t that help take some of the pressure off? All we need to do is share the love of God with others as he has shown it to us. Jesus will take care of the rest.
We are just a part of the plan. We are just cogs in the great machine. We are glimpses into the incredible heart of God who wants to pour his love into those who turn their hearts towards him.
What an incredible gift God offers us. What a life our Saviour, Jesus Christ, still lives as he walks with us and guides us. Even if we aren’t entirely sure he is there. But when we’re ready, we’ll see his face and remember.
Just like the two disciples, just like those who are struggling in our communities, Jesus will show himself and their lives will be forever changed.
Just as he invites us to change our own lives and know him as brother, Saviour and friend.
Let us pray,
In your resurrection you have shown us the journey is not over. You have shown us death has no hold on us. You have shown us God holds the victory, sin has no chance.
So we ask you to walk with us, showing us the way forward as we seek to turn our lonely, frightened hearts into hearts of joy and love.
May we always know your presence with us, even as we walk with others in need of this knowledge, in need of this love, in need of this hope within themselves.
May we always know you are near.
We pray this in your most Holy Name. Amen and amen.