RESURRECTION RAYS SHINING ON DAYS OF DISAPPOINTMENT
April 26, 2020 3rd Sunday of Easter
The days of pandemic distancing continue to drag by. For some of us, these have been days of devastation. We have lost loved ones to this insidious disease. Others of us have experienced its debilitating sickness firsthand. Perhaps we have felt the unsettling uncertainty of furlough, or, on the other hand, have had to stand wearying hours on end across a counter from an endless line of customers waiting impatiently for us to ring up their merchandise.
Knowing the impact this disease has inflicted on many folk, the rest of us have felt guilty for complaining about the disappointments these strange days have brought about. We’ve tried to keep a stiff upper lip, to not whine. We’ve created clever, cute memes for Facebook. We’ve come up with jokes. We’ve kept ourselves busy planting gardens and sowing masks and discovering 12 new exotic methods of baking bread.
But when you get right down to it, these pandemic days suck! There…I said it! And I make no apologies.
I feel for Chase and the other seniors in our church who are missing their graduation. I’m sad for Anna and the other young folk whose Junior-Senior proms were cancelled. I hate that Amanda and Dalton had to postpone their wedding. I am so sorry that Monica and Desiree’s cruise plans were aborted, along with the vacation plans of so many others.
Being the sports nut I am, it makes me sick that Drew and Miller and Samantha and so many other kids in our community are missing out on their seasons. My niece, Tori, was leading her UVA softball team in batting when everything came to an abrupt corona-halt.
My friend Joe was scheduled to complete his final leg of hiking the Appalachian Trail from Harpers Ferry to Maine. The trail is closed indefinitely. June was scheduled to have an extremely painful hip replaced. Now all she can do is double her dose of ibuprophen and wait.
Yep, these have been days of frustration and sadness for so many of us. What has been the biggest disappointment this pandemic has inflicted upon you? Type it in the comment box of this facebook stream.
DISAPPOINTMENT ON THE EMMAUS ROAD
13-14Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
Yes, Cleopas and his friend, literally and figuratively, were headed westward into the sunset of crushing disappointment.
It all seemed like such a nightmare of a dream. The two were followers of Jesus. They believed with every ounce of their being he was the Son of Man, the long-awaited Messiah who would redeem Israel. The power of his preaching, the miraculous healing from his hands, his mastery of even nature itself, his courage–never backing down in the face of political or religious enemies–certainly there was no doubt as to who Jesus was.
Then it happened. So fast, so furious. They arrested Jesus. They tortured him.
They took him out to a garbage dump on the edge of town and strung him up on a cross like a common criminal. Jesus died on that Friday afternoon. And on that Friday afternoon their faith died, too.
Scared, scarred–Cleopas and his friend had hid out all day Saturday.
Now, on that Sunday, they had heard some wild rumors being circulated that Jesus’ tomb was empty, that the women had come back after sunrise with some incredulous tale about an angel speaking to them, and a stone rolled back, and grave clothes found empty. But rumors are rumors.
With the coast now seemingly clear late on that Sunday afternoon, Cleopas and his friend head westward out of town on the Emmaus Road–downcast, defeated, despairing–desiring to socially-distance themselves from the tragic episode they had just been through.
DEALING WITH THE DISAPPOINTMENT
But one vital bastion of support Cleopas and his companion have not let go of is friendship. They are leaning on one another when neither is strong. They are deep in conversation, voicing their grief, their confusion, their disappointment to one another. They are not keeping their hurt over their Lord’s crucifixion all bottled up inside.
And we shouldn’t either. We need to talk with one another. We need to express our frustrations over these tedious times. Don’t isolate yourself. Vent to somebody. Vent to me! That’s what I’m here for! And I just might do likewise to you!
But that’s not enough…
15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself drew near and walked along with them;
Perhaps Cleopas and his friend are blinded by the evening sun, perhaps they are blinded by grief….but they do not immediately recognize the stranger in their midst.
But Luke tells us that Jesus draws near to them. And to add emphasis, he writes, Jesus Himself draws near. Just as he draws near to all his children who are enduring tough times. He walks alongside us, a prevailing presence, a constant companion
Yet, to truly embrace our Lord’s friendship and strength, we must first issue an invitation. As Jesus journeys with Cleopas and his friend, there comes point of departure when they finally reach home. They invite Jesus to remain with them, and he does.
Jesus never forces himself upon us. God has blessed us with the gift of free will–the will to choose. We can invite Christ to enter our time and place, or we can leave him out along the roadside. He is always seeking us, He always draws near to us, but he will not violate the boundaries of courtesy. At some point, we have to extend an invitation if we are to fellowship fully with him as Cleopas and his friend did.
The remainder of that evening is truly an eye-opening, soul-stretching time for the two gentlemen as Jesus enables them to get a perspective on all that has taken place.
And then, there is this AHA moment of recognition, as Jesus breaks bread at the supper table. Suddenly they realize that the risen Son of God is in their midst! Their hearts are strangely warmed with assurance. Life is no longer helpless and hopeless. Christ is alive and is with them!
And the risen Christ is with you and me also! He will see us through these days of disappointment. He will give us the resilience to deal with the frustration, the sadness. And, with his help, we will make it to the other side, stronger, tougher, better, bolder. Lean on Jesus!
A young boy came upon a cocoon in the woods behind his house. Matt took it home and waited for the butterfly to hatch. One day, a small tear in the cocoon finally appeared, and the butterfly began to emerge. But it was such a long, desperate struggle for the poor thing to get out. So the boy took his pocketknife and carefully cut the cocoon open to rescue the beautiful butterfly.
But it wasn’t so beautiful. It was fat and swollen. it’s wings were wilted, and over time it never learned to fly. It could only crawl around inside a shoebox.
When Matt told his science teacher about all this, he learned that the butterfly’s laborious effort to emerge from its shell was nature’s way of circulating dormant blood and strengthening its new wings. The tough exertion was preparation for transformation, and Matt’s “help” had actually hurt the butterfly.
What is true in nature is also true of human nature. Some suffering is necessary. We have to struggle. We have to face resistance if we are to gain the strength we need to fly.
Ronnie McBrayer, May the Road Rise to Meet You, pg. 17.
Jesus reminds us that there is
no resurrection without a cross,
no greatness without grief,
no strength apart from striving.
The struggle is vital if we are to be strong.
Yes, these pandemic times have produced a boatload of struggle The disappointments are very real. Don’t deny them. Don’t gloss over them, pretending they don’t matter.
Don’t wallow in isolation. Like Cleopas, talk to your friend about it. And yes, most importantly, tell Jesus about it. Invite him into your heart, your home, your hurt. You will get through this. He will stand with you.
And at the end of the day, you will be able to affirm these words of the Apostle Paul from his letter to the Romans:
3 And not only that, but we glory in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5
Thanks be to God! Amen!