“Jesus Walked With Us”
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the Saskatoon Prayer Breakfast. It included some fun music by Brad Johner and his sons, some really meaningful prayers for government leaders, teachers, emergency personnel, those who are poor and struggling, and for the community as a whole. I had some theological issues with the key note speaker, but I will remember the prayer breakfast because of a conversation I had at my table before we ate.
I was sitting with a group of young Christian women in their mid to late twenties. One was studying to be a nurse, another was a new teacher, the third worked in a church doing Christian education, and the last worked a couple of jobs, including one at the Saskatoon Food Bank. As I asked them about their work, they started talking about the difference each of their vocations might make in the world.
They all agreed that the nurse’s competent care or a possible mistake made could radically alter a patient’s life. What a responsibility to carry, knowing that in a single moment, you could drastically affect the course of someone’s life. But, of course, each one of them recognized that their impact on another person could make a huge difference for the good, or for the bad… and they were rather in awe of the power and responsibility in that realization.
One of them reflected that looking back at her own life and decisions so far, so many changes and new directions were set after key conversations with people that she trusted. If she had made different decisions at those times, how different her life might have been!
I told the young women that their discussion made me think of the disciples walking away from Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus. It was the Gospel text for today that I had been reflecting on all week. You see, those disciples also had a key conversation, and one brief experience, that radically changed their direction and purpose, and transformed their grief and sadness into joy.
As you may remember, Cleopas and the other disciple were walking home from Jerusalem after the betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and death of the man who had been their teacher and leader. In the course of a few short days, their hopes had been dashed, Jesus was dead, and they didn’t know what to do next. It was a moment of decision for them. Would they go back to fishing, or tax collecting, or whatever other occupation they had been doing before Jesus called them? Or would they somehow continue his way of life without him? They discussed these things together as they walked along.
But Jesus came and walked with them. They told him about what they were expecting, and what they had seen, and how they were confused and disappointed. And he explained the scriptures to them, and helped them to make sense of the tragedy, and stayed with them when they invited him to do so.
It wasn’t until they were sitting at the dinner table together that they recognized who he was. In the breaking, blessing, and sharing of the bread, they began to see him. And then they reflected that their hearts had already been burning in the midst of the conversation about the scriptures too.
As I told the young women at my table yesterday… in their teaching, and nursing, and helping, and sharing their faith, I am thankful for the fact that their actions and words and presence will often make a positive impact on others. Perhaps some of their conversations will be life-changing ones that open minds and transform hearts.
But I’m most thankful that the responsibility of “the rest of someone’s life” is not theirs alone to carry. I trust that Christ will be with them… walking beside them in the midst of those important conversations, and directing their hands as they serve and share with others in the name of Christ.
Of course, on a day like today, I’m reflecting on my own ministry here at St. Andrew’s too. As I think back, I have so many memories of “our hearts burning…” sometimes in worship, in sacraments, in song, in shared prayers, in Bible study, in hospital rooms, and homes, and sometimes even in committee meetings.
Some of you have recently reminded me through cards and comments, emails and Facebook messages. You’ve reminded me of moments like that that we shared together. And I am deeply honoured to have been able to share them with you, and I am filled with joy to know that such moments held some significance for you on your journeys of faith. But most of all, I am grateful for the presence of Christ walking with us, and opening the scriptures for us, and ministering to us in broken, blessed, and shared bread within this community of faith.
As I move into a time of study, and rest, and transition, I expect that there will be a few challenges ahead for you as a congregation. Some of you will be stepping up into new leadership roles. All of you will be continuing your ministry here as a team without one particular minister to provide key leadership, and that will be difficult at times.
But I am very confident that your ministry will continue, and this congregation will thrive. In a while you will call another pastor – someone to walk with you on the next part of your journey – and you will welcome him or her with joy, and share many more moments of “burning hearts” and recognizing Christ’s presence among you.
Today is not only my last Sunday at St. Andrew’s, but we are celebrating Global Church Sunday with our 3rd Annual Global Potluck lunch after worship. Today we remember that the church is not about one person, or even one congregation. The church is God’s people throughout the whole world, gloriously diverse in language, culture, tradition, and practice, but united through Christ and gifted with the same Holy Spirit.
In our reading from the Book of Acts this morning, the Apostle Peter invited a crowd of people in Jerusalem to change their hearts and lives and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. And then he gave them this promise… a promise that applies to us as well: “Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away – as many as the Lord our God calls.”
May we, the whole church, be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit in us, and may we recognize the presence of Christ as our journey continues. Amen.