Luke 24: 13-35
When Michael and I were married, we were given a piece of cross-stitch that exclaims- “The road is bright before us, as hand in hand we start, united in love forever, one mind, one soul, one heart.” So too at the Seminary, I remember those first days of Summer Greek when we were giddy about launching our paths toward ministry, in those first days before participles, group projects and many other things would challenge our sense of it all. I could tell you that the road of either of these journeys has always been bright and we have always been in solidarity about the journey.
Or I could be honest and share that inevitably, disappointments and anxiety about what’s next takes on a life of its own in community. “Some people saw… these people said… others discovered…” We're really quick to share those stories. When we’re on our walk, we can become so focused upon sorting it all out. Where’s God? We went looking, we thought we knew.
And now with social media, the concept of flash mob meets doubt in ways that quickly take on epic proportion as we click and comment in the frenetic pace of our need to analyze and know. As I prepare to end my time in seminary, I would love to be able to say that those of us intent on pursuing a closer walk with God were somehow more adept and remembering where to find the Lord. But we all have had those moments when we are sure it is all for naught, when we have no clue what will happen next and how we might as well accept that it is about to turn out badly. From the time we began, we have all had those crisis moments about coursework, or relationships, or when we find out that where we have been sent by God isn’t at all the road we sought out or expected. We have agonized over whether the economy will doom our chances, or whether the currents of dissent in our churches will. How will I survive teaching parish? I can’t take another day of CPE. I can't believe what that (professor, classmate, supervisor) said! Will there be an internship site and will it be what I hope for? Will a bishop choose me, or a congregation? What does it all mean? What if at the end of the road, it’s just the end of the road?
And I think maybe God lets us spin for awhile until we realize we are still fuzzy headed and empty handed, as we keep turning to what we think it ought to be. We get ourselves all tied up in knots, listening to those who are the self-proclaimed experts-I think there’s a reason in this age they are called Spin Doctors. Because all of the self-generated analysis leaves us spinning. How ironic then that the disciples turn to the man who later they will see is Jesus and in the midst of all of their lack of knowing tell him that only a fool would not know what is going on. Have you ever noticed that when you’re sure someone else is an idiot, a lot of times you later see things clearer and differently? You’d think we would grasp that more permanently, but alas, our nature is that we make only slight progress at best. We find that we both are the dishers-out and recipients of dashed expectations and terse words said in the moment. And each of us has had moments where we too exclaimed-“But I had such hopes.”
But as we kept walking and listening, across those miles, at some point, we took a break from our pace, and took a breath from all of our words. And in those moments, the ones where we sat a spell, Jesus showed up to us, giving us strength for the journey in the midst of the community. In small, but intimate ways. Fleeting ways. And then as soon as we blinked, it’s gone. But we know it has happened- and this is why we have still continued the journey.
Here in my house, as we’ve have been going through all of the things we’ve accumulated, in anticipation of perhaps moving in the next year, it takes longer than I’d like to think. Because we get sidetracked with each thing into all of the memories- Has really been that long since…? Remember how crazy that was? What a great day when…All of those memories, burning in our hearts. We cherish where God has been in all of the people who have touched us on the road so far. Because each time we were in doubt, somehow it all turned out. Places where forgiveness seemed impossible, made whole. Perhaps not when or where or how we envisioned, yet we could look back and see where Christ really was.
Mark Oldenburg once noted that “on the way to doing the ministry you think you are called to do, something or someone will cross your path and there, real ministry will happen.” That may not be verbatim- but close enough. Those words have always been with me here. I think Luke’s gospel offers a corollary: On the way to looking for Jesus in the places and the people where you are sure he will be found, Jesus will meet you somewhere else and real presence will happen in ways that change you forever.
Now we are all preparing to head out on the road to new places from LTSG. To my classmates, the faculty and the staff, to all of those in all of the contexts I have been blessed to experience-
I give thanks to God for all of the times and places where you brought the risen Christ into my awareness. These are the ways that now send me forth to tell others what I have seen and heard in the breaking of bread with you on the path of discernment. And to hopefully do so with eyes at least a little more open to meeting Christ on the journeys to come. I hope it has been so for you and pray it may continue to be so for you. Go forth and be eager to share these stories wherever the road takes you.