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“Lost Hopes and Dreams”
Luke 24:13-35; Psalm 4
Her Prozac wasn’t working. The depression precipitated by Sally’s mother’s death
remained unconquered by the doctor’s prescription. Feeling herself slowly swallowed by dark feelings, as a last resort, she sought out her pastor.
It quickly became obvious her despair was initiated on several fronts. All of
Sally’s life, her mother had stood as a rock of stability and security. A matriarch of church and society, she elicited an image of gracious hospitality and steely character. But now she was gone, slowly at first as she battled with the tools of chemotherapy and radiation, and then quickly at the end, long before Sally was prepared to let her go. So part of Sally struggled to understand the human dilemma of suffering and death. The question of where was God while her mother battled pain; how can I be certain of resurrection plagued her mind. And, as is the case in most human relationships, this was but one side of the dilemma — the apparent and visible one.
As the pastor gently probed, Sally released her inhibitions, and a darker side began
to emerge. Yes, she mourned for her mother, but anger and despair also complicated her emotions. Having been raised in the Augusta Road area in one of Greenville’s traditional and fashionable neighborhoods, Sally always assumed her parents, and her mother, possessed significant financial resources. Their social standing and activities always evidenced this kind of wealth. But after her mother’s death, she discovered an empty inheritance. Where could it have gone? Was it never there in the first place?
It wasn’t that she loved her mother for her perceived fortune. She truly didn’t. But
she had assumed, planned on, a sizeable inheritance. She believed these resources would raise her that one level she thought she needed to assume the role she had always envisioned for herself.
It wasn’t that she was unhappy, she quickly informed her pastor. It was just that
life had not turned out exactly as she had hoped. Her husband, Jim, was a good man. He loved her, and made a nice living. They owned a spacious house, drove a brand new van. And she wasn’t complaining. But when she married Jim she just thought he would be a little more successful, able to live behind a gate, drive a large, foreign car.
And then it all came tumbling out. Her daughter was bright and attending Yale
would be that extra level up. But she didn’t get in. The University of Chicago was a great school, but it wasn’t Yale. And then, she bemoaned the fact Jim had gained considerable weight. She still loved him. He was good and kind, but no one would mistake him for Brad Pitt. And she also glumly admitted that neither did she look like she did at twenty-five. She just thought a little extra money could help everything. But her mom left virtually nothing.
And all of a sudden Sally broke down sobbing, overwhelmed by the eternal
questions of life and death, complicated by a plethora of lost hopes and dreams.
Our scripture lesson this morning begins with the despair of death and the lament
of vanquished hopes and dreams. The longest resurrection story in scripture, the Emmaus Road incident resides only in Luke. The story occurs on the afternoon of the first Easter. Two of Jesus’ disciples are journeying back home to the village of Emmaus. Today, we do not know where Emmaus was located, although Luke tells us it was only about seven miles from Jerusalem. Only one disciple named, Cleopas, mentioned no-where else in scripture, but identified by the fourth century church historian Eusebius as Jesus’ uncle, the brother of Joseph and the father of Simeon, who succeeded Jesus’ brother James as the leader of the Jerusalem Christian community. Eusebius also says the Emmaus story was originally a tradition of Jesus’ family. But there is no verification for any of this.
Neither do we know who was Cleopas’ fellow traveler. There is speculation it was
his wife since they lived at the same place in Emmaus. Whatever their exact relationship, we know they are disciples of Jesus who have been in the midst of the morning’s resurrection events and speculations. And now they are dragging back home from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Over and over they rehash what has occurred. Back and forth — with no resolution. So preoccupied are they with their discussions they are startled when a stranger suddenly catches up to them. It is Jesus, but they do not recognize Him.
“What are you so diligently discussing?” He asks.
And verse eighteen says, “They stood still, looking sad.” They are walking home
and they stop dead in their tracks. The grief of the moment, of the question, glues them to the ground.
Understanding this story is easy for us if we recall our own struggles in the face of
death. We fight to comprehend any meaning in suffering, any value in the loss of a loved one. These disciples viewed Jesus as a man of God, a prophet, someone chosen by God to do God’s will. But instead, Jesus is betrayed by His own people, mocked, beaten, and tortuously killed between two thugs. Where is God in all this?
And as we watch the innocent suffer, children contracting deadly diseases, loved
ones whose existences are dominated by pain and mental deterioration, flood victims who have lost everything, we, too, wonder where God is. The talking, arguing, evaluating, discussing carried on by those two disciples on that first Easter is mimicked by each one of us as we navigate the perplexities of a world seemingly possessing little rhyme or reason, or fairness, or divinity.
This cute little girl decides to have a funeral for her worn-out teddy bear. She digs
a small grave in the garden, lines up her dolls as the congregation and dons her raincoat (‘cause she thinks it looks sorta preacherish). She holds the bear high, but she has misunderstood the words when she proclaims: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and in the hole he goes!”
When suffering, death, and apparent meaninglessness confront us, it can seem a
lost loved one is taken away with “in the hole he goes.”
Jesus discerns the disciples’ despair and ask what has brought about these feelings.
Immediately they launch into their dashed hopes about Jesus. “Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. Our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
Things had not worked out as they hoped, or thought they should. They believed
Jesus was God’s man, that as such He would restore Israel’s greatness, establish a new kingdom. But now He was dead. Obviously, Jesus was not who they thought He was. Sure, they had heard the women’s story of the empty tomb, of the angels proclaiming Jesus had risen from the dead. But, so what? How did that change anything? It had not gone according to plan, at least their plans. Jesus was obviously a failure.
How many times do we view life, our lives, as failures because they do not work
out as we desired or intended? How often do we miss God working within our lives because His actions do not match our hopes and dreams? Jesus was not a failure, but God’s plan was radically different from the hopes and dreams of the disciples.
My fictional opening illustrated how easily we can evaluate life by our hopes and
desires, our disappointments rather than our blessings. So many people are unhappy, dissatisfied, because they possess no sense of gratitude. All they see is what they don’t have. We live existences of incredible blessings. Healthy children, good retirement funds, new cars, loving spouses, money to eat out, parents who care for us, well educated children, the ability to afford medical care, pets, new clothes, piano lessons, golf, club dues, fancy weddings, etc., etc., etc.
Blinded by their own expectations, these two disciples were oblivious to the
greatest event in the history of the world, an event that would bring unspeakable joy to themselves and the world. But all they could see was that it didn’t work out the way they wanted. Do we miss the joy of living, do we not see God in our lives because we can only visualize our disappointments instead of our blessings?
Here’s a quiz I want you to mentally take.
First, name the five wealthiest people in the world.
Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
Name ten people who have won Nobel or Pulitzer prizes.
Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor or actress.
Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.
Pretty hard, isn’t it? The most publicized and prestigious events and awards in
America, but how easily and quickly the applause dies, the awards tarnish, and we forget. Now, try this quiz.
List three teachers who aided your journey through school.
Name three friends who stuck by you in a difficult time.
Name five people who taught you something worthwhile.
Think of five individuals who have made you feel appreciated.
Think of five people with whom you enjoy spending time.
How significant are our disappointments when compared to God’s blessings?
The discouraged disciples confess their dashed hopes to the stranger. Then Jesus
reveals Himself, first through the scriptures and then in the breaking of bread.
In the Presbyterian Church, pastors are ordained as ministers of Word and
Sacrament. This designation professes the methods by which Jesus Christ is made known to human beings. We see this vividly illustrated in the story. In explaining the scripture to these two disciples, Jesus shows them how His life, death, and resurrection fulfilled God’s plan. And in the breaking of the bread together, foreshadowing communion, their eyes are opened to recognize Jesus.
Today, Jesus still reveals Himself in word and sacrament. As the Apostle Paul
noted, it is through the “foolishness of preaching” that God speaks to us. A minister is always amazed when God uses his or her words to teach others. No one ever feels adequate to climb into a pulpit. It is a true miracle when God takes insufficient human words and voices His will. I believe our knowledge of this human ministerial inadequacy aids us in understanding that it is truly God who can take something so imperfect and employ it for His eternal purposes.
And it is the same with the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It is common bread
and grape juice, possibly what you ate for breakfast. Yet, here it becomes a spiritual food reminding us of God’s love and presence. The Church is important because it is God’s chosen vehicle, through Word and Sacrament, to reveal Himself to His people. One of the most beautiful verses in scripture is when the two disciples turn toward each other and say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” For almost 2000 years, the preaching of the Word and the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper have made our hearts burn within us as Christ reveals Himself to each one of us.
A man wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and complained for all to read,
that it did not make sense to him to go to church every Sunday.
“I’ve gone for thirty years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard
something like 3000 sermons. But for the life of me I can’t remember a single one of them. So I think I’m wasting my time…and the pastors are wasting their by giving one at all.”
This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the
delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher: “I’ve been married for thirty years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall what the menu was for a single one of those meals. But I do know this. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be dead today.”
We may not know how or why it works. We may not even remember what was
said, but through Word and Sacrament God brings life to our hearts and minds.
It looked like all was lost. The despair of death, the disappointment of unfulfilled
expectations combined to create a sense of defeat within those two disciples travelling along the Emmaus Road. But hearing the scriptures taught and sharing the breaking of bread turned defeat into victory, unhappiness into gratitude, misdirection into purpose and meaning.
This morning, Jesus Christ continues to offer the same to you and me. In a world
burdened by death, disappointment, and meaninglessness, He offers love, forgiveness, and purpose. Christ is here. He wants to walk your Emmaus Road with you. Are you and I ready to listen to the burning in our hearts?
Indian Research Journal of Extension Education Special Issue (Volume I), January, 2012 Decision Making Profile of Women of Ummednagar Village of Jodhpur District Bhagwan Singh1 and Soma Srivastava2 1. Sr. Scientist, 2. Scientist, Division of Transfer of Technology, Training and Production Economics,Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur-342003, Rajasthan Corresponding author e-m
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