Friday, April 04, 2008

not alone

i heard this week that one of the young people from my former youth group in toms river has cancer. again. a second time seems like doubly bad news, and i found myself emailing him, almost instinctively, not even considering how he might have a chance to read it. it didn't even matter though, because i wanted, or even needed, to say one thing: God is with you, brian. a resurgance of cancer and a second round of treatment might seem like the valley of the shadow of death, but God is with you!

Lord, i believe it. help my unbelief!

this sunday we are looking at the story of the travelers on the road to emmaus. i found this painting online today: it is a painting from around 1516 or 1517 (500 years ago!) by altobello melone. it is oil on wood. it is at the national gallery in london. jesus is the dude on the far left wearing the easter hat and the miniskirt showing off his chicken legs. i don't quite imagine jesus looking this eccentric, and yet luke does tell us in his Gospel that the two followers of Jesus who were returning home to emmaus did not recognize him as he walked with them. it does kind of beg the question how Jesus' appearance was disguised. in any case, though, these disciples were walking through their grief side by side with the resurrected Christ and did not even realize it.

isn't this you and i, sometimes? we walk through life - through our grief or our pain or our boredom or our frustration or our monotany - with our heads down. we go through life as if our eyes were closed. we are so often blinded to those who walk beside us. we are too often tuned out to the din of the divine, focused instead on our own selves.

what if Christianity was really radical?
what if Christianity said that, in spite of how it all looks, God is with us?
what if this faith asserted that even in the midst of loss and hate and war and pain and grief and cancer God is walking side by side with us?

oh wait, it does.

we just don't very often live like it. what did it take for those two mourning disciples to see Jesus? brokenness. when Jesus took the bread, gave thanks for it, broke it and gave it to them, their eyes were opened. so often for us we don't look for God until we go through some time of brokenness, some trying time that causes us to look for help beyond ourselves. then we see.

i guess that the challenge of this emmaus story for me right now is to open my eyes a little bit, to see that Jesus is journeying with me. i need to get in touch with my own brokenness and look beyond myself. i need to look at the dude with the easter hat and recognize Jesus. i need to look at the lady in the checkout line and recognize Jesus. i need to see the one who is calling the church asking for help to pay for their utilities as Jesus, journeying by my side. i need to open my eyes and look around a little bit and realize that we are not alone. God is with us! we are not alone! on the road or in our homes or waiting for an oil change or laying in our hospital beds, unsure of the future. God is with us. we are not alone.

lord, i believe. help my unbelief!


Emoly said...


And thank you.

Anonymous said...

interesting you brought this up today...i've been praying this prayer a lot recently. i get frustrated by my own failing to live out how i believe.

Crafty P said...

That is one of my favorite aspirations:
Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief!

that is such a funny description of the painting. chicken legs!ha!