Mixed Emotions

by | Apr 15, 2024 | Sermons | 0 comments

April 14, 2024

Scripture Reading: Luke 24:36-48

Many of us seem to have a severe allergic reaction whenever it looks like change is in the works. Not all of us, I guess. But I was talking with Becky about how distasteful change is for many of us, so she suggested we call change by another name!

When I was looking at those days after the crucifixion of Jesus, it seems to me that whether they liked it or not, change was the order of the day! They must have felt like they had suddenly been dumped into a raft heading downstream in the middle of a series of rapids – not sure how they got there and not at all sure how to get out! “I don’t know how I got here or where I’m going, but I’m sure making good time!”

Take this story Mike read from Luke this morning! Talk about change! One day they are praying with Jesus on the Mount of Olives and he is alive and well. In just hours, he has been accused, tried, and crucified! Three short days later the tomb is empty! Then, just before the reading from this chapter in Luke, two men were walking toward Emmaus when a third joined them, went to dinner with them, and then was gone and they were absolutely convinced it was Jesus!

We sometimes look back on those few days and wonder why those people were so thick headed! Why did it take them so long to see and believe what was right before their eyes? Don’t be so hard on them! I’m guessing we would not have reacted much differently!

Anyway, after the Emmaus experience, those two men, and a group of their friends, including some of Jesus’ disciples, got together in Jerusalem to process this whole thing and suddenly Jesus appears and says: “Peace be with you!” It says they thought they were seeing a ghost!! Now how do you process that set of events?

In Luke’s gospel, after he tells us of this meeting in Jerusalem, there are only 5-6 verses left in entire book! In those short verses, Jesus is whisked away and suddenly NOTHING is the same as it was! The one they’ve followed 24/7 is physically gone. The vision Jesus had entrusted to them is perhaps still there, but how do you go about it now that you leader is gone? Your friends are totally baffled and at loose ends. You talk about being in transition! Transition is uncomfortable! It is no
wonder we like to sing: “Gimme that ole time religion! It was good enough for my father/mother and it’s good enough for me!”

When we were in Nova Scotia, we happened upon a Buddhist monastery where Pema Chodran lives. She has written a number of books on coping with life’s difficult situations and she says that “Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it… The off-center, in- between state is an ideal situation…Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic – this is the spiritual path.”

Luke summed up those early Christian’s frame of mind so well in so few words: 24:41 While Now, that’s MIXED EMOTIONS! in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering,

Disbelief is mixed in there with joy and wonder! And Jesus gently invites them to trust what their hearts are telling them – to trust beyond the evidence – to not surrender to their fears! BUT until they can make it through the transition, he seems quite content to be with them in kindness, gentleness and great love while they work everything out in their minds and hearts! He generously gave them the space they needed to work through this, deal with their pain and loss, maybe their anger, and rearrange the puzzle pieces until things no longer seemed so wonky! He seemed to have an unlimited supply of patience.

You see, God in heaven was not confused or shaken to the foundation during this time! I believe that when things look the most convoluted to us, from God’s perspective, all is clear!

A long time ago I heard a story of someone who was struggling with chaos and doubt in his/her life, and demanded an answer from God about why it was all so confusing and frightening. God said: “My child, life is like a beautiful weaving. You can only see things from the underside where there are cut and loose threads and colors that run together and are disconnected from their starting points. Remember, I see the weaving from the top where the pattern comes together in beauty and precision. Let me guide you. Just trust me when nothing makes sense to you!”

Sometimes, of course, we are the ones who have to live through life’s chaos and doubt. But sometimes we are just called to walk with another person in the Beloved Community who is quietly in the pit of despair and disbelief. We don’t know their struggle, or their story. All we can do is, like Jesus, be full of acceptance and patience giving the other the space they need to work their way out to the other side.

We can offer what we have and what we know, but we must be very careful not to assume that they will come out on the other side looking the way we think they should – or looking like we think a follower of Jesus would look like!

Don’t you recognize any of these dilemmas?
● A friend feels betrayed by someone in the church so declares they will never darken the church door again.
● A child comes home and looks you in the eye and says: “Mom, Dad, I’ve decided I’m gay.”
● A dear friend has gone through an earth-shattering divorce and declares they just don’t believe in God any more.
● Your doctor tells you you have a spot on your lung!

The possibilities are endless. Life is anything but predictable and the emotions that get stirred up inside us as we try to cope are as unpredictable as life itself. The realization that doubt or unbelief has taken up residence inside us or someone around us along with joy and wonder is not wrong nor is it a necessary sign of God’s judgment. But, it is a clear invitation for us to gather round, pray, lift, and love – maybe without a word being said – until the path becomes clear again and life settles down
for a short time until the next storm shows up on the horizon.

Like Pema says, these times are the perfect opportunity to practice the spiritual life.

Pastor Don Crist