Getting Ready for Sunday: April, 30

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I once worked with a youth minister who told me that the experience he treasures most in ministry is watching the light bulb come on for a student for the first time. It’s not often that we get to experience that moment, but it is energizing when we do. Perhaps one reason is because we remember when it happened to us—that moment when we were first awakened to seeing what Christ had been doing in our lives all along.

That sort of awakening is what we read in Luke’s Gospel. As the two men walked the dusty road to Emmaus, a traveler came alongside them and talked to them. As a backpacker, I have had that experience many times. It is common courtesy to talk to other hikers when you see them on the trail—something about encouraging one another in the back country, I suppose. Sometimes the conversations are interesting, and sometimes they are merely small talk. But on very rare occasion has a conversation with another hiker connected with me on a deep level.

Jesus’ interpretation of the Scriptures for these two men does just that. They had been his followers, and their world had been shaken by the crucifixion, and then shaken again by the tale they had heard of an empty tomb. Jesus’ words to them are bold and lack encouragement, but they are certainly characteristic of his wisdom: “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared,” and Luke continues, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”

The story reads as if they talked together all day, or perhaps, Jesus talked and they listened. I imagine that it was familiar to them, like sitting at the feet of their teacher as they had just a week earlier. It was probably a conversation that made the time pass quickly. And by the time they reached Emmaus, they were hanging on his every word. They did not want him to go on, and so they begged him to stay. And at the table, “He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them,” and the light bulb came on, and he vanished from their sight.

Every one of us has a deep longing in our souls, a light bulb waiting to be lit. And like the resurrected Christ walking alongside these two men on their way to Emmaus, God is constantly calling us into deeper relationship with him—a relationship that will fulfill that longing and spark that lightbulb. The disciples on the road, after recognizing their encounter with Christ, exclaimed, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us?”

He is, indeed, talking to each of us on the way to wherever we are going. But often, we do not stop to listen. On the trail, I see talking with other hikers as a necessary burden. I fear we sometimes view our faith like that also. And yet, in reality, it is the thing that speaks to our deepest longing—that speaks to our desire for Christ. Worship is, for us, one way to be sure we are listening with regularity. Other disciplines, such as daily Scripture reading and prayer, help us to hear him also. Stop and take the time to listen, and he will awaken you again and again, and like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he will pull you into deeper relationship with him.

Dry and Dead Places

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Dry and Dead Places

Ezekiel 37:1-14

“The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.” (Ezekiel 37:1)

What do you do when The Lord Himself purposefully brings you to a dead place? Not only that, but what do you do when He not only brings you to a dead place, but a dry place?

In the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, God does just that. The Lord came upon Ezekiel and by His spirit brought him not to a land overflowing with milk and honey, but to a valley that was full of bones. Ezekiel notices the details of the situation and describes that place in verse 2 with, “He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry."  So not only were these bodies dead, being that they were bones, but they were dry. They had been dead for a very long time.

As much as we don’t want to experience this side of God, we must. As long as you are a part of the church militant, God most certainly will bring you to your own "valley of bones." Not only will He bring you to a dead place, but also he will leave you there long enough for the unpleasant place in life to get dry. It seems as if the hellish situation in life will never go away. So in response, we might catch ourselves spiritually whimpering; whimpering at prayer meetings, at bible study, as we drive to church, on our way to work, and so on.

These responses are not bad in themselves. But if we look at the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, we find that God first asks Ezekiel a question, and then tells Ezekiel how to respond to what looks like a completely hopeless situation.

3 “He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”

Ezekiel’s response: 7” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,[d] and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.”

Dry and dead places exist, but they cannot choke out the Word of the Lord. Your situation may be saying to you, “11 …, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ But the Word of the Lord says, “I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.”

Let us dare to believe that our God raises the dry and the dead, and that He most certainly will resurrect the dry and dead places of our lives.

Nicole Foster is the Director of Christian Formation at St. Mark’s Irving and a Doctor of Ministry student at Trinity School for Ministry

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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.