Under Construction: Trust
Luke 24: 13 – 35
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
May 13, 2018
A few weeks ago, Karen and I went to Las Vegas to celebrate her birthday. While in Vegas, we embarked on a culinary adventure unlike any we’ve ever had. We ate at BLACKOUT. Just as the name implies, we ate in complete darkness. First, we were told to drop off our cell phones and anything else that projects light into a secure locker. We were asked if we had any food allergies. Then, we were led by a waiter into the pitch black restaurant. Our waiter was wearing infrared, night vision goggles. Karen had to put her hands on the waiter’s shoulders. I put my hands on Karen’s shoulders and into the restaurant we went. We literally could not see a single thing, not even our hands in front of our faces. The waiter then sat us down as we felt our way around. He told us where are silverware, plate, glass of water was on the table. We then feasted on a set plant based menu. There were 6 courses to this meal. We had no clue what we were eating – we never got to see the menu. So, we tasted and touched our way through each dish. The waiter would tell us, “There is a protein based food at 6 o’clock on your plate. A vegetable at 2 o’clock. A grain at 10 o’clock.” It was a truly unique and messy sensory experience that we will never forget.
But I admit, we felt a bit vulnerable, to say the least. It was clear early on that this dining experience would require trust. Complete trust. Trust in our waiter who was the only one who could see what was going on with his night goggles. Trust that nothing would jump out at us. Trust in the chef that there were no maggots in our meal. The Blackout dining adventure requires trust.
We are finishing a sermon series this Sunday entitled “Under Construction”. A timely series as this past week we literally went under construction. The first week we prepared for this construction project by addressing the topic of “patience”. Construction requires patience as we find ourselves stepping out of our comfort zone and stepping around caution tape. We are inconvenienced as the restrooms are being remodeled and we will need to use the porta potties out in front of the sanctuary. Being under construction requires patience.
Last week, Dan, the Chair of our Building committee, preached on the topic “Under Construction: Legacy”. A powerful sermon in which he reminds us that through our construction project we are leaving a legacy. “Our project is not just about brick and mortar. At its core we are building a safe space for people to be who they truly are in a loving, non-judgmental human family” (Dan Abushanab). We are building a place of radical inclusivity.
Today we are finishing the sermon series on the theme of “trust”. Ultimately, we need to trust the construction process. Construction zones are chaotic, dirty, noisy (I have been listening to hammering and drilling all week long). This week I saw our restrooms demolished. To me it looks like chaos. But the architect can look through the mess and see something beautiful. The architect sees the end product – the architect sees the process of progress. I can’t quite see it, but the architect can and I need to trust the architect.
In our scripture passage today, we meet two who are struggling with their vision, so to speak. They can’t see possibility; they can’t envision hope; they don’t dare trust. These two are wandering aimlessly, on a road to Emmaus. Cleopas and his companion, most likely his wife, are traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were going home: they are grief-stricken and heartbroken. Their feet shuffle, their heads hand, their shoulders droop. The 7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus must feel like seventy. Their Jesus is dead. They one whom they trusted above anyone else, this one, Jesus is dead. And Cleopas and his companion are devastated. They go home where they can shut the door and give up on life.
No one knows for sure where Emmaus is located. In not locating Emmaus, we are open to the possibility that Emmaus is anywhere and everywhere. We’ve all been on the road to Emmaus. It is messy and dirty. The spiritual landscape of many lives is desolation and devastation. We’ve all been on the road to Emmaus.
As Cleopas and his companion walk, a stranger comes up behind them. It is Jesus, but they don’t recognize him. Disappointment will do that to us. It will blind us to the very presence of the Divine. Jesus walks with these two. He sees downcast faces, rejection and dejection, and defeat. The three of them stop for a meal. And when Jesus breaks the bread, they recognize the holy in their midst. Their eyes are opened – it is Jesus, the risen Christ who had been walking with them all along. They came to Emmaus shuffling their feet, but they return to Jerusalem dancing. They came with heads hung low, but now their heads are held high. They came blinded to the possibilities before them; but now they see the goodness of God everywhere. They came certain that they were all alone; they now trust that Spirit is with them wherever they go. We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.
The Apostle Paul puts it this way: For now we see through a glass dimly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. The One who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.
Some years ago, I met a most amazing woman who certainly had found herself on the road to Emmaus. She knew heartache and heartbreak, desolation and devastation. Her name was Edna. Every summer I would take the youth group on a work trip where we would participate in some kind of construction project. For a few summers we went to Appalachia. As you probably know many “write off” Appalachia as a wasteland for it is the poorest region of our country. But it was there in Appalachia, through Edna, that we opened our eyes to the Holy, to the Risen Christ in our midst.
Edna was a 71 year old widow. We went to her house and did some painting and roofing, cocking and window framing. Edna had a difficult life. Her daughter had died at the age of 18 in a car accident. Another daughter who had lived next door to her had died from cancer. Her husband had died just a few weeks before arrived from a massive heart attack. Edna had her own health problems – heart disease, diabetes, nearing blindness. No doubt, Edna found herself on the road to Emmaus.
Yet, in the midst of heartache and heartbreak, in the midst of grief and sorrow, Edna had the audacity to trust in the goodness of God. Edna taped 12 pennies on her front door. Each penny read “In God we trust”. A reminder to trust in God. Those 12 pennies represented the 12 disciples. Edna had two dogwood trees framing the front door of her house. Why? There is a legend that the cross that Jesus was nailed to was made of dogwood. There were 40 bushes exactly surrounding her home symbolic of Moses spending 40 years in the wilderness after talking to the burning bush. As we entered into her home, there were12 baskets on the fireplace mantel. Why? Jesus had fed the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. In the end, there were 12 baskets of food left over. It is a story that reminds us to trust that God can take a little and turn it into a lot. God can move us from apparent scarcity to abundance. She played gospel music for us as we worked. Her eyes shined with love for the Divine. She would look each one of us right in the eye and say, “Praise God, you are here” and follow that up with a big hug. She even offered her bed to the youth to go and lay down on it in the middle of the hot day. And on her bed – was a pillow with a picture of Jesus on it. Toward the end of the week, the youth joked with her and asked if they could paint the words, “God bless you” on the back of her roof? She said, “No. I don’t want you to paint the words ‘God Bless You’ on the back of my roof, I want you to paint the words ‘God Bless You’ on the front of my roof in big, bold letters. on the front roof of her house. She wanted everyone, every neighbor, every person walking by, driving by, flying over her house to trust they were blessed by God. On the last day of the work trip, we took Edna to lunch. We broke bread, our eyes were opened, and behold – there was the Risen Christ in our midst.
Edna knew that it was not only her house that was under construction, but that she and all of us are under construction, too. Scripture reminds us that we are living stones, being built into a spiritual house. Sometimes the construction process is messy, chaotic, dirty – we can’t see the way forward, but fortunately this is not a DIY (Do It Yourself) project. We are not in this alone. The Divine Architect is with us every step of the way, encouraging, nudging, urging us to trust the process, to believe in what we cannot yet see, to know that the One who began a good work in us will bring it to completion. For though we see through a glass dimly, one day we will see face to face. Amen.