Its in the giving
(Native American Awareness Sunday)
Luke 24:13-35

So, what hope have you been living out of ... that seems to have been dashed?

It's not an unusual part of life to have hopes be disappointing. Has anyone here been praying for peace in Palestine/Israel? How long have you been doing that? Anybody here been praying for our Native American brothers and sisters for the numerous issues in their lives, still this day in a culture quite alien? How long have you been doing that?

The folks on the journey to Emmaus found themselves only three days out ... disappointed, "The one that we had hoped would come to put everything right" ... has been a disappointment. He was able to be killed, like everybody else. Somehow, we thought that he would be above all of that. But, no, death visited, death was real. Have we not experienced the death of loved ones when we had hoped, hoped that they would be the one to outlive us because we knew we would have such a difficult time dealing with their absence. We always hope that we would be the first one, not the one that's left.

Hopes get dashed, day in and day out. How do we begin to work our way through those disappointments? Well, we are just like those folks on the way to Emmaus. We talk to one another about the disappointments, what has been going on, and how terrible it is, and "if only ...." We talk about all this stuff.

And yet the disappointment is still present. All the talk and all the rehearsing and all the remembering doesn't put things right. How do we keep going?

The Scriptures this morning point us toward a particular gift. It is the gift of the presence of Christ.

That gift, we are told, had some stages to it. It had conversation, which we know about and know how to do. It had Jesus going back and rehearsing, and, in a sense, preaching, about how life fits together. But is wasn't in the preaching that folks finally found a renewal of their hope. Every preacher knows that. It's not in the words that I have to say that's going to make the difference in your life. It is this context of meeting with one another and it is the movement of the Holy Spirit that allows you to hear a word, here and there, from someone this morning. That is not left only to the preacher. Even bad preachers can find their words coming alive. The most articulate and polished preachers can find that their words fall flat. It's not the preacher and Jesus found that as he talked with these two on the road to Emmaus.

Then they come to the table. As we read back into that scene we read back in the whole issue of the sacrament - Jesus' body and blood, the bread and the cup. But at the time of this incident the sacrament was not yet established, it was only 4 days old. Those in Emmaus did not know Jesus in the blessing of the bread. Blessing of the bread simply goes on as a routine like you have a prayer before eating. I don't think Jesus was known in the breaking of the bread. Breaking of the bread still goes on as we pass the food around the table, or we pass the plates, depending on family style.

It's not until, finally, the giving that we find the key. It is the giving of the bread. It is the giving of one's self. It is the giving. It is the passing on. It is the giving.

It is in the giving that, all of a sudden, the two in Emmaus had their eyes opened. They became aware. Before they were focused on the disappointments going on on the inside of them. Now they are receiving in a brand new way. And they received a challenge that we received, this morning, as well.

Sitting here, we know that we will be dealing with people this next week who will have lost some hope. If you pay any attention at all to the people you will be dealing with you are going to find somebody who has lost hope. And, friends, at that particular point, you and I, in those situations of hopelessness become Christ. We are the ones who need to offer of ourselves that word of hope, again, that word of hope, again.

The strongest word that we can offer to people to revive their hopes is simply to tell our own stories of our hopes having been dashed and our own hopes having been revived. We need to tell those stories out of our own lives. It is as we tell those stories of hopes dashed and hopes revived that we will spark hope, again, in other folks.

So, I am going to encourage you to open your eyes this next week and to loosen your tongues this next week because spiritual growth and spiritual change in people begin with the gift of awareness. Can you be aware of who is without hope and speak with them out of your own life's experience?

It won't be enough to preach at them. That didn't even work with Jesus doing the preaching. It won't be enough to invite them to come to this table and to receive the sacrament, as important as that is. It is your life that they crave.

This is the connection spot between our lives and the scripture this morning. So I invite you this next week to simply open your eyes to those who have been bereft of hope. Tell them your story. Your story of having worked through hopelessness and been revived.

Your story is going to have a connection with GOD. That story of revival of hope in your life is going to have a connection with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit, and with the Church. That's who you folks are. And as long as that's who you are you might as well just go ahead and let it loose as you deal with folks in the world.

So, here we go, it's time to tell stories this next week. I say that with the understanding that one of the gifts we have from our Native American brothers and sisters is storytelling. They are great storytellers.

They have told the story of that great march from the Southeast to the Midwest, across the Mississippi to the "Indian Territory" - The Trail of Tears. And if they can come through the Trail of Tears, they can come through anything. You and I have come through our own personal trail of tears and yet we are able to continue to give and to share.

So, thanks be to GOD who reminds us that it is in the giving that life is renewed. It is not in the holding on to it, it is not in just the talking about it, it is not in the ritualizing of it - it is the community of giving.

It is good to be in your presence, you are good givers. May you continue that tradition. Amen.

Copyright 2002. Wesley White, Pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church. 1022 Caledonia Street, La Crosse, WI 54603.

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