Dashed Hopes

One of those passages I love to read at this time of year is known as the Road to Emmaus, you can find it in Luke’s Gospel chapter 24 vs. 13 – 35.  That was my daily reading today.

There are so many ideas that come out of this passage it is incredible but, there comes with it, a familiarity.  The saying goes “familiarity breeds contempt”.  I think would be better translated as “familiarity causes us to miss”. That is always a danger with well-loved Bible passages, we can miss what God wants to say to us because we think we know it. 

So, as I approached Luke 24 this morning, I prayed that God would give me fresh eyes to see something new. 

He didn’t.

Instead, I felt drawn to verse 21 and felt that God was reminding me of something that I knew but, needed to revisit;

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.   (Luke 24 vs. 21 – NRSV)

In just those few short words, the disciples speak of their feelings of being let down; having their hopes dashed.  They had hoped that Jesus was the one who was going to set Israel free and rebuild it’s sense of nationhood and national pride. Now their hopes lay in a tomb following the horrific crucifixion.  Even if they had truly believed that he could rise from the dead on the third day, other than the wishful thinking of a few of their number, they had no evidence to back this claim up. 

Instead of victorious living they had hoped for, they were now running away in fear needing to get as far away as possible from those forces that may track them down and crucify them too.

All of their pain, hurt and anguish is expressed in a few short words

But we had hoped….

As I thought about those words, I began to think back over the times in my own life when my hopes and dreams have been dashed.

It happens to all of us.  The relationship that doesn’t work out.  The job we worked so hard to get turns out not to be what we thought it would be.  The friends we trusted, let us down.

Yes, it even happens to Church leaders.  You have hopes and dreams for your ministry, for the congregations you serve, for the communities where you live and then you face opposition, disquiet, complaints and grumbling.  As one of my friends once commented “Church would be great if it wasn’t for the people”

I can remember one time (not in my current post – I hasten to add) that I got so worn down by the constant grumbling, it seriously affected my walk with God.  When we eventually moved on, I felt a real sense of failure and despondency

But I had hoped…  

It wasn’t that Cleopas and the unnamed disciple had placed their hopes in the wrong thing, it was in Jesus after all. What they had done was try to confine Jesus to their way of thinking, of fitting in with their understanding, wants and desires.  Jesus view was different.

I love the way, in the story, how Jesus draws alongside and without criticism or condemnation lets them talk.  He lets them put voice to their inner feelings.  Once they have spoken, He leads them to a great depth of understanding by showing them that there is more going on here. 

As you may think that Jesus work is done (and the disciples still haven’t realised that it is Jesus with them),

he walked ahead as if he were going on.  (Luke 24 vs. 25)

They urge him to stay and the penny drops as they break bread together.

So I took the opportunity, in the peace and place of prayer to share with Jesus those times when I felt that my hopes and dreams had been dashed.  I found, as I told Him, there was no criticism, or condemnation but instead His gentle love and the warmth of His healing touch.

Is it time you had a chat with Jesus?













Getting in the way

It’s Holy Week.

A time, usually, of rush and hurry for those of us involved in leading Churches. This year, I have been well prepared. Sermons are written and services are planned. Just for the record, I am not sat with my feet up! There are appointments in the diary

What I really wanted to do this week was devote some of my time to prayer and the Bible. To focus in and reflect upon this incredible week. As I have done so, I have been amazed at what God has been saying to me through it.

The passage I looked at this morning is one I have preached from many times before and quoted many times before. John 13 vs. 31 – 38. It contains Jesus famous saying;

A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13 vs. 34 – 35)

I fully expected to focus on those verses, instead, I felt that curious nudge of God to read on. Simon Peter, full of bluff and bluster promising to lay down his life for Jesus and the stark words of Jesus;

Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!  (John 13 vs. 38)

I find it quite easy to relate to Simon Peter. He is straight in there, he is keen and enthusiastic holds nothing back.  He is all or nothing.   The downside is, that his ego often gets in the way of what Jesus is doing. I found myself wondering if, at times. my own ego gets in the way of what Jesus wants to do. Richard Rohr says;

The only problem is that our culture teaches that ego is the only game in town. We take it a little too seriously and take the private ego as if it is full reality. The nature of the ego is that it tries to fix, name, control and insure everything for itself (Richard Rohr – Everything Belongs page 62)

When Jesus washes his disciples feet, Peter wants to be “completely washed” (John 13 vs. 9) – I read this as “I take am more religious than….”. When he offers to lay down his life for Jesus, what Simon Peter is effectively saying is “I am more committed than……”.

Jesus warning is one we all need to hear. If you live out of your ego only, it is not long before you will fall and that fall can be devastating.

Jesus operates very differently to Peter in this situation. Instead of ego He offers His vulnerability and in that vulnerability we encounter the reality of His love. In His vulnerability we see the real Jesus. He lowers Himself as He kneels and washes His disciples feet. He shares the meal with the disciples who would betray, run away and deny Him. He gives love without demanding a return.

Our ego can blind us to love.  Vulnerability leads us towards love.

There are times when the ego has to go, we have to be truly vulnerable and allow so that the true us emerges. That is a scary thought. Of course, at one level, there are only a limited few I can really do that with, for obvious reasons.

It is, in prayer, I can be “safely vulnerable” because it is in that place I can find the full, wonderful and gracious love of God.

Are you prepared to let go of your ego, be vulnerable and find the love God gives?