Monday, February 7, 2011

Week 3 - A Welcome Change

That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.  As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.  But God kept them from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”  
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
“What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
“Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus unfolded to them the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”
Luke 24:13-34
In the ancient world, showing hospitality to strangers was a part of survival; you never knew when you might be the one passing through in need of help. In the modern age, and especially in our Western culture of self-reliance, we have lost the welcoming of strangers and aliens. More often than not, we just dismiss or ignore people who we think don’t belong.

As followers of Jesus, we are to remember that we, too, are aliens who don’t belong to this world. Its ways and customs should be foreign to us. Instead, we belong to a kingdom of Love with a new way of life, including new customs and norms. In one of his letters, Peter reminds the Church, “Dear friends, I warn you as ‘strangers and aliens’ to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors.” [1 Peter 2:11-12a]

When God’s kingdom life moves us into the margins of the ways of this world, our hearts will open wide to the “strangers” that the world has marginalized or intentionally kept on the outside. We will end up walking together.

Our friends walking to Emmaus welcomed a stranger and were transformed by the gift of God in disguise. Who are we missing when we lived closed lives and just walk on by?
Perhaps God feels distant because we fail to welcome His presence in the strangers among us.

The Real Question: Am I living as an alien and a stranger to this world, or do I fit right in? How is God calling me to radically welcome the “strangers” around me?

Family Talk: Have you ever like you did not fit in or left out because you were a Christian? What was that like?

ONE in Prayer: God, help me to see Your face in the faces of those I meet. Change my heart to move away from guardedness and toward the welcome of Your love to others around me. Amen.

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