Posts Tagged ‘Walk to Emmaus’

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. [Philippians 2:5-6, The Message]

cursillo crossFor many years, Mike and I served in a variety of para-church organizations whose mission was to create a once-in-a-lifetime 3-day retreat based on the Cursillo model. While in Georgiain 1984, we attended our first Cursillo weekend (#14) and thereafter served on a number weekends sponsored first by Atlanta Christian Cursillo, emmaus crossthen Walk to Emmaus as well as Tres Dias. When we moved to Maryland, we served in the Delmarva area for Walk to Emmaus and eventually found Maryland Emmaus (the weekends are numbered and although they are in the hundreds now, our weekends were #5 and #6). These retreats were a lifeblood for both the attendees and the “servants.” It was on these weekends that we learned about servant leadership and sacrificial service. Later Mike moved his energy to yet another outgrowth of these weekends into the Maryland prisons, and kairos crossserved on several Kairos weekends. There also evolved weekends, called Chrysalis for teens. Together, Mike and I contributed and served on over one hundred weekends. And we did this out of love. chrysalis cross

It was here that we experienced the joy of serving, where each and every person on a team gave 110% of their time and commitment to the weekend and its preparations (anywhere from a 12-25 week commitment, depending on a person’s role). There was structure and yet there was creativity, laughter, tears, music, clowning, teaching, sharing, and great food (or at least, lots of food).

Being a project-oriented person, the process appealed to me from beginning to end. Being a results-oriented person, I saw changes to both team and participants. And several of the relationships formed on those retreats lasted far beyond the weeks of direct service. One of most popular jobs or roles on the weekend was the “cha.” This person demanded the most of the person physically, running errands up and down the hill, setting up chairs and tearing them down, moving sound equipment, delivering gifts, dressing up in silly costumes, waking up very early and going be the churchto bed very late. The focus of every retreat weekend was the participants who were first-timers. At the heyday of the movement, people would be on waiting lists for years, to attend. The weekend experience was life-changing.

These retreats were the best of Church.

the-80-20-ruleBut they were never intended to replace the local church. And often, the men and women (who attended separate weekends) would return to their home church, ready to serve. Unfortunately, in churches everywhere, everyone who attends church is not on the same page. And so, the people who are willing to serve freely often serve into burn-out. It’s so much harder to serve in a community when only a small percentage (often the proverbial 20%) of the people are actively pulling/contributing the bigger share (time, money, energy, etc).

decoloresI cannot imagine what serving on an Emmaus weekend would have been like if every team member didn’t know what his/her role was, didn’t give that role his/her 100%, and didn’t understand how that role impacted the experience of the pilgrim participants. What teams did understand was that each person has a gift to give and each gift is like a different vibrant color, the same kind of rainbow of color that typifies the love of God shining through the prism of Christ. DeColores.

The message of each servant/team member was really the same: “I am here serving you because someone served me.”

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Sculpture by Karl Jensen

I can’t say I usually walk around feeling joyful. But today, amazingly enough, the combination of post-vacation, a good work-out, a leisurely start to the day/week, and a favorite verse, and I am in it, I mean really in joy and contentment right now.

I Peter 1:8-9
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I had the sense today that “salvation” is thoroughly wrapped up in the believing in Him (that would be the Christ) without seeing a physical entity but then, not only believing in His existence, presence, power & identity, but also loving this commander of my soul. It is another way of saying worship. It is another way of walking this world.

Some years ago, I was deeply involved in a para-church movement called the Walk to Emmaus (similar to Cursillo, Tres Dias retreat organizations around the world). Through this engagement, I met some wonderful people throughout the state of Maryland, for at that time, it was a statewide group, drawing participants from all counties. Among those friends was a dynamic man, Steve, whose love for people and God was apparent. When he died of lung cancer, it was a blow to everyone in that faith community and hundreds attended his funeral service, the most loving and authentically glorious service I have ever attended. Through our sorrow and loss, there was also joy, an unexplainable kind of joy that was God in our midst while Steve was there too.

A musically talented couple, Paul & Mary Lou Day, had just completed a song based on I Peter 1:8-9 called Inexpressible Joy and they dedicated that song to Steve during the service. For several years after that, the song was an important part of the worship experience whenever we gathered as a community. It captured our love and hope in the Christ and the love we carried for one of our own.

I cannot find a recorded version of this song online, it’s been a long time, I still remember the words:

Even though, you don’t see Him,
You still love Him,
You still love Him.
And even though you don’t see Him,
You believe Him
You believe in Him.

And He will fill you up with His glorious joy
His exalted inexpressible joy. (repeat)

And you shall receive for your faith this goal
And you shall receive for your faith this goal,
The salvation of your soul.
–Paul & Mary Lou Day

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As usual, I have been putting the cart before the horse. I’ve been waiting for the “outpouring” to descend before stepping out. I’ve been hoping for an umbrella before it starts to rain. But that’s not how it works. Call comes to us with the tools or resources at hand. Nothing more, at first.

I Timothy 1:14
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Many times, when I feel a kind of God-nudge, I start overworking the left side of my brain: I analyze the demands, inventory my current storehouse of resources, and assess my chances for success. I don’t want to fail; I want to know all of my options and I want to see if there is a back door. And to make matters worse, my old enemy likes to whisper test me with all kinds of questions like “are you sure it’s God speaking to you?”

Let’s say, I finally do step up and say, “yes” to the call. Intellectually, I get it: if God puts a call on my life to serve a people, then God will provide what I need to accomplish it. Even Paul, one of the strongest and undoubtedly, most stubborn Christ followers, acknowledged it was God who gave him the strength and faith he needed to persevere. (I don’t believe he could have predicted how difficult his journey for Christ was about to become.) Although Paul was well equipped with law, history, and heritage, his new life as an apostle for Christ needed many other gifts and outpourings, some miraculous and many seemingly insignificant.

  1. God gives gifts, blessings, and tools to accomplish His work but they may not be the same ones I think I should have. I may think I need lots of money to make something happen but God may decide to give bushels of corn instead. I may think I need a week to do the work at hand while God plans to bend time so that all is accomplished in a day. I may think I need a team of a hundred to complete the task but God may only provide twelve.
  2. God gives mercy to whom God wants to give mercy. By its nature, mercy comes into play when a person is undeserving of it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be mercy. This is true for me as much as it is true for others.

When God extends mercy to me, or to anyone, there is a critical moment of decision. With the sin is covered, the mistake righted, or the obstacle removed, I am still at a crossroads. I can either move forward into a new direction that has been opened up or I can turn back. On the surface, it makes no sense to turn back once mercy has been poured out–unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens all the time. Before grace and mercy appeared, my situation was familiar, horrible even, but familiar. Like the Israelites who complained to Moses about their trials and hunger in the desert and despite the abundance of miracles (mercy and grace), they still wanted to go back to Egypt [Numbers 1:4-6]. Am I any different? Not so much.

Or, in the story of Jesus and the woman who was caught in adultery. Grace and mercy were extended to her in abundance, so much so that her captors fled. And yet, she was cautioned to sin no more, to follow the new and unfamiliar way. [John 8:10-11]

Yes, God will give an abundant outpouring of grace, faith, love, and mercy at unique junctures in our lives. Sometimes, it’s at a point outside of ourselves, a saving grace that gives us a second chance. This first type often manifests in that initial discovery process: there is a God and there is a Christ who died sacrificially for me.

But all the other outpourings come in response to my navigation skills on the path God has laid out for me. The outpourings don’t come before I encounter the challenges on the way. Outpourings don’t come early so I can freeze-dry them and then use them at will. Like the manna in the desert that was only good for a single day, God’s outpouring comes as needed.

I remember a Walk to Emmaus Retreat weekend I attended some years ago and the Spiritual Director for that weekend was leading the group in communion. Unlike most communions where one is handed a small round, white cardboard sliver or a miniature saltine cracker, she held up an entire loaf of freshly made bread. She said, “Christ gave up His body to torture and destruction for the sake of all humans. So, we are invited to take as much as is needed because from Christ, there will always be enough.” And from the cup, she said, “Drink deeply, for this well would never run dry.” The Body and the Blood, the first abundant offerings.

In our small community, there is a small group of people who are planting a new church called Restore Church that will launch September 11, 2011. My husband and I have been asked to become a part of this adventure. There will be many challenges and many needs and in my mind, it’s understood, anyone who enters into this ministry now is making a covenant for the long haul because every hand and heart will be needed. Each person must come as is, say “yes” to God’s call, and then step out in faith. The outpouring is available, just ahead: grace, faith, love, and mercy. In Christ, it will be enough.

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