CHANCE ENCOUNTERS #4
One of the things I like to do is be able to show the members of the church pictures or clips of the work of our Youth In Mission. That’s sort of the idea behind the title, “A Chance to See.” It’s also why I went to Oklahoma this past week, so I could see our kids in mission.
One of the joys of going this year was being able to renew a friendship with a young man who was part of the GLC&RC summer staff years ago when I was Deaning Camps. Josh Ingram was the Center Director and is working at Arlington Heights with their Youth program. During Wednesday night worship the scripture was the passage from Luke dealing with a Chance Encounter Cleopas and his friend had on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection. Let’s look at it: Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV)
 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,
 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.
 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.
 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.
 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,
 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.
 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”
 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!
 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”
 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.
 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.
 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”
 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
With that passage in mind, let’s pray
Josh and I got to talking about the passage and he pointed out that this passage from Luke, the one dealing with the Chance Encounter on the road to Emmaus, is alive. Unlike most of the other passages of Scripture which we look at from a historical perspective; which, sometimes pushes them into the realm of not being very relevant to today because they happened so long ago. But this story of the Encounter on the way to Emmaus is contemporary, current, present and ongoing because while the actual event happened 2,000 year ago, it continues to happen every single to. It happens to us and through us.
Every single day, if we open our eyes and minds and hearts, Christ Jesus is revealed to us in some manner. Through the breaking of bread, through an act of kindness, through a moment of thankfulness Christ is revealed. Sometimes we’re the ones Jesus reveals Himself to but more times than not we are the vehicle or person through which Jesus is revealed to others through some chance encounter or through some unconditional act of random kindness.
If you stop and think about it, the acronym for Act of Random Kindness is ARK. How did God save the world after the flood, through the ARK. How is the saving work of Jesus Christ being carried out today, through us living the faith every day, through our Christ filled, Christ led, Acts of Random Kindness. Through modern day ARKs.
The truth is that, in our everyday world, in our everyday busyness, we can see the Christ or be the Christ for others. That’s why I want to start a new movement. And I want you to be the first to join.
We talk about our daily life as the rat race. We compare our work and our schedules to a rat caught in a maze. We get caught up in the never ending, frustrating struggle of employment at a tedious job filled with high stress. We feel like we’re stuck and we can’t get out. We’re caught in the rat race of life.
Well I want to completely flip that term on its head. I want to redeem it completely and invite you to join me in the RAT RACE.
The way I propose doing that is through changing the meaning of RAT RACE. Let’s flip in on its head and make it an acronym for good. An acronym that stands for: Random Acts of Thanksgiving and
Random Acts of Compassion Everyday.
To me, that’s what mission trip is all about. It embodies everything there is about the Emmaus encounter. Our Youth and adults go to serve God as a physical act of putting their faith into practice. The clients welcome the work they can’t afford to have done which will make their life easier or less stressful.
But what happens is the work teams become the bread which is broken and bread through which the presence of the Risen Christ is revealed to the clients. They witness the modern incarnation of Christ, the physical representation of Jesus stands in their midst in the form of these youth and adults.
But at the same time, as the work teams give themselves and their efforts in service to Christ, often times they witness the Risen Christ in their very midst. It’s incredible. All this accomplished through the whole idea of being in the RAT RACE.
That’s how we redeem this term. That’s how we turn it on its head. We’ve already been practicing a form of it. Our Random Acts of Thanksgiving have been the prayers we lifted for and over our youth. When someone you know and love runs through your mind and you lift them to God, that’s a Random Act of Thankfulness.; Every time you see something which advertising has told you, you just have to have in order to be happy, and you say “No” because you’re satisfied with what you already have, that’s a Random Act of Thankfulness.
Whenever you hold the door for someone, when you pick up the trash in a parking lot, when you grab a cart from the parking lot rack so there’s one less for the employees to have to pull in that’s a Random Act of Compassion Everyday. When you pay for the coffee of the person behind you at Starbucks, that’s a Random Act of Compassion Everyday. And who knows, maybe they will offer a Random Act of Thanksgiving.
The Risen Christ is Revealed through every Random Act of Thanksgiving and every Random Act of Compassion Everyday. But in order to truly flip it on its head and redeem the term we have to be less random and more intentional about how we practice these Random Acts. The more we make them a part of our lives, the more we can redeem the RAT RACE and make it a Kingdom of God thing.
One of the ways you can be a part of this revolution is through participating with us on July 14th. Invite your friends and neighbors, tell folks who are on vacation not to miss. On July 14th the title of the sermon is A Chance to BE the Church. And you will be the sermon.
Just like the Youth and Adults who went on Mission Trip, you will be able to step into the Mission Field that day. Don’t come dressed up for church, come dressed to be the church.
We will have 1 worship service beginning at 10:00 am. It will be held in the Family Center. We will sing, we will pray and have meditation to focus us and then we will be in Mission with the United Methodist Committee On Relief, UMCOR. We will be putting together Health Kits, and other kinds of kits for UMCOR, writing letters and cards to homebound and nursing home friends, doing some work in the Preschool to get it ready for the fall semester and who knows what else the Missions Committee can come up with for that morning.
We’ll come back together at noon for a celebration meal and closing. And then we will be sent into the world and into a new and redeemed RAT RACE that will help transform the world.
Please, this is not a time to skip church because we’re doing something different. This isn’t a time to ditch worship because it’s not at YOUR normal time. This is a Call to step out in faith, do something different to effect change. This is a CALL to act like and BE the church through Random Acts of Thanksgiving and Random Acts of Compassion Every Day.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.