Roads are important literary device for many authors and certain our Gospel writer Luke uses them frequently. Think about the road stories or travel narratives that Luke writes about. Which ones can you remember? The Good Samaritan is an encounter on the road, a road brings back the prodigal son, later on in Luke’s writing (in Acts) Paul encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus. Roads are an important feature in the way Luke writes because they take us all on a journey somewhere. I suppose faith is kind of like that.
I also think travel narratives speak to us because they make us think of road trips and who doesn’t like a good road trip on occasion? I don’t suppose Luke had in mind our style of road trip where you throw your stuff and your people in the family truckster and head out into the great unknown. Even so, there is a sense of adventure and the possibility of encountering the amazing when you talk about road trip. I’m thinking Luke had a pretty good handle on this and that’s why he used travel narratives, aka road trips, to give us a sense of adventure and the possibility of encountering the amazing with our faith in a resurrected Christ.
When you think about your faith, what has changed over the years? And did that change come about because you sat and did nothing? Or was there something you did or something that happened to you that changed your faith? Or someone you were around that did it?
These are important questions to give some thought to. In the first place, faith can be difficult to define and it certainly won’t allow itself to be pinned down. We’re going to wrestle with what faith means in confirmation tonight. Since it is hard to pin down faith can be left to itself and it’s just kind of out there hanging around. But I don’t think the Holy Spirit is something that just hangs around so that leads us back to giving some thought to our faith and what it means in our life.
Another thought that comes to mind is to ask, where have you encountered the amazing in your faith? Is there room for encountering the amazing in your faith? It’s pretty easy to be passive in our approach to faith, isn’t it? And we’re all prone to that at one time or another. We do what we do, week in, week out. Read the Bible, pray the prayers, go to worship. Read the Bible, pray the prayers, go to worship. Day in, day out. Week in, week out. Nothing ever changes much. Day in, day out. Week in, week out. So… we have a tendency to get bored.
It’s a passive kind of world for much of our day, isn’t it? We are consumers waiting for something to come our way. We’re passive about it because providers will go a long way to throw the latest and greatest, the newest and slickest at us. There was a time when you had to put some effort in to gaining something, even if all that meant was to get up and turn on the TV. Or at least to locate the remote. Now? You can’t get away from the barrage of information coming at us. If we don’t like what we’re seeing all we have to do is wait for something bigger and better to come to us. And come to us it will, make no mistake about that!
The effect of this is to deaden our responses to anything less than whatever it is that is interesting and entertaining that grabs our attention. There’s brain chemistry behind this and content providers know how to get a nice combination of adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin going in the brain so as to get our attention in ways that benefit their product. There are entire engineering divisions dedicated to keeping our attention. They call it engagement because it sounds better than mind numbing. Whatever it is called, if we allow ourselves to fall into the engagement trap then we constantly need more and more and more and more. More of whatever it is that gets us going.
If we follow every headline that says things like “You won’t believe…” or “What scientists don’t want you to know…” then we’re leaving ourselves wide open for any kind of manipulation. No surprises there. How to get out of it? Intentionality. Intentionally not falling into the every widening downward spiral of looniness that is this incessant grab for our attention. Step back and step away from the constant and unrelenting hold on our thinking.
So it is for our faith. So it is for our connection to God. If we sit passively with our faith there will always be other things that grab our attention and hold on to our thinking. If something else that is not God has our attention and our thinking then whatever we are left with is… not God. On the other hand, if we intentionally create some space, then maybe, just maybe, God breaks in.
Which is kind of what happened to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They’re cruising along in something of a mental fog trying to get it all sorted out. It’s been a wild few days for them what with Christ being crucified on the cross and resurrecting from the dead. The run into Jesus along the way but because they are so distracted with all that is going on they don’t recognize him. How often have we been in the same mental space that blocks an amazing encounter with Christ?
It happens to all of us. Which is precisely we do some of the things we do. Did you ever wonder why we have communion every Wednesday we have worship and twice on Sundays? There’s a couple of reasons but the primary reason is so that we can get out of the mental space that blocks our faith and get into a place to encounter the risen Christ. Much like the disciples did when they finally realized who they were with.
It’s an amazing encounter for them, this breaking bread thing in today’s story? This is forever intertwined with the idea of Christ’s presence in the bread and wine of communion. I say it pretty much every week but in the Lutheran world it is a foundational belief and teaching that in the bread and wine we encounter Christ, and dare I say we encounter the amazing, when we come to the table? Communion brings us into the real presence of Christ.
That’s a good and worthy way to come into the real presence of Christ but is once a week really enough? This week give some thought to some things you can do to give yourself some time and space to encounter the real presence of Christ.