April 6, 2008

"The Things that Have Taken Place"
Scripture: Luke 24:13-35
Sermon by Rev. Kathleen Groff
Dundee United Methodist Church

  “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him”. The opportunity almost slipped away. Jesus was going to keep going, but something drew those two to invite him to stay. In the conversation on the road, hearts were being prepared for the revelation at the breaking of bread. That early story was just the beginning. Down through the ages, hearts have been prepared for the receiving of the Good News. Whether it comes in slow doses of steady stories told in Sunday school as children grow into adulthood, or comes as an overwhelming desire to follow Jesus in a moment of insight and understanding, hearts are being prepared for Jesus to be revealed and faith to be accepted. The road to Emmaus story is the prime example of what it means to find ourselves believing. The things that had taken place three days earlier were but a stepping stone to understanding and accepting the new thing God was doing. It isn’t often that we walk into faith blindly, like the apostle Paul in his conversion on the road to Damascus. Even then, Paul’s conversion might not have been as sudden as it seems. Paul knew about Jesus. That’s why he ruthlessly hunted the new Christians down to persecute them and eliminate this threat to the faith of Israel. He had probably heard countless stories from those who he put to death and probably saw the lengths they would go to be faithful to what they believed in. Something in their courage and steadfastness must have struck a cord in his heart and given him that little doubt about what he was doing.

  God keeps preparing our hearts for belief. Little events, stories and insights begin to add up in our lives until we finally come to say, “I believe in Jesus Christ!” I remember quite vividly those early childhood experiences that profoundly affected my growing in ways that would eventually lead me to faith in Jesus Christ, experiences that I could not name, that touched me deeply and moved me, things like looking at the stars on a clear night and imagining a beyondness to them, like watching tiny ants, or hearing the chorus of early morning birds as I sat outside. Things like seeing my best friend laid out in a coffin surrounded by the beauty of flowers looking like an angel. Things like sitting around a camp fire watching the dance of flames and hearing songs of faith drift into the night sky. Those are the types of things that begin to add up and prepare young hearts for being receptive to God’s presence and leading. For me, there did come a day when I walked up to the altar and gave my heart to the Lord and received a clearer understanding of who I was in the eyes of God.

  Did you know that children as young as 5 can have profound experiences of God, experiences that they may not label as God, but lead them to a cursory understanding that there is more to life, that there is a higher power, a creator, a force that moves beyond anything we can do? Young children are already being prepared to receive God, to come to know Christ in their growing. Sometimes that coming into understanding happens much later in life, sometimes not until those final days of one’s life, but the seeds have already been planted in the opportunities we give our young people to experience God. That’s why I believe camp experiences are so important for our children, that’s why I push to have as many children go to camp as we can possibly send. Those experiences are precursors, preparations for some of those children and their belief that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. With that in mind I would like to show you some scenes from our Michigan United Methodist Campgrounds as a way of firing you up for preparing our children to experience God through camping experiences. (Show video)

  Our tasks as adults is to pass on our faith to the next generation. We must be diligent about sharing the stories of faith with them, and offering learning experiences that tell them about God and about Jesus. This next generation lives in an age where they will be bombarded with information, They will be offered competing ideas about what is important in life. They will be exposed to far more information and strange beliefs in the way to live life than the preceding generation and will need to hear about Jesus in order to grow in a sustaining faith that guides them to the truth. What are we doing to prepare their hearts for what God can do with and for them. It’s a good start to bring them to church where they can share in the gospel stories, hear the songs of faith, and participate in worship in all their restlessness and distraction. They are in an environment conducive to having experiences of God, seeing the smiles of those around them. But we can do even more as they grow. We can offer experiences of faith through our camping and our Sunday School and youth activities. The more we offer opportunities to experience God, the more God can prepare their hearts for a future of discipleship in whatever ways they find to express their emerging beliefs.