Twas the Night Before
PATHWAY TO HIS PRESENCE
My heart is jumping and I cannot sleep. My mind is twirling with a thousand exciting thoughts.
It’s not Christmas Eve. It’s not even December, but my thoughts are racing in and out as I pack my bags and prepare to drive the short distance from my home in Chula to Camp Tygart. Tomorrow begins another wonderful Walk to Emmaus weekend, and I have the awesome privilege of working on the team.
For me, the joy and excitement come from two sources: one, God always shows up at Emmaus, and two, The Old Rugged Cross is at the heart of each Walk.
Luke takes us into this story in chapter 24. Jesus has risen from the dead, and two disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus, discussing the recent events concerning Jesus. The risen Christ appears beside them, joining in their conversation. They don’t understand. Counting on Jesus to save them from the rule of the Romans, they, like many, expected a military leader. That did not happen. Jesus joins them when the air around them is filled with sadness and discouragement. Clearly, they misunderstood why Jesus came and why He died.
In fact, they are so focused on their disappointment that they do not recognize Jesus when He joins them on the road. They wonder why He did not rescue the Jews from their enemies, so they are heartbroken. Jesus was murdered. That wasn’t supposed to happen. What should have been the happiest day in their lives was now the saddest, because Jesus was in their midst and they didn’t even know it.
The 72-hour Emmaus Walk takes participants back to this scene in the Bible, and during the three days, all are encouraged to recognize Jesus as He walks beside them. With an emphasis on a personal relationship with a living Lord, many understand for the first time that Jesus loves them and wants to bring them into a deeper walk with Him, one that lasts far beyond the 72 hours; one that lasts for a lifetime.
The walk I am going to tomorrow will be made up of women. Last week was a men’s walk. I am so excited because I already know what will happen. Broken lives will be mended; hearts will be healed; love will reign. Mostly, though, if they will let Jesus in, these women will be set free from chains that have held them captive, released from Satan’s bondage, and able to live a new life of serenity and peace. If they will let Jesus do His work this weekend, they will never be the same again. Hopefully and prayerfully, they will then go back to their local churches with new vision, bringing their joy to the pew each Sunday, burning with the desire to help others to see Jesus, too.
The two men walk on, inviting Jesus to come into their home. While there, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it and begins to give it to them. Then, their eyes are opened and they recognize Him. Holy Communion takes on a deeper meaning during a Walk. Our eyes will be opened again and again, through the juice and bread, and we will know who He is.
Emmaus is not for everybody. Many come to the Lord without ever having experienced this journey. Certainly, our God is creative enough to make disciples and shower with unconditional love however He chooses.
Many times, I worked on teams with one of my favorite United Methodist ministers, the late Jim Gunter. He described adequately the vision of Emmaus when he said, “Emmaus is the best tool of evangelism the Methodist church has.”
The late David Wilkerson writes in one of his devotionals these beautiful words. He didn’t write them for the Emmaus Walk, but they fit. “The only way to bring your troubled soul into peace is to convince yourself, ‘I am in Christ and I am accepted by God. He delights in me, regardless of whether I am up or down. No matter how I feel, I know my position in Christ—that I am seated with Him in heavenly places!’”
I love to sit in heavenly places with Christ! Every time I am asked to work on a walk I am thrilled to have the chance, once again, to tell the story of Jesus. I don’t know if I bring His story in such a way that others understand, but I know this: each time I work, I love Him deeper, and I renew that covenant that gives me a spring to my step, a race in my heart, and a deep-down joy that cannot be taken away.
I just can’t help it. I am totally, unashamedly, and devotedly in love with Jesus.
The Rev. B.J. Funk is associate pastor of Central UMC in Fitzgerald. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.