when you really need a fresh way forward: The Emmaus Option

Audio recording of The Emmaus Option

It can feel like the sky is falling in.

Can feel like the edges of all things sane and good and beautiful and right are being crushed by an indifferent madness.

Can feel like we have to get out of town, get out of the whirl, the noise, the circling buzz that might drive a soul tone deaf.

You can go looking for big open places to exhale, to surrender to the way even your breathing can’t stop saying the syllables of His name. YHWH, YHWH.

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They say that the number of Americans who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years.

They say that 327,653 babies were aborted by Planned Parenthood, just in the year 2013.

They say that while we rightful mourn the wrongful death of a lion, ISIS was forcing little children to decapitate human beings in Syria, and that there’s this release of another  video exploring how Planned Parenthood sells body organs from babies.

They say that black children are three times more likely to be suspended from elementary school than white children. That people with “black-sounding names” have to send out 50 percent more job applications than people with “white-sounding names” just to get a call back, and Lacrae is asking honest questions about why we combat every other injustice by bringing awareness to it, so why would we think we can combat racism by being quiet about it ?

You can stand in one of those big open places like Lost Valley Ranch, where there’s space to let your lungs expand and hear them say that the trees lit up like torches along the sides of these Colorado mountains back in 2002, that flames licked up all these rocks like a sick mockery of hope.

They say the fire all started because a woman kneeled down over a ring of stones, struck a match to burn up an impassioned letter from her estranged husband — and the flames jumped the stones, flamed up the sun-dead grass, and consumed 133 homes, breathed out a smoke plume so staggering that it created it’s own weather, charred nearly 140,000 acres, the largest fire in Colorado’s history, twice as large as the state’s second largest fire.

When asked by a reporter what Colorado looked liked from the air during the Hayman fire, the Governor of Colorado said, “It looks like the whole state of Colorado is on fire.”

It can look like the whole world is a blazing inferno during the middle of a stifling hot summer.

The burn of a broken heart within can  incinerate a whole forest.

And you can throw your boot into the stirrup, pull up gentle onto the willing back of your horse, and you can ride quiet up into the scarred mountains. You can settle into the easy rhythm that in a smouldering summer of protest over all things good and holy — maybe there is no need to show anyone who is right, only a need to show someone our scars.

Only a need to show our soft-white marks, show the tender and bruised underbelly of our armour, show how we’ve been burned and scorched and seared — and how we were once the cynical, Doubting Thomas and Jesus humbly came and showed us His scars and we touched our wounds to His — and in that holy moment of scars touching scars — we knew and felt and were healed by the Truth. 

When people simply let their scars meet —  Healing Truth can meet their scars.   

Maybe no one needs us to out-debate them this summer, like they need us to out-love them. Maybe no one needs us to prove anything like they need us to have proof of what mends us… of what moves us.

They say it will take 150 years to heal and return these mountainsides. Who knows how long for a land scorched by injustice and singed with ache to quietly humble and pray and heal and return?

This is true, you can feel it in the wind: When it feels like your world’s burning down, there are no Really Good Formulas — there is simply being Real  — and keeping your eyes on Him who is always Good

The spacious sky up here is begging us to look up. To be still and know… 

Jesus doesn’t need us to be His militants in a broken world — as much as He invites all of us who’ve been mangled by this broken world to simply point to our Mender.  

Since we only have relationship with Him through His scars, we are as relatable as our scars — which lets others touch their scars to His — and be healed by His wounds.

The trail here at the Ranch winds up these mountains ragged and torn with the thorns of a million fired trees.

The horses climb higher, like they’re finding a way through.

Like all our scars could lead to Him and the healing we all seek in a wounded and starved world.

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And who knows why it comes right them, no idea at all why it comes right then, but the prophet Amos echoes across these burned and tree barren hillsides,

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water — but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.

People will stagger from sea to sea  and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

And it’s like you can hear Martin Luther answer up here where the earth’s been burnt bare and heaven’s reaching down: “A man’s word is a little sound that flies into the air, and soon vanishes; but the Word of God is greater than heaven and earth, yea, greater than death and hell, for it forms part of the power of God, and endures everlastingly.”

Maybe in a summer that burned down churches, that feels like the church is burning with an inferno of opinions from within,  a summer that feels like the arson of humanity and holy things, maybe that is what extinguishes the flame: In a broken world that may not esteem the Bible, but still esteems Jesus, it’s Jesus who says that the Scripture cannot be broken.

His Word cannot be falsified, disqualified, modified or nullified. His Word cannot be distorted or inverted or reinvented or demerited or interpreted away. His Word is beauty, it is wooing, and it will all be accomplished absolutely.

The debate of the day may change, the crisis may change, the screaming headlines of the genuinely horrifying may change — but, in the entire heaving cosmos, this remains unchangeable, unstoppable, undaunted: The Word of God. His Word is absolute and resolute and it will remain until time concludes.

God’s Word is more permanent than any words written in granite — or in headlines or campaign slogans or PR statements or press releases or laws.

Mountain rock is fleetingly temporary compared to the forever permanence of the Rock of His Word.  Culture cannot shape it and society cannot silence it and scarred people cannot help but be wooed by it, healed by it, held by it.

And the Lover of the letter, He soothes: “The mountains may pass away, but my truth will not pass away, the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever, and though the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but My steadfast love shall not depart from you.

And we are held by His love up here in an an ocean sky over Lost Valley Ranch, the mountains falling way on the horizon, the horses riding us higher into the wilderness that may be a necessity, and it all looks like a painting, like we’re all riding through a painting. A great C.M. Russell painting — it’s like swaying down through these gullies and wandering up through new aspen growth, you could think you almost knew C.M. Russell.

But that’s the thing: no matter how you look at an artist’s painting, no matter how you sit with the painting, no matter how you feel like you’re in the painting and you know the painter — You don’t truly know anyone unless you’ve exchanged words with them.  You don’t truly know God unless you surrender, believe, and truly obey the Word of God. 

Nature may let us feel close to God — but only knowing the nature of God’s Word, let’s us actually know God. 

And He’s the One who is not surprised by the headlines or our heartbreaks, the One who is using all things for good things, the One who reaches out His hand not to see our medals but to touch our scars.

He’s the One who makes us faith pilgrims ask during this blazing summer : What is our way through a post-Christian culture, what are our options to love the wounded, bind up the hurting, dress all the bleeding with Grace and Truth, edify the Body from the inside so that we can live out the Great Commission to the outside?

When our neighbours are different than us and think different than us, when our Facebook friends’ perspectives and politics are foreign to us, when faith communities and colleagues hold different opinions and vision than ours — what is our option? 

There’s been talk of a Benedict option —  this idea of pioneering forms of retreating from a post-Christian culture to create intentional faith communities, “an intentional and thoughtful retreat into narrativity, to live the church’s story, inculcating commitment to it within the lives of its members.”

The Benedict Option, it’s an idea with merit… an idea with history….

But here I am on a scarred mountain side, in the middle of a summer that’s burning up the edges of everything, wondering what would happen if The People of the Cross took the Emmaus Road through this landscape, took the Emmaus Way — took up something that looked like The Emmaus Option:

They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing Him.

… And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if He were going farther. But they urged Him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them.

When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?

People are talking to “each other about everything that is happening,” a summer that has us disoriented and discussing and debating. And Jesus walks with us here, but how do we recognize Him or Truth or the the grace of Cross-Shaped Love that can make sense of what is happening in culture right now?

 To make sense what’s happening all around us, what if it was The Emmaus Option that gave us the option of a way of radical Grace and Truth through a post-Christian landscape? 

The Emmaus Option

1. The Emmaus Option suggests the breaking open of Scriptures to see how every page is scarred with the passion of Christ.

2. The Emmaus Option suggests the breaking of our plans and agendas to stay by people, stay close to people, stay with people

3. The Emmaus Option suggests the breaking of bread with people, the breaking cynicism to give thanks amongst the people, the daily gift of being broken and given to the people

What if it were this Broken Way, this Emmaus Option, that opens eyes, opens minds, tenderly opens broken and busted hearts, kindles them with life — “Their eyes were opened, they recognized Him… They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us?”

The Emmaus Option says, in the words of Tim Keller: What would it look like for Christians to live so beautifully that, if they left their cities, the people would weep?” 

The Emmaus Option says:  Our way through any landscape is always simple: Use every gift God’s given you to make the world greater, not worse.

The Emmaus Option says: The Body of Christ must recapture its vision as the only collective in the world that exists for its non-members.

The Body of Christ exists for it’s non-members. 

We are a community in exile that exists for the exiled, the reviled, the profiled and the longing-to-be-reconciled. 

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We could be a community that lives what we believe: love doesn’t always mean agreement with you, but it always means sacrifice for you.

We could be a community that lives what we’ve known: we’re called to live such offensive Grace it looks like we’re soft on Truth — because wasn’t Jesus Himself routinely accused of being a glutton and a drunk, even though He was neither, because the King of our Kingdom lived His life around addicts and prostitutes, the shady tax collectors and the broken down and busted up and the religiously disdained… and He never once explained Himself, but only continually gave of Himself.

If Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them — why would we position ourselves to sit  at any other table?  (Luke 15:1-2)

We could be a community who will not dish out condemnation but hand out courage, who will be known for leaning in and listening long and loving large, for defining success as simply showing up and bending down, for focusing on serving well instead of debating well, for serving long after the lights have been turned off, because there’s this light in us….

We could be the community that offers The Emmaus Option: Be the bread so broken and given — that a hungry world yearns for more of the taste of such glory.   

An option like this could make all our broken hearts burn within us again…

The light gets caught in the mountains that last night up in Lost Valley…

Strange, how a valley can look like a valley of cupped hands, how the mountains can look like they’re blazing with an epiphany of hope.

How you can be standing there and you can literally feel how the burning of all our broken hearts within us —

this could kindle a wildfire of new glory.

 

Resource: where real people gather to laugh real loud, pray raw honest & love each other large: Lost Valley Ranch
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