Where Can We Find God?
April 10, 2005
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Luke 24: 13-35
On the Road to Emmaus
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!
Our topic today is, “Where can we find God?” Where can we find God when we’re not sure where to look? Where can we find God when we’re so overwhelmed with our grief that we don’t know where to search? Where can we find God when we’re so distracted by our frustrations and our problems and our challenges that we don’t know where to turn? Where can we find God?
I’d like you to hold that question in mind a moment, friends, as we talk about this remarkable event of the week, the passing of Pope John Paul II and the funeral on Friday. How many of you have had the opportunity to catch part or all of the funeral proceedings on television? I find it remarkable. Within the sadness of the event itself and the condolences we express, there is a remarkable thing that has happened. The comment I hear over and again from folks who have watched some of the television or seen some of the pictures is “so many people”. It’s amazing how many people are attending this event and participating in one way or another, from all over the world, from all expressions of Christianity, from all expressions of faith. It’s remarkable! There has been in the world this week a breathtaking unity, which blesses my soul and I bet yours, too.
Unlike a political event, where there are factions that represent differing opinions on how different groups feel about what’s going on, I haven’t seen any of that. In newspaper after newspaper across the country: “World Mourns Religious Leader”; “A Great Man Has Passed Away”, all expressions of kindness and sympathy. The world is almost united in one direction. I think it’s amazing, and a remarkable blessing. Whether we or they agree with a particular policy or stance, it’s somehow beside the point at the moment. We’re grieving someone whose main focus in life has been to point people toward God.
I wonder in my heart, with all those people who were grieving and somehow wanted to touch the situation, whether underneath it all was the desire to draw near to someone who seemed to be very close to God, and under that, the question, “Where can I find God?” If I draw close to this funeral, if somehow I make contact with the image, perhaps I’ll be close to God, too. So the question is this: where can we find God?
I think our gospel this morning has some very important answers for you and for me. I’m going to invite you to hold three pictures in your mind as we explore this question. Picture these images:
-The first one, an image of Jesus Christ…and you, standing together. Can you see the two of you together? Which way are you facing? Where are your eyes looking? Downward? Away? Cautiously toward Him? Where are His eyes looking? What is the expression on His face? Picture you and Jesus side by side.
-The second, an open Bible, glowing with light.
-Your church, the picture of your church.
Where shall we find God? The first image, my friends, is right next to you, right by your side. Spiritually, invisibly, and also, sometimes, through another person, Christ speaks. You see, there were these two disciples, walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, that first Easter day. They were walking that seven mile journey in sadness on Easter afternoon. They weren’t sure it was Easter afternoon. And as they walked along, their eyes downcast, suddenly a third person was with them, walking alongside them, and that person asked a question. He said, “What are you talking about, as you walk along and are sad?”
And they replied, not knowing who He was, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who has not heard the things that have happened these days?”
And He said, “What things?”
They said, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, whom we consider to be a prophet mighty in word and deed. We had hoped” – oh, what sad words! – “We had hoped that He would be the one to redeem Israel. But our leaders and chief priest captured Him and crucified Him. They put Him to death, and lo, now it is the third day since then. Some women of our company amazed us. They came to us and said they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive! But yet, but yet…”
And the stranger said to them, “Gracious, do you not know what is written in the scripture?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He began to interrupt to them the scriptures concerning Himself.
And they came to their house, and the stranger made as if He was going to continue on, but they said to Him, “Abide with us. Fast falls the eventide.” He did. He came in and stayed with them. He took bread and broke it and blessed it, and He gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.
You see, the first way we find God is to let the shell that is our woundedness, our hurt, our disbelief, our doubt, crack a little bit, so that His light can shine in, and we can know that He was there all the time. He’s beside you, spiritually.
And He’s beside you because God often uses other people to speak His word in amazing ways. Have you had it happen to you? I have, over and over and over again. He’s always been there; we just need to let that shell open up a little bit so we can see Him.
The second answer to the question “Where can I find God?” is in the scripture. Notice that when Jesus was talking to the men on the road, the first thing He did was to offer words of consolation and words of understanding. It isn’t as though He didn’t know the answer to their question, but He knew that the disciples needed to express what was on their hearts. He cared! Even when they didn’t know who He was, He cared. And after they expressed their feelings, He opened the scripture. This is a mighty book. This is literature, but it’s not just literature. Amazing things can happen through the power of this Word. God Himself can speak from His heart to your heart by this book, the Bible. And so, draw near to God through the Bible.
How? Open to somewhere in the New Testament. Pick a chapter. Read a chapter. Read with a pencil or a highlighter. Underline the power phrases, the phrases that jump out at you for some reason, you’re not quite sure why. Say, “Lord God, I bathe this passage in prayer. Let it speak to me. Let You speak to me through this phrase.” And you will be stepping into the presence of God. Remember that Christ is at your side, and that the Bible is open to you, two important ways to find God.
Third, your church. You know, the men on the way to Emmaus found God in company. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I’m with you.” Their eyes were opened when they were in community with each other. They ran to the other disciples, who told them, “We’ve seen the Lord. He’s alive!” And they said, “We have, too.” They had community.
And we have community. We have the church. It’s a sacred thing. Herein, we find the presence of God in a very special way. I heard a preacher this week, a minister in an urban environment. He said, “I can’t tell you how much I need worship. There’s nothing that sustains me in this work that I do like looking forward to Sunday morning worship. It’s what gets me through Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday – knowing that I’m going to come to worship and I’m going to be with the family of Christ. We’re going to pray and laugh and shake hands and care about each other.” He says it keeps him going all through the week. How about you?
I hope that you look at your church that way, too. I hope that you find here that blessing like no other. I have a dear, dear friend who comes to church. She lives with her daughter. Sometimes she wakes up and says, “Is it Sunday yet? Are we going to church today?” Isn’t that wonderful? It brings tears to my eyes. To know that herein is something so special, such a remarkable embodiment of the spirit of Christ that we can all share in a wonderful way. Where do we find God? We find God in our church.
For He took bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them, and in the sharing of the cup and the bread, their eyes were opened. And they knew Him.
Where can you find God, in the midst of your despair, in the midst of your loneliness, in the midst of your depression? In the midst of the toughest moments of your week, you can find God by knowing that He is right beside you; He is as near as your scripture; and He is at your church and in the sacraments.
One final thought: our God is an awesome God, but our God is also a very subtle God. Did you notice that passage where they were going past Emmaus, and Jesus made as if He were going on? He did not invite Himself into their house. He did not assume that they were going to invite Him in. He helped them out, whether they accepted Him or not, but he made as if He were going on. Jesus waits for an invitation. He has given us that power. He honors our freedom that much. Is it a good idea? Well, it must be, because it’s God’s idea.
We draw near to God when we invite Him in, when we say, “Lord Jesus, I need you. I need you to help me through this time. I need you to help me with this problem. I need you just to be there as my best friend, my best spiritual friend and savior. I invite you in.” That’s what He calls us to do. Friend, I have this good news for you: whenever you invite Him in, He always says, “Yes, I will.”
May that be your assurance and your comfort this week. Where can you find God? He’s right beside you. He’s as near as the ideas in your Bible. And you’ll find Him in church, because He loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2005 Anthony J. Godlefski