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Luke 24:13-16; 28-32; Seventh Sunday of Easter; Ascension of the Lord

The sermon title for today is: “Stay with Us” – and now that we’ve got your pledges, you must. 😊

But really, thank you for those… and thank you too for singing with such joy. Even the hymns you haven’t previously heard or sung in the last 17+ years. For it’s not easy to give — your voice to an unknown song, or your hard-earned cash to a vision – especially not in these times with $5 eggs and deodorant costing $7. But in doing so, you’ve shown how important this church is to you and how much this next generation, and not just the kids, but also the next chapter of the church’s history, means to you. And for that, again, I thank you. Sincerely, from all of us on the staff and the capital campaign team, thank you.

Now, stay with us.

I was thinking I was going to begin this week with a Radiohead lyric… “just, don’t leave” … from their timeless song, True Love Waits. But after last week’s surprisingly heavy Sunday featuring another musical artist and favorite of mine, I thought it better to begin with a lighter quote from a more well-known and beloved movie that you all should know: the one and only, Ferris Buehler’s Day Off.

Yes, you all know how the quote goes: “Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  And if you don’t know that quote or what I’m talking about, then really, where were you in the 80’s and what were you doing?

Anyway, these dudes, the disciples had everything happen to them at once. Life moved so fast for them, that even if they wanted to stop, hit pause, and look around for just a minute, they either missed the meanings of Jesus’ parables completely or sunk in the sea when trying to walk on water after him.

Think about it for a second. They’re living their life, catching some fish, collecting some taxes, when out of nowhere this guy they’ve never seen before shows up freshly baptized and asks them to leave everything for him. Their wives, their children, their lives, everything; and, almost impossibly, if not miraculously, they do!

And while on this journey with him they see the most amazing things. People healed with spit and mud; loaves of bread multiplied by the thousands; a friend raised from the dead in Lazarus; and even, H2O turned into Pinot Noir!

And just as they were getting used to all that, one of their own betrays him. Members in their own community arrest him. They themselves deny him. And then he is mocked, bullied, and crucified before them.

And if that weren’t enough, just three days later they hear an incredible story of a stone rolled away and a missing body; and then an account by Mary, that of Jesus returning to life; and then, they literally see Thomas put his hand into Christ’s side, and their friend’s eyes being opened.

We ourselves covered all of this and these stories over the last four months together, which has been a wonderful blitz. But just imagine then, how much more bewildering and a blitz it must have been for them, these disciples, who actually lived through those months and events.

But now what? Now, what? They had seen all this and four gospels worth of material, but now Jesus was just gone. Somewhere. Some place. At some unknown time. They had been changed, their lives forever altered, but now what were they supposed to do without him? They left everything for him. So, I hope you can sympathize with them on that walk to Emmaus, when they were talking amongst themselves “about all of the things that happened (Luke 24:14).” Because basically, everything that could be both possible and impossible did happen to them.

No wonder then they were in a fog, in a dazed and confused state, such that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him (Luke 24:16).” You see, life had moved so fast for them, that they were quite literally unable to stop and look around and notice him right there walking next to them.

In verse 28 it says that Jesus was walking ahead of them, which is of course figuratively important, not only in foreshadowing his ascension; but also, in saying that in all things Jesus also walks ahead of us. Such that even if our own foggy moments of daze and confusion, doubt and uncertainty, Jesus is ahead of us. Such that, even in all of our joys and in each of our achievements (like this campaign), Jesus is ahead of us. Such that even in our trials and in the twilight of death itself, Jesus is still ahead of us. For Jesus experienced all these things so that in all things he could be our guide walking before us, shepherding us onward and Heaven-ward toward the light.

In verse 29 the disciples notice that the light is fading for it’s about to be night; and remember of course back then there were no streetlights; so, it was going to be dark, pitch-black outside minus the moon and the stars. And so, almost instinctively, it’s like they knew that this was their last chance to be with him, and so they “urged” him, demanding of him, “stay with us.” Stay with us. And that he did, for a moment.

But just as they find it, it’s gone (which is another great Radiohead lyric btw, from their song, originally called Big Ideas). For just as Jesus comes inside and breaks bread with them, he’s gone. He literally poofs right before them. Disappears in a second, when their backs were turned, as he ascends back to God. And almost immediately, they are hit with that regret, saying: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was still here with us (Luke 24:32)?” Which is like them asking, why didn’t we know it when we saw it? Why didn’t we appreciate it while we had it? Why were we quibbling and focused on everything else, instead of him?

You see, even for the disciples, that old proverb rang true, the one where you don’t fully realize what you have until it’s gone… “Were our hearts not burning within us?”

The other day I was watching this documentary on Netflix. Now, I love documentaries. And, I mostly enjoy Netflix. But, I really enjoyed and loved Bob Ross, who this documentary was about. Maybe some of you have seen it already; but if you haven’t and don’t know who I’m talking about: Bob Ross was that artist on TV, on PBS, around 3pm in the afternoon, in the 90’s. That guy with the afro and the tight blue collared shirt, and the soothing quiet voice, and those happy little trees.

Anyway, the documentary deals mostly with his show, The Joy of Painting, and the falling out that he experienced near the end with his business partners and television producers before he died at too young an age, in his early 50’s, from cancer. It’s all quite sad, actually… I highly recommend it. I like sad things; I find beauty in them.

So the moment that really got me was when they had his son on there, who spoke in an almost equally melodic voice, talking about how he regretted not fully appreciating the lessons his father tried to teach him; or how much his dad just wanted to do right by him; and how if he could go back and reclaim time, he would have spent more days with his pop; and cherish the moments he had with him before they were gone.

You could almost hear him asking then, just like I’m sure many of us have asked in our own lives, “why wasn’t my heart burning while he was still living? Why didn’t I stay just a bit later that night? Or stick around just a bit longer that morning? Why did I take it for granted, and not appreciate all those moments more?

Stay with me. Stay with us.

Friends, the cliches, as we get older, are mostly all true; and really, life does move pretty fast, and if we don’t stop and look around once in a while, we will miss it. So, let us today then, with some degree of urgency, agree to live in the moment. To be present here so that we don’t get all swept up in the distractions and busyness and let these days pass us by. For one day we will likely walk into an overgrown field, or into an empty living room; and remember, and wish that we could just go back.

And so, just because this campaign is over, don’t leave us immediately. Don’t go all poof and just disappear, so that I’m left all alone in here with Valerie saying, Buehler, Buehler? But stay with us. Yes, even in the summer when you all ascend and go onto wherever, stay with us. Stay with us on our livestream, keep up with us on our Happenings, tell others about what’s going on here, and then come back with renewed energy and enthusiasm for us, for this place. Because this place is special. And the Word here, in church, is life-giving. And so, let us dwell in both. Especially in these times of spiritual scarcity, doubt and uncertainty, and mainline church decline.

For even though our capital project has been geared to secure our future and extend our days together, we yet shouldn’t take them for granted. For if these covid-years have taught us anything, one day they could be gone in the molecule of a moment.

So, stick around, my friends, get involved, stay positive, and appreciate what we got; especially while the getting is good, and the Spirit is here burning brightly within.


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