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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

May, 2002

Here it is, my eighth annual column about the balloons that decorate the inside of our church on Easter Sunday morning. This Easter, after church, as we gathered on the church’s east lawn to release our balloons, someone commented about how windy it was. Our pastor, Allen, remarked that we had released the balloons in all kinds of weather: wind, rain, sleet, and snow. The balloons were flailing at the ends of their tethers, occasionally hitting people in the heads. I wondered if they might travel horizontally when we released them, and perhaps get caught in the trees. But just as we were about to release the balloons, something amazing happened: The wind died almost completely. The St. Louis region is known for changeable weather but this was truly remarkable. And when we released them the balloons rose almost straight up into the sky. They were a beautiful sight as they soared into the clear blue sky, and I can say that my own spirits rose along with them.

As Allen pointed out in his Easter Sunday sermon, the disciples were experiencing winds of their own in the days after Jesus was crucified. In the Gospel lesson for that morning (John 20:1-10), they had discovered that Jesus was no longer in the tomb but they had not yet know that he had risen. They had no idea of the events that were to come. Instead, ". . . the disciples went back to their homes," (John 20:10b NIV) without having any idea what had happened. The winds of loss, despair, and hopelessness were howling in their lives. The one they had lived with, hoped in, and learned from was gone. And their hopes were gone along with him. Mary Magdalene expressed the depths of their despair: "'They have taken my Lord away,' she said, 'and I don't know where they have put him.'" (John 20:14 NIV).

The disciples on the road to Emmaus were sunk in the same quicksand of despair. They had no real idea where they were going, and no idea what they might do next. Their lord was gone and they had lost their way. They were at the mercy of the winds. But then a stranger approached them and asked them "'What are you discussing together as you walk along?'" (Luke 24:17b NIV). But "They stood still, their faces downcast." (Luke 24:18a NIV). They were so thoroughly beaten by the winds of despair that they were unable to recognize Jesus when he spoke to them. They told of the things the women had found at Jesus' tomb but then they finished, "'. . . but him they did not see.'" (Luke 24:24b NIV).

When Jesus called Mary Magdalene by name, she recognized him immediately (John 20:16). The disciples on the road to Emmaus took a little longer; they didn't recognize him until the breaking of bread (Luke 24:30-35). But even before they knew who he was, their ". . . hearts [were] burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures . . ." (Luke 24:32b NIV). And when they did recognize him, the storms of doubt and despair were gone from their hearts and lives. There were trials and struggles ahead of them but they could face the future with confidence, knowing that Christ had risen as he promised. They no longer had to search for Christ, for he had found them.

In our own lives, we are tossed by the storm and the wind sometimes. There are those around us who are also being buffeted by the gales and rains of life, who need a word of comfort and encouragement. They need to know that the storm will not last forever. Some of them may feel their hearts burning; perhaps they merely feel the slightest tingle of warmth, or nothing at all. They need the presence of Christ in their lives. They are searching for someone and they don't yet know that they have already been found. We can carry the message to them. We can tell them about the one who "'. . . came to seek and to save what was lost.'" (Luke 19:10b NIV). The same Jesus who calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee (Luke 8:22-25) can still the winds and calm the storms in their lives and in ours. And then we can rise straight and true like the balloons on Easter Sunday morning, to spread the message of the risen Christ.

"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, and he disappeared from their sight. 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?'
"They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, 'It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.' Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread." (Luke 24:30-35 NIV.)

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Copyright © 2002 by David Phelps