An ‘updraft’ in meteorology characterises a storm’s early development as warm air rises, eventually bringing the rains that offer sustenance and life. Rick’s hope for this monthly updraft column is for it to be a catalyst for change, ultimately contributing to the transformation of our faith communities. This regular column first appears in the Northern Baptist Association monthly newsletter, ‘Northern Lights'.

A couple of weeks ago, we experienced one of the most significant weekends in the Church Calendar. A time, as Christians, when we re-consider on Good Friday the complete humility of Jesus, exhibited in his obedience to death, and then re-celebrate his resurrection and exaltation on Easter Sunday. Of course, we live in a time when we look back at this. We know that the human Jesus now sits at his Father's right hand, interceding on our behalf, enabling us to share in the life of God by His Spirit. But what of the first disciples on the day between Jesus' death and new life? We can often quickly move from the sombre, distraught anguish and grief of Friday to the ecstatic joy of Easter Sunday as we celebrate that Jesus is alive! He has risen! 

These are a range of emotions that we continue to experience in our response to life events today - the spectrum of human response to highs and lows. So, I'm going to invite us to pause again, to sit in the nothingness of shattered dreams and ponder a familiar story of Jesus appearing to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke 24:13-35 provides an account of their conversation, highlighting their internal state of confusion. Their high hopes that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel were crushed as they witnessed his death on the cross. Everything they had experienced over the previous three years of Jesus' ministry: the relationship, miracles of healing and restoration, and stories of the coming kingdom of heaven, all stood in stark contrast to the loss and numbness they were now experiencing. Perhaps it all seemed a distant memory or, worse still, nothing more than an imagined hope. Maybe they were plagued by many unanswered questions: 'was that actually real?' 'have we wasted three years of our lives?' 'what do we do now?' 

In that space, Jesus met them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He met them holistically! Although they were kept from recognising him at the time, Jesus helped them make sense of what was going on by re-telling the story of Scripture. Revelation came as he explained how the prophets and the law spoke of himself and the events that had taken place. When he eventually opened their eyes through shared communion and the breaking of bread, they realised their hearts had been burning within by his very presence and the power of the gospel story. 

As we reflect on the journey of those two disciples, perhaps we can identify with their emotional turmoil. Perhaps our journey through the past two years of COVID has shattered our hopes and dreams. These could be our personal hopes, plans for our ministry, our understanding of church, or our hope in God. We may have many unanswered questions as we ponder what's happened. If that is where we find ourselves, may we discover that the God we serve and love meets us in a way that helps our hearts burn again with his presence, bringing renewed hope. But more than that, I pray that we all discover through the scriptures and the revelation of God's Spirit a renewed sense of vision and call like we see the prophet Isaiah experiencing in Isaiah 6. There Isaiah is brought before God's throne, overwhelmed and in awe by God's holiness and commissioned afresh to go as a servant fulfilling God's purposes and plans. 

Jesus, through his life as a human, the Easter events, and the subsequent gift of his Spirit, draws us into the very life and presence of our holy God. May our eyes be opened to see, our minds be ready to receive, and our hearts burn within as the call comes to us afresh, 'whom shall I send?' May our response be, in renewed hope, 'here I am, send me!'

Rick Pierce is Minita-a-rohe mō te Hauoratanga me te Whakawhanake, Network Pastor, Health and Development, Northern Baptist Association. You can contact Rick by email: [email protected]

For more editions of Updraft, click here.

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