Notes from the Lenten Journey; A Mountaintop Experience on How the Walk To Emmaus Renewed Me
17 March 2014
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Psalm 66:10 “For you, God, … refined us like silver”
I have just returned from the three day retreat called Walk to Emmaus (W2E).
W2E retreats are known for rekindling one’s faith. Coming out of this retreat I can honestly say that I felt the presence of God, saw Jesus, and felt the Holy Spirit stir within me during that time. It was awesome. It felt real and genuine; it filled me with a sense of wonder and it filled every nook and cranny of my heart and soul. This experience was so genuine that it touched every fiber in my spiritual and emotional being. A well-known hymn, It Only Takes a Spark (UMH 572), has these words: “That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it, it’s fresh like spring, you want to sing, you want to pass it on.” That is how I feel leaving the W2E retreat, I am so filled with the presence of the Holy, that I want to pass it on.
Throughout my life, I have been blessed to be in the presence of God on several occasions. For those who don’t know me, I was raised as an atheist and did not meet God until I was 25 (here is a link to my testimony of what happened in case you are interested). Since then, I have experienced God’s presence, seen Jesus and felt the Holy Spirit while on mission trips, through my call to ordained ministry, through my journey at Lancaster Theological Seminary, throughout the period of time when I was thinking about and writing my commissioning and ordination papers, when I was yoked with Christ during the ordination, and through my experiences in the Clinical Pastoral Education units that I took at Christiana Care Hospital.
Here are pictures from some of those experiences
(Picture taken in Havana during mission trip to Cuba in 2009)
(Picture taken during cross-cultural trip to Nicaragua in 2007)
(Picture taken during ordination on June 9, 2010)
In Malachi 3:3 we hear, “[God] will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” I think that our individual experiences of the Holy are God’s way of purifying us and bringing us closer to God. With each encounter of the Holy, I learn more and more about God and about myself, and each of those experiences inches me ever so closer to God. With each experience God becomes bigger and I learn more about how to listen to God and to discern what God is doing in God’s Creation. I think that is what John Wesley meant when he talked about our human Journey to Perfection.
This retreat felt like a walk in a desert that culminated with a face-to-face time with God. When Moses had a similar experience, his face glowed so bright that he had to cover it (Exodus 34:29). Although I do not compare myself to Moses; I “kindda-sorta” know how Moses felt coming down from that mountain because I feel that all of my being is glowing and on fire.
(Since it is the season of Lent 2014, here is a link to another journey to the “desert” that I recently experienced.)
This W2E retreat renewed me because it reminded me how awesome it is to be a part of a church/fellowship that loves people, and is committed to being relevant and authentic. Prior to this retreat I knew intuitively that God is not done with the United Methodist Church. Now I have a concrete example that I not only heard of or read about in some brochure printed on glossy paper, but had the opportunity to experience for myself.
This W2E retreat inspired and renewed me because I re-experienced God’s love for me in an amazingly real and personal way. I cannot put it in vernacular simply because my language skills are not that good (you – the reader – can safely say that William Shakespeare I am not). Nevertheless, God’s Love was demonstrated to me by those who worked to make that retreat a reality and prayed for me before, during, and after the retreat.
Today is the first day after my W2E experience; it is the beginning of the “fourth day” of my walk with God. Today and every day for the rest of my life is a day to continue growing based on my experiences during the three days on the retreat.
In conclusion I want to share with my church family a little more about W2E.
W2E is a ministry and outreach that is focused on bringing Christians closer to God, empowering Christians to be tools in God’s hands in the world that all of us share, and on giving them the tools and inspiration to do so. That mission is accomplished through a time of renewal and reflection. During the three days that I spent on the W2E we heard fifteen excellent presentations about the life and ministry that every Christian is called to. These presentations were well thought out, effectively presented and I recognize and appreciate the effort, sincerity, and honesty that all the speakers put into their presentations.
In small groups we talked about how we can apply what we learned to our lives. We celebrated the Sacrament of the Holy Communion daily and prayed with and for each other. It was an intense time of spiritual renewal, emotional healing and restoration, intimacy with God and my fellow pilgrims, and as I said before, I left the W2E retreat encouraged, refreshed, renewed and inspired.
I cannot express enough how grateful I am to my Christian sisters and brothers who served me during the retreat. They provided meals, prayed for me around the clock, and gave me special gifts. Today (the day I came back from the retreat) I received several e-mails and phone calls with words of encouragement from others who had taken this pilgrimage in the past.
God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart!