Have you ever walked to the town of Emmaus?
Don't worry, I have not been there either. The beautiful thing about a relationship with Jesus however, is that quite often you don't have to go very far form your own home to have the adventure of a lifetime. This past weekend I took an adventure in faith with about 30 other brothers in Christ (and a couple clergy sisters) only about 20 miles from my house. This is a particular retreat like experience I have had a number of times, but there never ceases to be a unique message from God for me, no matter how many times I open myself to this experience. This past weekend, the make up of the group was very different than usual. More often than not, as much as I hate to admit it, our group looks pretty much the same, older and whiter. I won't say old and white straight up, because there is always a little bit of variation from that stereotype, but... for the most part an older generation tends to be able to make time for something like this, and let's face it, most of our churches tend to maintain some sort of cultural homogeny. This past weekend was different. There was significant variation in the ethnicities that were represented, as well as the ages that were represented. Even more than this kind of diversity however, I think the thing that I was most excited about, was that most of the guys that were participating for the first time, where not the kind of guys you expect to find in your church. They were a little rougher around the edges. They clearly have not led super straight lives, they do not fit into the exact "style" of what seems to be the prevailing expectation of what a christian looks like. Yet, the movement of the Spirit of God was just as strong, and the revelations that were made were just as powerful and deeply impacting as any other group with which I have made this journey. I felt like I might have actually been in a group that looked like Jesus' group of friends. He hung out with fishermen, and something tells me that they didn't always use the most polite of language or smell the best or have the cleanest cloths or most proper sense of presentation in general. He hung out with tax collectors, and their job in particular caused them to fall on the shadier side of social politics. He hung out with foreigners, prostitutes and outcasts. His social circle didn't fit into the same mold as most of our churches today; full of nice, polite and proper people. Certainly treating each other with love and compassion and grace is the call of each of God's creation, but love, compassion and grace doesn't always look like slacks and a tie, big pretty hats with flowers and conservative dresses, or quiet polite speech where we never dig into each others lives. Certainly it looks exactly like all those things sometimes. But sometimes it can look like a bunch of guys that have not really had a chance to shower for a couple days, with hats on, wrinkled cloths and a cigarette in their hand, as they talk about the ways that God is melting their heart, with the occasional curse word as part of their expression. I felt very much at home this weekend, amongst guys that look like I have looked some in my past, and in some ways I still look like. I know God has done amazing things in my life, as He will in these guys lives, and I am encouraged to remember how BIG God's grace and love is for us. He will meet us all where we are, to lead us down the unique path He has for each of us, and He loves each of us too much to leave us where we currently are. And yet, the transformation looks different for each of us. The constant, is love, compassion and grace! De Colores!!!!!