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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Carrying the cross

It's not an efficient way to walk, but it's God's way

"We are running so fast, God, and we don't know how to slow down. We keep our calendars filled. We carry phones in the car and pagers in the purse. We constantly check our voice mail, our e-mail, and stay connected by fax and Internet. We are busy and yet not satisfied. We are moving faster, but we never catch up."

I was amazed one Sunday last July at how well this prayer of confession — printed in the bulletin of an ELCA congregation in Rapid City, S.D., where I was the guest preacher — connected with the message of my sermon. My visit was in connection with the regular home assignment for my wife, Carin, and myself, Swedish citizens who have served with the ELCA Division for Global Mission since 1970 in Indonesia, India and, now, Thailand. I've lived in Asia for almost 50 years and had planned to share some thoughts from an Asian background.

I've been much influenced by reading several books by Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama, who points to the need to have time and take time with people. He titled one book Three Mile an Hour God (Orbis Books, 1980, out-of print, may be available from www.half.com) — meaning that God is walking with us and at the pace of walking. God doesn't rush past in a car or on an airplane. Jesus, too, walked with his disciples and the crowd.

Even after his resurrection we find Jesus walking with the disciples to Emmaus. Recall the scene from Luke's Gospel (24:13-32). The two disciples had no idea who this stranger walking with them, accompanying them, really was. They asked him to stay with them, and then: "When he was at the table with them, he took bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him ...." In the sharing of the bread, they saw their true companion.

In the ELCA we talk about the model of accompaniment — walking together and sharing together — in our global mission work. A companion is someone with whom you share your bread — panis, Latin for "bread," and cum for "together."


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