During my student days…

Dear Friend,

During my student days, I hosted a young adult gathering in the place I rented at the time. Our gathering featured a debate over one of the divisive topics of the time (1983), and I forget now what the topic was. I think it was either women in office or liberation theology.

After going at it with each other for about an hour, someone called me to the phone so that I could receive an urgent message. A friend had called to inform me that a mutual friend of ours, a fellow student named Roger, had lost his father during a robbery-murder earlier in the afternoon. After a few moments of shocked incoherence, I thanked my friend for passing on the information and re-entered the living room, where the debate continued.

With words that I cannot recall, I announced to the group that the debate needed to end. I told them that our gathering was concluded because I had received news of my friend’s loss. As I tried to explain the situation a bit further, I broke down into weeping and slumped into a chair. I turned to one of the debate leaders and managed to ask: Will you pray? The person looked confused and seemed unable or unwilling to pray. So I turned to his chief opponent and asked: Will you pray? Immediately, she called on God and led us into the presence of our Saviour. The Holy Spirit did not take away my shock or grief immediately, but I did experience consolation from the Father of all consolation.

I relate this incident to pass on just one example of the difference between talking about God and talking to God. I believe it is necessary and can be edifying to talk about God and even to argue about God in healthy ways. But talking to God brings greater knowledge and experience of our Lord. So I guess I write this letter to encourage you to talk to God today. Talk to God as the one who came to us in Jesus Christ, who said: I have called you friends (John 15:15).

I write this email also to stay in touch with you as I, along with the congregation at Willowdale Christian Reformed Church, explore what we are calling “The Emmaus Road to Renewal.” The Gospel story of Jesus meeting people on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) portrays our Lord walking along two grieving disciples. Jesus talks with them about what they have on their minds; Jesus teaches them about himself from the Scriptures, and then Jesus makes himself known to them in the breaking of the bread. We look to Jesus to carry out all these actions each Sunday at Willowdale. As Jesus creates community among us in that way, I find myself wanting to stay in touch with you. Community can come even in the form of an email! So, if I can manage to exercise a little discipline, I hope to send “Emmaus at Willowdale Connection” messages regularly—probably once per week. If you would prefer not to receive these messages, please let me know.

I hope you and our Lord have a good conversation today. Peace,

Joel Kok