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Disillusionment: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus himself came near and began to walk along with them. But they were prevented from recognizing him.Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.
-Luke 24:13-17

My favorite movie, growing up, was The Wizard of Oz.  And I was also a big fan of Elton John.

Elton John's song, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, is about disillusionment.  That's what The Wizard of Oz is about too.

We think that we need to go on a fantastic journey to find something.  But we find out that we we already have it, right at home.  We go on a journey, and get over our illusions.

In The Wizard of Oz, the key phrase is, "There's no place like home."  Dorothy had a dream about finding the answers outside her surroundings.  But, everything she needed, was right at home.

I get the idea that I need to be this to be happy.  And it does not do that.  That's disillusionment.

We also get into a fantasy about how things are when they aren't that way and that is an illusion.

People who have 'stars in their eyes', are people who are overly optimistic and idealistic and naive about set-backs, suffering, human depravity, perseverance, and real love that is sacrificial.  These folks are in for a rude awakening and disillusionment, when reality set in on them.

When disillusionment comes, it is an opportunity the get in touch with reality and grow in authenticity towards yourself, God and others.

We are supposed to dream.  Dreaming is natural.  We are supposed to have passion and follow it.  We do need to find our destiny.

But this is all natural with the supernatural.  Illusion is not natural or supernatural.  Illusion is not real.

Who I am, what God has made me to be, and where God is taking me is real.  My destiny in God is real.  And my inheritance in God is real.  God's design for me is real.

Same thing with the church.  God's design for the church is real and authentic, Jesus shaped you could say.

We get into illusions when we use our imaginations outside of God.  When we think about ourselves, the church, or God; outside of interaction with the living God, we might get into illusions.  Illusions are things that are not real and are not true.  They may be well-intentioned, but not real.

The two guys who were walking on the road to Emmaus were disillusioned.  Things did not turn out, they way they had imagined.  They were discouraged.

Jesus asked them why they were discouraged.  Then he was direct with them, calling them foolish and slow.  He taught them through the Old Testament, about how the Messiah had to suffer before his glorification.

Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.

The one named Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked them.

So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people,and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third daysince these things happened. Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.”

He said to them, “How foolish and slow you are to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.
-Luke 24:17-27

Their illusion was that Jesus would redeem one way, but the reality was that he redeemed Israel another way.  We have a good goal in mind and think we will get there through a certain way, that becomes an illusion.  But there is another way that is the authentic way, without illusion.

An illusion is when we see something that is not there.  We say, "He fooled himself into thinking..."  That's an illusion.

We fool ourselves into thinking something about someone that is not true.  We think they are good when they are actually bad.  When we find out the truth, we become disillusioned.

We enter into to a relationship.  Maybe a friendship, maybe a romance, maybe a business relationship.  We assume things are all good, but then something not good happens, maybe even a betrayal.  Then we get disillusioned.

This can happen with church.  We have high hopes and together we are engaged in a very nobel purpose.  Then bad things happen and we get disillusioned and don't want to play anymore.

I was just thinking about all the pastors out there, who suffer failure, and go into disillusionment with the church.

Disillusionment is painful, but it is actually a good thing.  We need to not be illusioned.  We need to be in touch with reality.

Suffering is reality.  Betrayal is reality.  Love and forgiveness is reality.  Broken people is reality.

God has no illusions about us, so he never gets disillusioned about us. We walk with God without illusions.

There is a paradox in that the path is where we find ourselves, but it is at home where we are our authentic selves.

All of life is a journey towards our ultimate home in and with God.  Life is not a time of just waiting for the event, but becoming the person.  Life is about knowing God and knowing who you are.

To think that we are going on a journey to becoming famous or powerful is a misconception and illusion.

Being the person God created you to be and being loved by God and then loving other people, is the simple calling for everyone.  God can choose to elevate us or not, for a short time or for a long time.

Jesus would not allow himself to be lifted up into the illusions that some people had for him.  Think about it.  Jesus lived in the tension that each of us are called to, to be ourselves and to let God elevate us.

Negative disillusionment goes into cynicism and bitter criticism, that has its root in a distrust of self and a feeling of alienation.

Sometimes a rude awakening precedes a breakthrough into authenticity.  It requires humility.  Humility sometimes only comes through humiliation.

Much of the pain of disillusionment is self-inflicted.  We ran with something that really was a lie, it was not true; and we built our reality around it.

People constantly suffered from disillusionment towards Jesus.  He never caused it, but they did it to themselves.  We have Judas and we have the other eleven misunderstanding him.  We have the fact that at the very end of the gospel account, it says that some people, who had seen and heard him, still did not believe.  And then there is the fact that only a portion of the people that saw him, after the resurrection, made it to the room where the day of pentecost happened.

We can be disillusion with the church.  Jesus has no illusions or fantasies about ideal church life, and neither should we.  If we are idealists, we need to let that go, be disillusioned, and be realists, with Jesus; based on love.

Many of us are disillusioned, disappointed, and distrusting of the church right now.  A great dissatisfaction is out there, among people who are unhappy in church, done with church, or have no regular meeting of the church to call home today.

The danger, which is toxic and poisonous is for us to be overly idealistic, perfectionist, and under an illusion that is elitist about what church has to be like.  I think we have to take people where they are and stand between them and our living God.

The bare bones, simple, and foundation of church life is, Christ, you, and I.  One way or another, we will end up eating and talking together, and then praying together, then being grateful together, and serving each other and then spilling out to serve the world around us and welcome them the table, where Christ is among us.

These are some notes and quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his book about Christian community called Life Together.  Bonhoeffer says that God actually hates our idealist illusions about what church life should be.  These are my thoughts mixed in with what Dietrich wrote.

  • A 'wishful image' of church life will shatter Christian community, if that is the basis on which it is lived.  Idealism.
    • Serious Christians bring with them their ideas of what Christian community should be, when they enter into it, and are anxious for it to be realized.  One person says, we need to take communion, another says we must worship together, another says we must pray either laying on hands or interceding, and still another says that we should be evangelizing.
      • I have been in several groups where one member came on very strong about how, in order to be an authentic Christian community, we should be engaged in evangelism.  The majority of the community was not interested in that.  There was a tension around this and it would have been better if the group reached a consensus, but instead, the evangelists felt rejected and 'vetoed', instead of enfolded and loved.
  • The grace of God is at odds with our dreams often.  Our dreams often are not God's dreams, not from God.  God is more concerned with our 'one another's' than our success.  
    • Many church planters have started with a dream, encouraged, supported, and cheered on by others.  When things don't work, when people resist, they have a lot of frustration.  In their disillusionment, they might get angry at the people, and even bitter with themselves and with God.
      • All through this, God is after something bigger and deeper, in grace.  God wants us to really know him and know his love and to know each other and know each other's love.
  • God's desire is for us to be disillusioned.  That means to let go of illusions and walk in the real.
    • Disillusionment is good, if it is riding us of our idealism.  Disillusionment is unpleasant and even appears evil, but it is the pathway to authenticity, reality, and durable community.
    • Every idealism is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up.
  • "Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial."
  • God hates our wishful dreams, that are really idealistic illusions, because they breed pride and pretense.  
    • Idealists carry a delusional sense of entitlement towards God and fellow Christians, demanding that they get on board with their vision.
      • Their ideal replaces the living Christ as the center of community, with themselves as 'god'.
        • My vision.
        • My way.
        • I am the builder of it, the creator.
    • When things do not work, they accuse others, God, and themselves.
  • Disillusionment with our brothers or sisters should always drive us the Christ, from whom is the only way that we can live and function together.
(From Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Bonhoeffer; pp. 34-36)

Imposing your control on others, supposedly as a function of leadership, is the essence of spiritual abuse.  I thought of controlling leaders, as I read Bonhoeffer.  When your leadership goes to controlling, you have moved into the dark side.

I am an idealist.  I have gone through disillusionment over and over.  A number of times in my life, I thought that if I believed the word and prayed hard, I would get results.

No dice.  Disillusionment.  Back to reality and authenticity.  Suffering, cross bearing, death, burial, and resurrection.  Living with the risen Christ.

One of the most painful disillusionments for me was my parents divorce.  My ideal for them was shattered and the hurtful brokenness of that was all I could see or feel.  The only way I could see was escape.

I was praying for God to make the pain go away.  And then I got ministry from a beautiful group of  prayer warriors, who ministered Paul's word from Jesus to me: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).

I never really comprehended that verse before that.

Jesus has proven to me, over and over that in my disillusionment, he has grace for me to experience and be transformed by.  And to receive it, I must go low.  "Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.  Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so."

When we try to make the case for our ideal, in the midst of shattering brokenness, that is pride, bitterness, and cynicism.  We blame, complain, and judge; having no grace for others, ourselves, or God.  No gratefulness, no forgiveness, and no happiness.  Just anger, control, and narcissism.

Shattered illusions that do not give way to grace, which is had by humility, becomes cynicism.  Cynical people believe that all of us are only motivated by self-interest.  Cynical people project their own brokenness onto the whole world.

The back-story of a cynical person is a broken heart that did not heal right.  They became deceived, they began to believe a lie.  They made a choice to go on the wrong path, in the wrong direction.

And the only way to get back on the right path is to go back to where you made the wrong turn.

The man who is a wolf in sheep's clothing, was not always like that.  He may have once been a faithful shepherd, or a sheepdog.  But he got his heart broken and it did not heal right.

That is how a wolf is born that ends up hurting and destroying sheep in the church.  Disillusionment that did not give way to grace through humility, but stayed proud and went to cynicism.

Judas is an example of bad disillusionment.  Intimate with Jesus, but had a different ideal or ideal of who Jesus should be.  And in his cynicism, he betrayed Jesus.

When he realized his mistake, he again did not find grace, but judged himself and executed himself.  He made these decisions, for which he has responsibility.  Satan was involved with him, looked for and found a road into his life, from which he could tempt Judas to do wrong.

Every disciple is tempted to sin and betray Christ.  In our disillusionment, we can turn to the dark side or just give up.  That way of Christ is the receive grace, in humility.

God knows that we will be tempted to go for fame, fortune, success; or just finding ourselves or our destiny.  Maybe we just want to go to school, find a job, find a spouse, and have kids.  Maybe we just want to pay the bills and have a decent grocery store to go to.

Along the path of life, we need to stay grounded in reality, under no illusions about ourselves.

What happened next, in the story of the two men and Jesus, on the road to Emmaus?

They came near the village where they were going, and he gave the impression that he was going farther.  But they urged him, “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

 It was as he reclined at the table with them that he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.
-Luke 24:28-31

There is something profound here, in when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them, that at that moment, their eyes were opened.  He is the bread of life and his body was broken for our life.  When we receive his life, broken and raised from the dead, for us; we can see him and become disillusioned.

His life and he as the truth, is our reality.



Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, sung by Casey Crescenzo:

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