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Sunday 26th April 2020 APC
“On the Road to Emmaus” (Part 2)
Introduction and Welcome
Good morning everybody and welcome to our Sunday morning prayers and reflections. Today we will be travelling with the two disciples on the Emmaus Rd. I hope you too will meet with Christ along the way. But before we read that story let’s take a moment to talk to God. Let us pray…
Living God, we thank you for your promise that when we come together in the name of Christ he is here among us. We thank you that He is here now, ready to speak, listen, forgive, teach and love.
He is present here in one another, in the fellowship we share together. He is present through the scriptures, constantly speaking to us in new ways. He is present in the sharing of bread and wine, those timeless reminders of his life, death and resurrection. He is present in the world around us, in the beauty of creation and the people we meet. He is present every moment of every day through his life giving and life transforming spirit.
Living God we thank you that whoever we are, wherever we are, whatever we may be doing, you are with us through Christ, constantly by our side travelling with us and looking to lead us forward into new experiences of your love. In the name of Christ we praise you, Amen.
Let’s share in the Lord’s Prayer together…
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Bible Reading Luke 24 v 13-35 ‘On the Road to Emmaus’
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Reflection “On the Road to Emmaus” (Part 2)
A minister was driving along the Beach Road the other day when all of a sudden the engine coughed and spluttered and eventually ground to a halt. He pulled over to the side of the road and turned the key a few times. Still no joy. So he got out, lifted the bonnet and peered into the engine to see if he could see anything obviously wrong.
A voice startled him, “It’s probably your distributor cap.” The minister removed his head from the engine to see who the mystery mechanic was. But he couldn’t see anyone. Then the voice spoke again. “It’s probably your distributor cap. In all this rain, it’s easy for it to get damp.” He looked all around him. He even looked up into a neighbouring tree. But no-one was there. All he could see was a horse with its head lent against the top of a gate leading into a field. He’d read of an OT prophet being warned by a donkey. But a Presbyterian minister being guided by a horse! There had to be some other explanation. Then the horse’s lips moved and it spoke again. “Try your distributor cap.”
In shock and panic the minister found the distributor cap, wiped the inside with his hanky, jumped into the car and started the engine. Sure enough the engine sparked to life first time. He put his foot to the floor and raced to the nearest pub. He rushed inside and ordered a small brandy. He downed it in one and leaned against the bar, his face white as a sheet. “Are you alright” the bar lady said. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” “Not a ghost” said the minister, “just a talking horse.” “A talking horse” said the bar lady. “And what exactly did this horse tell you?” “He told me to dry the distributor cap on my car and sure enough when I did it started going again.”
“Was that at the bottom or the top of the Beech Road?” asked the bar lady. “At the top” replied the cleric. “Ah you’re a lucky man then” she said. “Why’s that?” inquired the terrified cleric. “Cause there’s a horse at the bottom of the Beach Road and he knows nothing about cars!”
We all face many situations in life when we need someone to come alongside us and give us the right advice or the encouragement and support that we need. The current lockdown is definitely one of those times.
In the passage we read today, two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem to the neighbouring village of Emmaus. They were preoccupied with the terrible events that had happened in Jerusalem ending in the death of their beloved leader, Jesus of Nazareth. They had given up everything to follow him. They were certain that he was God’s political and military leader who would set them free from the oppressive rule of their Roman occupiers. Now that he was dead, all their hopes and dreams were shattered. They were deeply sad and frustrated.
Whether the risen Jesus, just happened to be walking that same road or whether he deliberately transported himself to that place to encourage these weary disciples, we can’t be sure. Either way, I love how Luke says, “As they talked and discussed, Jesus Himself drew near and walked alongside them.”
This week, as I re-read this story of Jesus drawing alongside these two disciples at such a difficult time, I was reminded again that one of the greatest blessings of being a Christian is that this is exactly what Jesus does for you and me. Every day wherever we are, however difficult the journey of life has become, Jesus walks with us and He deliberately draws alongside us to help and encourage us. Of course, it’s not Jesus Himself, because he is in heaven. But it His Spirit, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of the risen Jesus.
You see, before Jesus went to the cross, he reassured his disciples by promising them that even though He would not always be with them, He would send them another counsellor. The Greek word He uses to describe this counsellor is the word ‘parakletos’. The literal translation of ‘parakletos’ is ‘someone who draws alongside.’ So Jesus promised His disciples and us that when he got to heaven, he would send someone to be with us all the time to draw alongside and help us. The one who does this is God the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of Christ. What else do we know about the Holy Spirit?
In the NT we find that the Spirit speaks, He teaches, He witnesses, He searches, He determines, He prays for us, He can be lied to and He can be grieved. All of these references teach us that the Holy Spirit is a ‘person’ not a ‘force’ or an ‘it’!
We also discover from the bible that to lie to the Spirit is to lie to God. The Holy Spirit is included in Christian benedictions where He is referred to in the same breath as the Father and the Son. The Divinity of the Spirit is also emphasised in baptism which is always in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. All this teaches us that as well as being personal, the Holy Spirit is Divine.
So the Holy Spirit, whom Christ has sent to us since returning to heaven, is a real person. He is also fully God. He is the Spirit of Christ. And best of all, He is our paraclete - someone who draws alongside us to help us anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
Like the disciples in the story, we too can be slow to believe what the scriptures teach us. And because of that we often allow ourselves to become despondent. We can easily focus so much on the problems and difficulties in our circumstances that we don’t even recognise Jesus even though He walks beside us every day.
Listen, I know it’s difficult, I know that there are no quick fixes to our current crisis and the stresses and strains that is bringing. But in the midst of it all please, please remember that the Spirit of Christ is inside you! That means that just as Jesus was with his disciples back in the day, he is with you and me today and every day. That’s not something just to accept intellectually. It’s something to be acted upon.
So talk to Jesus as if he is standing in the kitchen with you or as if he’s sitting in the chair across the room or as if he’s in the passenger seat of the car or tractor! If you do that, He will help you! You will be amazed at how he can guide you how to help your kids through this time. You will be surprised at the patience He will give you to accept our current limitations. You will be amazed at how he will provide for you and your family in ways that you can’t even imagine. So come on! Believe that He is with you and keep talking to him about everything. St Paul says that if we do that, God will give us a peace that is beyond our understanding.
So let me ask you –
Have you forgotten that the Holy Spirit actually lives inside you?
Are you actually talking to Him and asking Him to comfort, help and guide you?
As they walked along the road, Jesus encouraged these disciples by showing them all the promises about himself contained within the Old Testament. By the time they reached their house, it was getting dark and so the disciples kindly invited their new found friend to stay the night. As they sat down to eat together, Jesus took the bread, broke it and gave thanks to God. Whatever way he did this, whatever words and actions he used, immediately his two hosts recognized that it was him. No wonder he’d been able to explain the scriptures to them as they walked along the road!
They were just about to speak to Him across the table, when in an instant he had vanished from their sight. They looked at each other with bewilderment and excitement and said, “No wonder our hearts felt like they were on fire within us when he chatted with us along the road!”
I love how kind and patient Jesus is with these disciples. Even after they’ve gone through the scriptures together they still haven’t recognized him. So he reveals his true identity through the simple act of breaking bread.
You know, I love the fact that God is equally so kind and patient with us. Like you, I understand intellectually that Jesus is with me every day by His Spirit. But I’m human. Like these disciples, especially when times are tough, it’s easy to forget this blessing.
Thankfully God continues to remind us of His presence with us in so many ordinary yet magical ways…I thought about some of these as I walked the dogs this week…
The face of a dandelion, the blossom on a tree, the chorus of a sparrow, the crash of a wave, the laughter of a child, the question of a teenager, your favourite snack, the lick of a pet, the embrace of a spouse, a call from a friend, the ability to study.
Even in the midst of the lockdown God is everywhere, in all the little things of life. What’s more, true happiness and contentment is actually found in having the eyes to see these things and to give thanks…
So let me encourage you to look for the presence of God in all the little things today. And at the end of the day, take a pen and paper. Write down 3 of these things that have really meant something to you and give thanks. Do the same tomorrow and the next day and the next. Despite the lockdown, you may just find your contentment levels rising.
The last thing I want to share with you this morning is the response of the disciples when they realise that Jesus is alive! At once they go back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples. It turns out the disciples were already talking about this. Finally the men were starting to believe the women!
They had seen him for themselves. They had touched him and seem him eat food. He wasn’t just a ghost. But he’d also appeared and disappeared, so his resurrected body was something special.
Christ was risen! For all of these disciples it took the presence of the living/breathing Jesus in their midst for these disciples to believe. It’s still the same today. For many people it takes the presence of a living/breathing Christian before they will believe.
Our lives are the only bible that most people will read. So ask the Holy Spirit to help you live well and to radiate the goodness of Christ. That’s our most important witness. And as people begin to see the positive difference that Christ makes to how we speak and act and our attitudes, some of them will ask us questions. When that happens, don’t be afraid to tell people how much Jesus means to you.
In Christ we have received the greatest gift, let’s not be afraid to share it with others…
So let me ask you-
Are you living in a way that will attract people to Jesus?
What words would you use to describe what God means to you if somebody asked?
Let us pray…
Loving Father, we thank you for your guidance during these difficult days, for leading us safely through days when the future has seemed dark and the present uncertain.
Whenever we have needed you,
You have been there.
We thank you for the support you have given when we have felt disheartened, the courage to keep on believing, when we have been tempted to doubt, the strength to persevere despite adversity.
Whenever we have needed you,
You have been there.
Loving Father, may all we experience in these times renew our trust in your continuing purpose for us. May it give us food for faith in times of difficulty yet to come. May it inspire us to serve you just as you have served us.
Whenever we have needed you,
You have been there.
Lead us forward we pray, and help us to continue in the path you set before us, secure in the assurance that, whatever we face, your grace will be sufficient for us.
Whenever we have needed you,
You have been there.
Let’s now take a moment to remember all those people who need God to draw alongside them in a special way at this time particularly those working in our hospitals and care homes and those concerned about their businesses or finances…SILENCE
Next week I’m going to take a break from following the lectionary readings. Instead I’m going to start a short series on “Counting our blessings”. Each one will be a reflection on one of the wonderful gifts that God gives us that we so often take for granted. I hope these positive reflections will continue to help keep our spirits up during these difficult days. If you have any particular things you would like me to consider over the days and weeks ahead don’t be afraid to drop me a few suggestions. But do tune in again next week. In a moment I will lead us in a benediction and the words of the grace after which I want to play you a beautiful piece of music from our growing virtual choir. Thanks to Alison for arranging and for everyone who has contributed to the singing. The piece is entitled ‘Alleluia, alleluia give thanks to the risen Lord’. So please stay logged on after we’ve said the grace together…
May the risen Christ meet you on the road, lead you into all truth, guide you on your path.
May the risen Christ feed and sustain you, fill you with His presence, equip you by His Spirit.
May the risen Christ go with you today, be with you through this week, may you dwell with Christ forever.
So may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever more. Amen.
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