The journey home

Third Sunday of Easter – Sunday 26thApril 2020

Peace be with you.

Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

Luke 24:36, 38

Opening prayer:

Glory to you O God: you raised Jesus from the grave, bringing us victory over death and giving us eternal life.

Glory to you , O Christ: for us and for our salvation you overcame death and opened the gate to everlasting life.

Glory to you, O Holy Spirit: you lead us into the truth and breathe new life into us.

Glory to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen

The journey home

All of life’s normal expectations have been turned upside down.  The events of the past few days had left some people baffled and incapable of moving on in their thinking; consequently, they decided to travelled home.  But the journey was not what they expected: they were joined by a stranger.  It’s always interesting to hear the viewpoint of someone which is radically different from your own, but this stranger – on hearing their dilemma – told them they were foolish! (verse 25)  Not the kind of statement any would want to hear!

Sometimes there is discussion in church, on the perfect sermon length: and inevitably, opinions vary. But here it went on for seven miles: probably a good couple of hours for most people, if not more; and even then, the powerful and moving words, did not bring them to a point of decision.  The light doesn’t finally dawn until the stranger broke the bread.  In those familiar words, verse 30 simply reports that: Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  And in an instance, every remembrance of the Lord Jesus flashes before them, and before us.

One of the huge losses experienced during the current lock-down, it seems to me, is the sense of deprivation from the Lord’s Table: should Methodist ministers preside at communion (at home), on behalf of their congregations, or would it be better to engage in eucharistic fasting during these days?  There is no simple, straightforward answer to this dilemma, but many will be yearning to have restrictions lifted and to meet once more for communion.  In the meantime, we grasp at every reminder that it is Christ’s presence which makes the feast.

I have on my study wall, a print of a painting by Sieger Köder showing the Last Supper.  You will be able to view this here:

Those who know a good deal about art, will say that it is just a copy and therefore lacks some of the dynamism of the real painting.  This may be true, yet it is still an image that has a profound ability to bring to mind those words – that Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, for us.  It is a fascinating picture with the closely-knit community gathered round a table, and so much more going on all around.  It is fairly gloomy, and for us who contemplate the  so many years on, it seems perfectly natural for it to be so.

Just a few short days later, the prospect is no less gloomy.  Evening is drawing on and the travellers want to get indoors before night falls.  At that time and place in Emmaus, the two followers of Jesus are reminded by the drama of breaking bread, that Christ is with them. 

Here in 21st century, locked-down UK, we seek other ways to be reassured that Christ is with us, though engagement with scripture, online communities, quiet contemplation, walks in the countryside.  

For the first disciples, that reassurance spurred them into action, and so they returned to the community to share their story.  This is a strange moment on the discipleship journey, when Christians are called to find new ways to be church, to learn to share our story with our community and beyond.  

A prayer for the church and the world

‘Stay with us Lord, because it is almost evening and the day is nearly over.’

Stay with us Lord In the days that are confusing, when physically separated from both relatives and friends and the wider church family.

Stay with us on our journey, discovering new ways to connect, and new ways to worship.

Stay with us as we cheer on those who are called to make supreme sacrifices for the good of the community.

‘Then their eyes were opened.’

Open our eyes to recognise that you are with us, at the breaking of the day, and when we break bread.

Open our eyes and our hearts to remember before you those whose hearts are breaking, who carry heavy burdens, and those who struggle to make sense of what is happening all around them.

Open our minds to see those who suffer great anguish and pain during these days, who cry ‘enough!’

May we know your presence – burning like a fire – as we open the Scripture; as we share in worship round TV and computer screen; as we seek to live to your praise and glory. 

Risen Christ, renew our hope, strengthen our faith and fill us with peace we pray.  Amen.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen

Opening prayer:  from Holy Communion for Easter Season, Methodist Worship Bookp 160

Blessing: Numbers 6:24-26

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