On Sunday May 4th our minister Trevor Dixon led worship, encouraging us to respond when he said, He is risen! and we responded by saying, ‘He is risen indeed! Alleluia, at regular intervals, reinforcing my joy in the risen Lord! We began worship as we shared opening prayers of the communion service for the Easter season before we sang ‘Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord.’ We then had the prayers of adoration, confession and the prayer for that day, before we read selections of verses from Psalm 116 responsively; our side read the verses in the light print in our hymnbook and the other side responded with the verses in dark print; I found that made me listen more closely. I then read the letter from the Bible, 1 Peter 1v17-23 before we sang, ‘When Easter to the dark world came.’ Trevor read the gospel reading from Luke 24v13-35; that description of the road to Emmaus always reminds me of my late mother, as it was always her favourite resurrection encounter.
Trevor in his sermon showed us how Luke took the disciples from blindness to sight, and from confusion to delight in recognition of the risen Lord. Jesus appeared as a stranger in the ordinary situation as the 2 disciples shared their confused and gloomy conversation about what had happened in Jerusalem in the previous few days. The puzzled disciples had thought in their religious fervour that Jesus would have led them to freedom from the occupation, and now they had been further confused to hear the stories of the women, who had seen angels and been told that Jesus was alive; what could it all mean? How did it fit in with the reality of the events they had witnessed days earlier? It did not make any sense?
God as always took the initiative; Jesus came and listened to what the disciples had to say before he expounded the scriptures to them, not just choosing one verse which could have many interpretations if taken out of context, but taking them through the scriptures from Moses to the prophets showing them all references to the Messiah, revealing God’s intention from the beginning, which was fulfilled through the death and the resurrection of Jesus. As the disciples arrived at their destination they offered the stranger hospitality, as they responded to the initiative Jesus had taken in clarifying their confusion. Not only did they invite him in to eat with them but they gave him the place of honour at table, and Jesus took bread and broke it and gave it to them; a gesture which brought momentary recognition that it was the risen Lord, and then Jesus was not seen. That flash of recognition increased their joy in the Lord and renewed their energy to return to Jerusalem and share the good news. That recognition probably came as Jesus action in breaking of the bread reminded them of the feeding of the 5000, and the last supper written in 1 Corinthians 11, which had been written down before Luke had compiled his gospel.
Such transforming moments when we glimpse the reality and purpose of God come again and again wherever bread is broken transforming the moment and leading to action and sharing. The experience of the risen Lord is shared and is empowering, as the receiving of the Holy Spirit would be at Pentecost. Faith was not to be a private matter but lived in the culture and circumstances of the day. It is just as much a parable for us today. It shows us the Christian journey in life, our roads to Emmaus, our roads to life; we face disillusion, disappointments and confusion in our lives; how differently we had expected life to turn out. We are shocked by tragedy, faced by suffering, lost for words at the death of the innocent. In life our faces are often downcast, but as we travel through difficulties and confusion, Jesus is our constant companion even if we do not recognise his presence, and sharing communion can set us free.
Jesus approached his disciples, did not reveal himself at first, remaining hidden from them, but he had taken the initiative and made contact with them. He then encouraged them to tell him about what was concerning him, so he knew how far their understanding was of the situations they had faced and experienced. As he asked questions he encouraged them to think about what was troubling them, gave them the opportunity to share theirs story. He gave them the space to say how they saw things, as they talked.
Trevor remembered the first time he was to visit a bereaved person and he felt totally inadequate, but prayed and prepared himself the best he could. When he got there he just needed to listen to the story and share his or her experience of the loss. Jesus had taken the initiative and began to explain the scriptures from the place they understood, giving them the freedom to think and act; they felt so uplifted that they did not want him to go and invited him to stay; there they in the sacramental action of the breaking of the bread the veils were removed from their eyes and they recognised him momentarily and then he was hidden as before.
Jesus is always close to us and if we are fortunate we see the eternal in the present for a moment and a flame is kindled in us. At the end of Matthew’s gospel Jesus had said, ‘I will be with you always till the end of time’. We may not see him or have a special vision, but he is there, nearer than we can think. The disciples’ response allowed Jesus to help them, as they were open to him and opened their home to him, allowing the stranger to be at the head of the table, the place of honour; when he shared the intimacy and fellowship with them their eyes were finally opened and they saw the risen Lord. May we too be open to recognise the resurrection in the journey of our lives?
We sang a new hymn to us from Singing the Faith, ‘On the day of resurrection to Emmaus we return; while confused, amazed, and frightened, Jesus comes to us unknown.’ In the second verse it states, ‘Meets us in our pain and suffering; Jesus walks with us, unknown.’ Verse 3 states, ‘In our trouble, words come from him; burning fire within our hearts tells to us the scriptures meaning, Jesus speaks to us unknown.’ Verse 5 states, ‘Day of sorrow is forgotten when the guest becomes the host. Taking bread and blessing, breaking, Jesus is himself made known.’ Verse 6 concludes, ‘Opened eyes, renewed convictions, journey back to scenes of pain; telling all that Christ is risen. Jesus is through us made known:’ written by Michael Peterson. The words just enabled us to see the message for us today.
After we had sung the offertory hymn, ‘Come, risen Lord, and deign’, Trevor led the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer and we shared the peace with each other. Then Trevor led the thanksgiving prayers and prepared for us to receive communion. We shared communion as Trevor and our steward, Christine brought us the bread, which we all ate together to remind us of our community and the wine we drank individually as we recognised what Jesus had done for us. Our worship concluded as we sang, ‘My faith looks up to thee.’ I found the service profound and moving as we worshipped and received from our Lord in the communion service.