Sundays at 7: Reflection
Sunday 26 April 2020
Jesus walked alongside them on the road
We’re in a situation that we have never been in before. We don’t know when it will end. We are bewildered. Stressed. Angry. Fed up.
Some of us are in very stressful work situations, where it all feels tough and relentless.
Some of us are bored, bored, bored.
Some of us are lonely. Some of us want a hug.
Some of us wish we didn’t have to be with the people were stuck with.
I’m even getting grumpy with my dog and I NEVER get grumpy with my dog.
Some of us are in emotionally difficult situations. We’ve got loved ones who are ill. Someone we know has died. People we care about are in vulnerable situations. And we cannot see an end in sight.
But in all of this, I know that all of us are going to be doing our best to hang on to hope.
We are praying, we’re reading our bibles, were sending each other encouraging gifts, funny jokes and videos. We are gardening, making cakes, doing yoga, trying so very hard to be kind, even when we’re fed up and annoyed.
We’re holding onto hope. We know this has got to end one day. We know the Lord is with us. We know that our loved ones are rooting for us – even if we are separated from them.
We are holding onto hope.
It’s precarious, it’s tough, sometimes it’s overwhelming, but we are holding onto hope.
Those two disciples, walking on the Emmaus road… perhaps they were holding onto hope. Perhaps they’d given up on hope. They were walking away from Jerusalem to Emmaus. 7 miles. About a three hour walk.
We don’t know much about the two of them – perhaps they’re from Emmaus and returning to their family home. One is called Cleopas and the other is unnamed. The fact that the other one is unnamed makes me think she’s a woman, because the biblical writers have a terrible track record of naming the men and not bothering to name the woman. I’m not the first to have this idea, Dr Paula Gooder has written about it. So, you might picture two friends – most probably two males, Cleopas and his mate, or a married couple, Cleopas and his wife walking along.
They’re disturbed, troubled, frightened and just like us and they’re discussing with each other “all that’s happened”. Just like we can’t have a conversation at the moment without talking about “all of this” they are talking about “all the things that happened”. And they can’t make head nor tail out of it.
They’ve lost their friend through the most cruel death but now they’ve heard about angelic visions and sightings of Jesus. It’s perplexing and worrying.
Perhaps, like us, they’ve had enough. And they just want to return home to some kind of normality.
And then a stranger walks beside them, a stranger who asks questions, listens to their heart and then unpacks the Scriptures for them. A stranger who is Jesus, but they don’t know this. But as he talks, they are drawn to his words and beg him to come and eat with them. The day is nearly done, it’s almost evening… and they invite this compelling stranger for supper. Jesus, at the start of the meal takes the bread, blesses and breaks it and they recognise him.
And in that moment of recognition, they find the strength to return to Jerusalem. This time not in daylight, but a 3 hour journey which would have been most certainly partially in darkness… in order to share their story with the 11. A story of an encounter with the resurrected Jesus. A story of the way they recognised Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
This gospel account resonates today with us in particular ways I think.
Firstly, Jesus walks with them on the road and engages with their concerns and worries. He walks alongside them – not apart or in judgement – just like last week he is very much with them. And I want to us to be encouraged by that this evening – that Jesus is walking beside us – in the joys and in the sorrows. However you’re coping at the moment – well, or struggling, let Jesus walk beside you on the road. Let him in. Let him hear your heart.
Secondly, Jesus opens up the scriptures to them. I want to really encourage you to lean into the Scriptures during our life under lockdown. If you’re not sure where to start, how about reading a chapter of the Gospel of Luke every day. Reading the bible gives us real strength and encouragement. It’s meaty stuff – and will challenge us, comfort us, console us and give us plenty of food for thought. Allow Jesus to strengthen you through his word.
Thirdly, we’re very conscious that as Jesus is made known to the two disciples in the breaking of the bread, we are denied that particular sacrament and grace at the moment. All over the world thousands of Christians are not able to share together in the bread and the wine and we’re starved of this divine, holy communion with God. To a church like St Catherine’s, where we celebrate Holy Communion every Sunday, this is a real absence in our hearts and in our spiritual lives. To have missed holy week and Easter and to see no end in sight to this situation, is really, really tough.
When people ask me what I miss most during lockdown – one of the things is Holy Communion – but communion in all it’s facets – I miss singing together, sharing the peace, sharing and opening the Bible together, but I miss celebrating and receiving the Eucharist.
Because it is here – in that mysterious moment – that I feel close to Jesus. I feel my faith grow. I feel my sense of him at work in my life come alive.
And this is absent at the moment.
But Jesus isn’t absent.
I sense his presence through the Holy Spirit at work in me. I feel his presence bringing me strength and comfort. I feel his presence as I pray, worship, read the bible. I sense his presence through acts of love and kindness – both given and received. I sense the Holy Spirit at work when we do the Big Clap for the NHS. When someone sends me a WhatApp that cheers me up. God’s love is at work – in the midst of the worst of times, God’s love is at work.
This week, in your prayers and reflections ask the Lord to make you more aware of his presence, to be more open to recognising him. Perhaps go for a walk – just like those disciples did – and imagine Jesus on the road beside you. What do you want to tell him? How do you need to be encouraged? Speak to him… and let him speak to your heart.
you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope,
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life
and fill us with your peace,
to the glory of God the Father.