Yesterday was an EXTREMELY stressful day. It started off well. I did the finishing editing to a video for the all age worship to go out this morning. That took longer than anticipated but I enjoyed doing it. However when I came to ‘export’ the video from the App, ie create the mp4 file, a message with a progress bar moving very slowly sat on my screen for over 20 minutes saying it was doing it. It disappeared and then I discovered that the file hadn’t saved – 0 bytes. Oh dear, I thought. Try again….. and again…. and with each attempt my stress levels were rising. I had had the same problem with the file I did for Good Friday so wasn’t too put out at the first attempt not working. However when it came to the 3rd one not working I was beginning to get more than anxious. In fact I was very stressed and actually shed a tear or two in my frustration and anger. Would all that work be for nothing?
I then, thankfully – and maybe as an answer to the plea for prayer I put out on Facebook – remembered that my husband had told me to miss out the spaces in the filename when he helped me with the Good Friday one. So despite the App automatically giving a filename with spaces, I removed them, set it off to save and went to have my lunch. After quite a while, whilst eating, I could hear a noise (music?) from my study. My investigations revealed a video playing on my screen…. it had saved!!!! It worked…. Alleluia!!!! The next step was to upload it to the church Facebook page and set it to play at 9am this morning.
I spent the rest of the day continuing to prepare for this morning’s worship. I managed to get out for a walk once the temperature had dropped. Our evening meal was very late (for reasons I will not go into but another very frustrating time).
This morning’s worship went well, I thought. I didn’t have time yesterday to finish my Road to Emmaus painting, so decided to do it this afternoon. And here it is. I don’t like the dark line along the path, but thought it needed something. I am not as good with watercolour as acrylics, but am improving I think.
If you want to read my sermon for this week, then here it is:
Easter 3 – Journeying with Jesus
I spoke last week about Thomas and the way that he encountered Jesus and then came to believe. I asked you to think about how you came to faith. I must admit that I feel a little bit disappointed – but not surprised – that I didn’t get any messages with stories of how you came to believe.
Perhaps for some of you, it’s a case of being brought up in a Christian family and always believing. Or maybe you think your story isn’t dramatic enough. Or you can’t remember how you came to believe because it was so gradual. Jesus’ sort of crept up on you, maybe. Whatever your story, I am interested. Or maybe you are still undecided and thinking about it…. great J
So – onto this week’s gospel. We have a journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It’s also a journey
- from disillusionment to inspiration,
- from incomprehension to understanding and
- from despair to hope.
It’s a journey of two people joined by a mysterious stranger who answers their questions, addresses their concerns and is so intriguing they invite him in for supper. He then does something out of the ordinary but at the same time totally normal. He thanked God for the bread – normal enough. He broke it – again a perfectly normal thing to do.
What was extra-ordinary was that the stranger took the place of the host at the meal, the head of the household, not a guest. It was the host at dinner that gave thanks for the bread, broke it so it could be shared.
And in that action of being invited in to their meal, Jesus took his place, not only at the table, but at the head of the household.
They invited him in. They opened the door of the private lives. And then… when he broke the bread they recognised him.
- the man who had died – and maybe they had seen for themselves on the cross
- the man they had followed and pinned their hopes on, only to have them dashed at his death
- the man they had been told was raised to life again but they couldn’t believe such a tale – was there before them and they recognised him.
Yes, it WAS TRUE – Jesus is ALIVE. And then poof… (probably not with the sound effect)…… he was gone… but that didn’t matter. Although being with him was fleeting after the recognition, it was enough and the sped back to Jerusalem to share their joy with the others.
Sometimes, in our journey of faith, we only get fleeting glimpses of Jesus – fleeting moments of certainty. The rest of the time we may struggle with doubts… can it really be true?
This story of the first Easter – The Road to Emmaus – is an important one on many levels. Today I want to look at it fairly simply but I hope in a way that will help you reflect on your journey of faith, wherever you are on it.
If you want something a bit deeper then Ian Paul’s video about the Road to Emmaus is good (will post a link). I’ve found Paula’s Gooder’s book Journey to the tomb good this Lent and Easter.
She points out that a journey of faith isn’t just about what we believe with our minds. It is often a movement of body, mind and spirit. The couple were on a physical journey – half a day’s walk – 7 miles – with plenty of time to talk, to ponder and question.
Sometimes when we move physically we are better placed to think about matters of faith – and some of you in isolation the move is away from your normal routines at the moment – time to ponder, time to read perhaps and to pray. That’s why often a quiet day away or perhaps a longer retreat can be beneficial. When I am out on my daily walk I will be praying as I go… chatting to Jesus about this and that….
I dig deeper into the scriptures and invite the Holy Spirit to enlighten me as I read the various books and commentaries. The couple’s hearts were burning within them as he unpacked the scriptures. And when Luke wrote that he meant the Old Testament – from Genesis and the story of God’s people through to the prophets and their pointing towards the coming Messiah who would bring about a new creation.
If you want to dig deeper into the scriptures and have Jesus come alongside to explain – there are plenty of resources available. Just ask and I will point you in what I hope is the right direction for you. Bible Society is a good website to visit.
As well as our body and mind, there needs to be a move in our spirits. If you were christened then you were baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That means you already have the presence of Jesus within you by the Holy Spirit.
But sometimes we can be so absorbed in ourselves and our situation that we don’t notice the presence of God within our lives. But when we move out of our own little bubble and engage in the world around us we may just notice God’s presence.
And when we invite Jesus in, as the couple did that evening, then he will take his place within our hearts and homes as host at the meal, as the head of the household of our hearts.
He was recognised in the breaking of the bread. That’s why at communion, breaking the bread is part of the prayers. It isn’t just a practical thing to make it smaller pieces. It’s to remember that Jesus broke bread at the last supper and said it was his body; it’s to remember that he was recognised in the breaking of bread that first Easter; and it’s also to remember that he is the one who feeds us spiritually.
So, although you are not able to receive the bread that I break today, and it is painful for me and Terry to not share with you, I believe it is still important that you are able to see it happen and recognise the presence of Jesus there with you. You will, I hope, be able to still feed on him in your hearts by faith despite not physically having a wafer.
This couple’s walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus was important for them. It enabled them to move from despair to hope, incomprehension to understanding and disillusionment to inspiration. Time is often needed for that shift in thinking and feeling.
You may be feeling disillusioned or disappointed in church or the promises of faith that you haven’t experienced and you think everyone else is enjoying. You may have stopped going to church because someone said something or looked at you in a funny way, or didn’t speak to you.
You may be disillusioned because of a church leader not living up to expectations. If that is the case, then I apologise on behalf of the church. Please forgive us. None of us is perfect and we all make mistakes. Only Jesus never sinned.
Forgiveness heals the one who is hurt. Tell Jesus about it and listen for his response.
Or maybe you disbelieve the resurrection and other claims of the Christian faith. It may be too difficult to get your head round and understand that Jesus is alive and can and does make a difference in people’s lives. You may be asking why there is suffering and bad stuff in the world, virus, accidents, evil…. why? Big question that I can’t answer today but I will give you a one sentence explanation.
When Jesus died on the cross he took on himself all the suffering and evil that had come into the world through Adam & Eve’s disobedience and in doing so he ushered in the New Creation we see described in Revelation 21 of a new earth where there is no more suffering or pain or death.
In the meantime, we walk with Jesus who carries us through the difficult days as described in the footprints poem. If you don’t know it, Google it.
When we put our trust in Jesus, he is able to turn our despair to joy and that is the hope we know and celebrate at Easter. It’s not just about life after death…. it’s about life before death.
I pray that wherever you are on your journey of faith – whether you are questioning and doubting – whether you are standing firm and sure – or somewhere in between – that you will be able to talk to Jesus as you journey with him. And be able to say to him, the words I want to end with, that most of you will recognise.
O Jesus let me see Thy foot-marks,
And in them plant my own!
My hope to follow duly
Is in thy strength alone,
Oh, guide me, call me, draw me,
Uphold me to the end!
At last in heaven receive me,
My Saviour and my Friend!
Rev’d Liz Jones
26th April 2020