TALK FOR SUNDAY 26TH APRIL 2020 Easter 3
In the reading from St Luke’s gospel today we find the story of the two people travelling away from Jerusalem back home. The journey to Emmaus was about seven miles, so a good two hours walk . They were talking about all that they had seen during the past few days and they were so upset. They were not disciples of the inner circle and so not in ‘lockdown’ as Simon wrote about last week. They were on their way home where they felt they would feel safe. We have probably all taken journeys where we needed to reach home as soon as possible to feel secure and familiar.
They were sad, angry, upset, puzzled. A stranger joined them, and asked what they were discussing. They were astounded because they thought that everyone would know about the events which had taken place in Jerusalem. They explained and that must have been quite brave as they did not know whether the stranger was a spy but possibly they were beyond caring. The phrase which stands out in their explanation is “We had hoped he was the one who was going to set Israel free”. They just did not understand although they knew that the body had disappeared and that angels had told some of the disciples that Jesus was alive.
Sometimes events like this make us feel a bit supercilious as of course we know Jesus rose from the dead and is alive now. But we have the advantage of hindsight. The story continues. They arrived at the village and the stranger was prepared to continue his journey until the two invited him to stay. This reminds me of the picture by Holman Hunt called “The Light of the World” where there is no handle on the outside;
Christ does not force himself on us, the choice is ours.
The stranger stayed with them and ate with them. He took the bread, blessed it and broke it and gave it. Only then did they recognise Jesus who disappeared from their sight. They rushed back to Jerusalem to share what hadhe choice is ours. happened in spite of the fact that it was dark and the journey would be perilous.
Cleopas, the name given of one of the two, was with a friend or perhaps his wife, but whoever it was we can relate to the situation. Too often we do not recognise Christ’s presence as we journey through life with all its problems along the bumpy road. In one of her ‘Thoughts for the Day’ on Radio 4 Lucy Winkett said that “God is not elsewhere”. She was talking about our current situation and as Christ walked with the two on the journey to Emmaus, so he walks with us. Pope John Paul II said “Before God, each human being is always unique and unrepeatable, somebody thought of and chosen from eternity.” Each one of us matters and is loved by God through Jesus.
There is a hymn which shows the wonder of travelling with Christ and the first verse is:
At the font we start our journey,
in the Easter faith baptized;
doubts and fears no longer blind us,
by the light of Christ surprised.
Hope held out and realized.
Christ will often surprise us but we need to be open to that element of surprise which will change us. The disciples were changed by the resurrection as we need to be and realise that Christ walks beside us. Everything changed at Easter; nothing was the same any more. This story of a journey is often used in meditation especially when people are in difficulty and the events of Easter are not “…a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (Macbeth, William Shakespeare) They give life meaning and care.
The two walking home did not recognise Jesus possibly because they were walking towards the sunset and so could not see clearly. All their hopes and dreams seemed to be shattered but Christ showed them that it was not the end but the beginning of eternity. We need to walk towards the sunrise and be surprised by the light of Christ.
What does this story have to offer us today in this difficult time? The two people were sad, puzzled and thought all hope had gone. They were walking on a road that was fraught with danger from robbers and wild animals. There are many people today who are sad and puzzled and think that all hope has gone and we are all walking a road that is unknown. The coronavirus has affected everyone, some in dire ways.
There is light even if it at times seems very dim. There are more people watching on-line services than would normally go to church on a Sunday. There is a wonderful community spirit in our villages and in our country. There are stories of immense courage and selflessness. People are caring about others. There will be people asking where God is in all this. The answer is that he is in the midst of all of it; he is in the care homes, the hospitals, the distribution centres, the shops, everywhere where we are, God is there.
He understands our hurt, our dismay, and our fear. He cares about our loneliness and isolation. But he offers everyone hope and eternal life because he loves each one of us. He wants us to reach out to him as the two disciples did when they recognized Jesus and he offers us the light of the sunrise. We only have to reach out and take his hand.
A short prayer:
God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. (Association of English Cathedrals)