Third Sunday of Easter

Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Image by Matthias Böckel from Pixabay

Opening Hymn

Readings

Acts 2:14a, 36-41

14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd… 36 “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” 37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” 41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. (NLT)

Luke 24: 13-35 

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” 19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago. 22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”

35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. (NLT)

Sermon

Today’s gospel reading of Jesus’s appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, is a reading that I love. Here we have Jesus casually making himself known to these two friends – a story that I bet they recited excitedly for the rest of their lives.

I think it teaches us all a valuable lesson, that even in the strangest of times, God comes in unexpectedly, when we aren’t even looking. There were of course rumours of hope – but they were just that, rumours. These two disciples had known the desperate sadness of Jesus in whom they had put all their hope being arrested and crucified. They must have been crushed, but then that day there had been rumours that he had risen, that there had been visions of angels, that some women friends of theirs had met him – surely that can’t be true? It must have been a rollercoaster of emotions.

I wonder if you have ever encountered God in places you didn’t expect, or been in situations that felt hopeless which God turned around? I think its particularly important at the moment when we can’t meet together to remember that God isn’t just to be found in our churches, but that we can have meaningful encounters with God in all sorts of places.

One of the stories that I find really encouraging is the story of Brother Lawrence. He was a monk who lived in France in the mid-1600s. In his early life he was a soldier and fought in many wars, but he was so traumatised by the experience that at the age of 26 he left the army and fell back on the faith he had as a child. Today we would probably say he had PTSD. He joined a monastery as a lay brother at the very bottom of the order as a kitchen hand, running errands, fetching things, it was hard work and long hours. He was really self-conscious of his rough upbringing and his not very holy language, he worried that he was clumsy and broke everything, but gradually through his work he found peace. And he became known as someone whose practice of the presence of God in everyday life made God real to those around him – so much so that one of his fellow brothers wrote down the conversations that he had with him, which became a book, which can still be bought today.

I love this quote from a history of Christian figures:

‘For Brother Lawrence, “common business,” no matter how mundane or routine, was the medium of God’s love. The issue was not the sacredness or worldly status of the task but the motivation behind it. “Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”’[1]

For Brother Lawrence, doing the washing up or sweeping the floor was Holy ground. This was where he encountered God, in the mundane work of daily life. It was like that too for our disciples on the road to Emmaus. Maybe they were walking home from Jerusalem after the festival. After all the excitement of what they had hoped for had been stripped away in the crucifixion. They didn’t meet God in the hubbub of worship in the temple, they met him on a dusty road, and they recognised him, in their own home, in the simple act of sharing a meal.

It’s a strange time at the moment as we worship separately in our own homes. But let’s not think that this is a time of spiritual loss. For, like Brother Lawrence, each of us can encounter God in our everyday lives. In the boring routine things, we do each day. Its all a question of perspective. Like him we too can invite God in, to join us the tasks that we do. We can turn the washing up into a time of prayer, we can ask that God would be revealed in the small things each day, and recognise that whatever we do, however insignificant or small it feels, it can be part of our worship. I would like to encourage you to join me in praying through the small things this week, and together, like Brother Laurence and the Disciples on the road to Emmaus, we too can encounter God in some unexpected places.


[1] https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/innertravelers/brother-lawrence.html

Reflection Hymn

Intercessions

Living Lord,
we bring to you the needs of the world.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.

We pray for those who consider themselves to be strangers and outcasts.
Help us always to value the stranger, whatever the cost,
not sitting comfortably and ignoring people we think don’t fit in,
not taking the easy way.
Until our homes and churches can be places of welcome,
may our hearts be places of hospitality and love,
that all may have the chance to recognise and see you
in the warmth of our prayers and concern.
Lord in your mercy…

We pray for countries where food is in short supply.
May we farm sustainably and eat sensibly,
so there is enough to feed the whole planet.
May we also support our Foodbanks and neighbours in need.
We remember all those struggling with food poverty during this crisis.
We remember all food distributors, shop assistants and delivery drivers.
Help us not to be selfish, but always to consider others.
Lord, we long for the day when all in society will be equal.
May we be a part of making that happen.
Lord in your mercy…

We pray for those who are lonely and have no one to eat with them.
We remember especially those in lockdown alone.
When this is over, may we open our doors to our neighbours,
may love and friendship flourish,
may all enjoy the feast.
Lord in your mercy…

Risen Christ, friend, companion, healer:
as I walk the road in front of me
be by my side and never leave. 
Amen.

Closing Hymn

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