A prayer for each of us in this time when we combine living in lockdown and the hope of the Resurrection:
Give me courage, strength and generosity
to let go and move on,
leaving the past behind me,
and living the present to the full.
Lead me always to be positive
as I ‘entrust the past to your mercy,
the present to your love,
and the future to your providence, in the hope of the Risen Christ. Amen.
My icon shows two friends walking and talking – but one is Jesus and the other is each one of us. The message is clear – Jesus walks with us, each of us.
I have two thoughts to share with you this morning.
The first is that the two friends, who might have been a married couple, a wife and husband, were getting away from where things had gone horribly wrong – kind of, exploded in their faces – that’s what had happened with Jesus’ death in Jerusalem – and they were trying to make sense of it all. Yes, we know that feeling all too well just at the moment. What has happened to the world? – and to the way of life we thought we knew?
“Is God out of control?” Let’s be honest – we’ve asked that question in the past few weeks. And it was also, I think, the question they kicked around during their walk to Emmaus. They looked to their Scriptures – asking, ‘Can’t God be trusted anymore?’
And, as you know, they were joined by a third person who joined in the argument. It was as they were opening up the Scriptures together on the road that Luke tells us ‘their hearts burned within them’ – as he showed them they were looking through the wrong end of the telescope, as it were: ‘Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter into glory?’.
And then they knew him at the meal.
Now you are wise to look for parallels in Scripture. There are two times when sharing food brings knowledge. The first goes right back to the story about everything going wrong when Adam and Eve share the apple, having been told not do that – and they gained God-like knowledge of good and evil, and of their own mortality and nakedness – total vulnerability. Knowledge was gained – but innocence was lost – as was their confidence in the original goodness in which they had been created.
Fast forward thousands of years to the time of Jesus, and now, their hearts having burned within them whilst they shared the Scriptures, ‘they knew him in the breaking of the bread’ – and they knew, in the marks of the nails his broken body- broken for them, as the Scriptures had foretold. Do you see the reverse of the Adam & Eve story? – In the Garden of Eden, food was shared, knowledge was gained, and freedom and innocence were lost.
After Jesus’ resurrection, food was shared, knowledge was gained – of His presence with them – and they had, as it were, been given back their immortality by the One who was risen from the dead, who, in sacrificing himself, had made love victorious again.
It is a tremendous claim – that the knowledge of the cross and resurrection reverses the sin of Adam, and there is hope again – not just for them but for all humanity.
That’s my first suggestion for you to take away and mull over if you will in your hearts. Jesus walks the road of perplexity with us – particularly at the moment – but, yes, at all the testing moments of our lives – he walks with us, and leads back to hope.
Secondly, that walk of confused anger is a bit like spending 40 going through the desert, as the people of the Hebrews did, after they escaped from Egypt. They had been told about the promised land, but all they experienced, day after massively hot day, was the desert – day after day, after week, after month, after year – it was not a quick fix that Moses gave them. God was leading them, they were asked to believe, towards hope – but in the meantime they had to wait, to watch, to look with their hearts as well as their eyes, and to listen to the still small voice of God.
Now, on the road to Emmaus that was all speeded up as Luke tells the story.
But it’s not necessarily speeded up for us, as we wait for the clarity of the hope that is the light at the end of the Covid 19 tunnel.
The meaning is in the waiting. We need our poets, our musicians and our artists to help us see the deep truths of the heart. Our role is to wait attentively for hope to be revealed.
Walter Bruggemann wrote: “The burdon of a poet is not explanation,
Because explanations never satisfy or convince.
Rather, the burdon of a poet is to discover, to reveal,
To show what has not been seen or said until that instant.
What is shown is that there is a season of loss not to be avoided, A hope beyond, And a deep time of brooding between.
I’ve brought with me, and put on the website, a picture of the crucifixion with butterfly wings spreading out in hope behind the cross. Will we be sufficiently attentive to sense the wings of resurrection? – or will we just whinge in the wilderness?
Will we allow our hearts to burn within us as he walks with us on the road?
God of transformation,
Be with us in our loss,
Our brooding and our hope.
May we linger in faithfulness,
Not denying our pain,
Nor cutting short our brooding.
May we resist facile hopes;
May we wait for you. Amen