The Third Sunday of Easter:  26 April 2020
Morning Worship

Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter

Almighty Father,

who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples

with the sight of the risen Lord:
give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen

 

Gospel Reading –  Luke 24: 13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,  but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,  and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The road to Emmaus
Sermon Revd Lorna Allies

Three stories about journeys

The journey of the horse and his boy.

Although I have not included this story in a sermon until now, each time I preach on this Gospel I remember the delight I had in reading C. S. Lewis’ book ‘The Horse and His Boy’.  In this chapter, the boy Shasta is on an unfamiliar horse, and, being an inexperienced rider, is not in control.  He has lost touch with the others and there are enemy troops in the vicinity.  There is a deep mist (he doesn’t know it but he is high in the mountains in a dangerous pass) and he just plods on in the dark.  He is already frightened but he suddenly realises that something is walking along beside him – he can feel the warmth of its breath on his cold hand. And from the book: ‘So he went on at a walking pace and the unseen companion walked and breathed beside him. At last he could bear it no longer.  ‘Who are you’ he whispered.  ‘One who has waited long for you to speak’ said the thing.’ 

Shasta thinks it is a ghost but it isn’t and, instead, the thing asks Shasta to tell his sorrows and Shasta, rather sorry for himself, tells his story, ending with how many lions he had met. But there was only one lion all along.  ‘I was the lion’ said his unseen companion.   They talk some more and again Shasta asks ‘Who are you?’ and the answer comes back:

‘Myself’, in a voice very deep and low so that the earth shook; and again ‘Myself’, loud and clear and joyful; and then the third time ‘Myself’, whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all round.  Shasta was no longer afraid.’ 

It turns out that the Lion is bigger than the horse and yet gentle and loving and he leads Shasta out of danger to green pastures. The lion of course is Aslan, whom C.S. Lewis uses to represent Jesus Christ in the Narnia stories and although I love all the stories, I find this story is the most comforting. 

And so – another journey, another story:

At this time, in the centre of the crisis we are in, I am reminded of another story every morning as Peter and I take our exercise walk.  The story, told by Jesus, happens on a road where a traveller has been hurt and robbed and abandoned.  The road from Jerusalem to Jericho, down into the very heat and heart of the desert.  And three other travellers come along but the first two, the priest and the Levite, cross over and walk on the other side of the road, avoiding the injured man.  The third traveller, a Samaritan, stays and helps the wounded man – this is the good neighbour. And every morning as we walk, when we see someone coming along, we or they cross over and walk on the other side.  How strange that being a good neighbour now – in this global pandemic – demands quite the opposite as we protect the other by keeping our social distance from them.

This is the road we are taking in the Covid-19 crisis, and all over the world people are walking it.   We none of us know fully what our destination is or when we will arrive.  This is an uncomfortable journey, a perilous road.  Some are finding the isolation of lockdown terribly hard to cope with – others are suddenly coping with intense proximity – too many family members restricted to a few rooms.  The boundaries between public and private spaces are being broken down too.   The home is the new place of work for so many.  The hardships of this journey, for different social groups, are difficult to assess and think about but for many they are truly terrible. The world is unsettled and afraid and confused. 

And yet – again – the story of the Good Samaritan lingers around the edges of our consciousness as we see the amazing sacrifices being made in our health services and we hear of the thousands of people helping their neighbours. Many stories are told of the fascinating ways in which neighbours are helping and encouraging one another.  There is a growing desire to help and assist others as we are all vulnerable and facing this global threat together.  We are all aspiring to be Good Samaritans.

The journey to Emmaus

And the third journey; the Gospel we read today, the road to Emmaus.   It was not a long walk for the two disciples: ‘sixty stadia’ away which is just over seven miles. The two, Cleopas and his companion, are walking home.  We know that they were walking in despair and confusion, their hopes having been dashed. They had seen their dear friend and leader handed over – just passed on – to the Legion, the cruel Roman cohort, to do with as they wished.  They had hurt him awfully and then killed him. And those disciples had run away to safety themselves and then stood by and done nothing.  They were without hope. The two of them had heard stories of strange things happening but could not believe them. They were talking together and trying to work out the truth.  That is what many of us, as we face the daily news, are trying to do today – to work out where the truth is.

The wise and gentle stranger they meet on the road explains that their sad story is rooted in the scriptures and that they are foolish.  The Greek word is more like weak or having a ‘dullness of mind’. They are not being condemned by this one who walks alongside them.  Instead they are being comforted and taught.   They were too miserable and dull of mind to recognise him and it is not until they arrive home and the stranger joins them for supper and blesses the bread, that they finally understand that their companion is Jesus and their frugal meal becomes a sacrament and their home the House of God.   And our homes now are so much more the house of God.  We pray in them, we worship in them, we gather together in them virtually and Jesus is alongside us.         

That night in Emmaus, Jesus disappeared from their sight as they sat at supper and they said to one another ‘were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road and opening the scriptures to us?’ 

The story of the Emmaus journey is not only a resurrection story, it is the continuing story of the presence of God, coming close and walking with us throughout our lives – whatever journey we are taking.   The presence of God is a free gift for all people – something we don’t have to earn or work for.  God is with us always, but like those two on the Emmaus road, we need to recognise him as we walk through our days. 

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.  Proverbs 3.6

Amen

 

Intercessions, prepared by Leila Threadkell

Father of all, as we come before you to pray for a world which has changed so quickly and dramatically, we thank you for your promise that you are here with us and will never leave us or forsake us.

Today we pray not only for your church worldwide but for all other faiths, and for the leaders as they bring comfort and hope to their people desperate for reassurance. We pray also for those who have no faith to guide them and nothing to calm their fears. We pray that their lives may be touched by your Holy Spirit and their eyes opened to see the risen Christ.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We lift up to you the leaders of governments at this time, asking that you take from them the heavy burden of responsibility as they try to find a way through their own particular situations during this unprecedented crisis.  We pray especially for our own government, asking that you give them the wisdom in making decisions and the strength to carry them out.  We thank you for the cooperation between the countries as they have put aside their differences in the face of the pandemic threatening us all.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty of your creation; for the new life emerging - the flowers, the bushes in bud and the sudden profusion of blossoms. Thank you for the birdsong enhanced by the unusual quietness of our surroundings. Help us in this to see the benefits of an enforced rest.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We give our grateful thanks for our N.H.S and our Social Care workers as they selflessly risk their lives to care for others. We thank you too for all key workers and volunteers who help in so many ways to keep our country going.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We lift up to you families facing financial hardship, particularly those who even when this crisis is over will be unemployed. We pray especially for families where being in lock down together has resulted in violence and domestic abuse. We think of children missing the companionship of their friends, particularly those without siblings. We lift up to you our young people facing uncertainty over university places because of cancelled exams, and those graduating this year who fear for their future employment.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for all who are sick, thinking especially of all in hospitals and care homes who have Covid 19. We ask that you surround them with your peace. We ask too for that same peace be given to their families as they wait in fear that they may not see their loved ones again.

As we continue to pray for the sick, we bring before you, from our own congregation, Pam, Simon, Janet, Martin and Val.   We pray too for all known personally to us who need your healing touch at this time.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

As each day passes we hear news about the numbers of deaths from Covid-19. Help us to remember that each one of these statistics represents a life, a much loved family member, a friend, a neighbour, a colleague, and those unknown to us but known and loved by their heavenly father.

As we pray for those who have recently died, we remember in particular Brian Noble, Isabel Brasier and Anita Robinson, praying also for their families and friends, grieving for them at this difficult time.  We also remember with gratitude those workers in the N.H.S and Social care who have given their lives to help others live.  And we lift up to you, Lord, all whose anniversaries of death fall at this time, including Roy Overton, Diana Bushell, Ada Heugh, Elizabeth Raffle, James Beveridge, Edith and Herbert Barker, Hilary Rounce, Dorothy Blower, Roy Chaplin, Glenis Brister and Bronwen Aves.

We thank you, Lord, that in Jesus you have given us the assurance of eternal life.  Comfort all who mourn the loss of a loved one, and in this time of non-contact, may they feel enfolded in your love and know they have not been left to grieve alone.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Loving Father, give us the strength to face the week ahead with whatever it may bring. We thank you that at this time of fear and darkness the light of Jesus shines in the world as a beacon of hope. We claim your promise that nothing can separate us from your love.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Blessing

God, who through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
has given us the victory, give you joy and peace in your faith:
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son
and the Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you always.

Amen