A story of transforming love.
Based on Luke 24.13-35
The past few months have been a trying time for as all as we’ve struggled with the Covid 19 pandemic. Many have watched as loved ones have suffered and even died as the health and caring services have struggled to cope with the thousands upon thousands who have been and still are being struck down by it.
And whilst reflecting on our own family and friends it struck me very forcibly that Alison and I have been extremely fortunate. Both daughters and a daughter-in-law have suffered and thankfully recovered. But hundreds of thousands of others have died! And millions of relatives and friends have been left distraught.
It was then that I recalled that amazing post-resurrection story of the two disciples walking home from Jerusalem on the Emmaus Road. Those two disciples were also very distraught. Perhaps even scared witless by what might happen to them as well. They were so totally unaware who the ‘stranger’ was that joined them on that road. They still didn’t even recognise him as he walked with them and they recounted to him the happenings and the crucifixion and the women saying that he was alive!
Grief does that to you. It can totally block associative recognition, and leave you in a state of shock that renders you almost totally unaware of the reality around you. And that seems to exactly fit their responses to Jesus as he then responded to them on their journey! They knew others had said Jesus was alive and yet the impossibility of overcoming death was still at play in their minds! To them, Jesus was now dead – all hope was lost in their pain and sorrow!
I want you to fast-forward now to what happened at the table at the home the two disciples invited Jesus to enter. They had prepared a meal for their guest, and it was only when that ‘stranger’ picked up a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, and then shared it with them that the proverbial ‘penny dropped’ – their eyes and minds were opened - and as Jesus disappeared from their sight they then said to one another:
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
I guess by now it was truly dark outside. But regardless of the lack of street lights and the danger of being out after dark they immediately went back to share the Good News with the other disciples!
What a transformation that was! I wonder what time they got back to Jerusalem? Because in those days they would get up at dawn and go to bed when it got dark – so it must have been very late!
That simple disclosure at the table where Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and then gave it to the disciples has always been, for me, a moment of healing. It dealt with past fears and restored them to a right, and real, relationship with the living Christ once more. I guess that is one reason why John Wesley viewed the Eucharist as a liturgy for healing.
I would suggest that as we’re not currently allowed to offer a Eucharistic service to one another at this time I see no reason why this story can’t be used as a basis for a simple ’Love Feast’ instead. Where it’s possible to be with your nearest and dearest or even ‘bubble’ with a neighbour/friend - Love can be shared. It is in sharing love that love can transform and heal – but when isolated we can miss out on that opportunity to serve one another. So if you are able to share, then please do so and serve one another. Methodists do believe in the priesthood of all believers! (Our church requires the ordained to officiate at the Eucharist)
I would invite you to set your table with a plate containing a piece of bread front of you. Then knowing that you are held in the ever-loving arms of our God who is with us on our journey no matter where we are, or how we are feeling – imagine Jesus confirming his real presence with you as you lay yourself and all your anxieties and troubles at his feet. Then simply take the bread, give thanks to God for it, and in eating trust Jesus to take away any anxieties and restore his affirming love for you.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”.
He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
Luke 24.13-35 (NRSV):
13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then 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?’ 19He 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, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But 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. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and 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. 24Some 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.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But 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. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They 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?’ 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
I use this translation as it is acknowledged to be as accurate a translation as is possible.
You may like to see a comment that is in Andy’s letter referring to how some translations can be very misleading.