What Next? Sunday 18th April
Opening words 1 John 3:1-4
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Today our service will look at what happened next after the Road to Emmaus and how we can be challenged as the Disciples were to serve others and share the Gospel.
Hymn 545 Open our eyes Lord
Against the noise of the world we cover our ears; at distressing sights we close our eyes; to confusing thoughts we close our minds; amid the clamour of distress we close our hearts. Loving God, your ears and eyes are ever open to our needs; help us to worship with open hearts and minds, that we may have open ears and eyes to see the work that you call us to do, and open hands to do it. Amen.
Lord God, whose arms are always open to us, we come before you today with hearts and minds open to receive your teaching. Lead us to understand who you are and what you have done, and what you require of us as witnesses. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Lord, who understands our every need, we adore you for stilling our turmoil, for being the calm in the storm, our anchor in the deep, and the safe port awaiting us always. Amen.
Lord, you have always been our host.
When you first came from heaven to the world we call ours,
shepherds and kings were your guests.
When you accepted hospitality in the homes of others,
you turned the tables and became the host,
feeding hearts and souls through your teaching.
When you came to the disciples, newly risen,
you took charge and saw to their needs of mind and body.
We praise you, Jesus, ground of our being,
ground of our believing, for standing among us in your risen power, host to the world that is yours – not ours. Amen.
Acts 3.12-19 Psalm 4 1 John 3.1-7 Luke 24.36b-48
Hymn 1261 Brother sister let me serve you
Last week Mike talked about the Road to Emmaus and this week I want to pick up where he left off. What happened after the two had come back, what did this mean? What would they do now?
Imagine the scene the 11 disciples and others gathered in the room very late on Sunday or by now early Monday morning, they had not slept, their minds were awash with new and scary information, what had just really happened?
So they were talking and Jesus came and stood among them ‘peace be with you’ a traditional greeting, just like He always did, nothing really had changed, yet everything had changed. They are still confused and think He is a ghost, see it is me touch me and see. I will eat with you. Then it says He opened their minds so they could understand.
I remember in a youth conference once someone saying something which has remained with me ever since. The Bible is like an open secret. Anyone can pick it up and read it, but to truly understand it, the wonder and beauty of it is like finding hidden treasure. We need to have our minds open to understand what the parables, stories and other words mean for us. The saying you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink, is true here, I can open the Bible for you, read it for you, but to truly understand you have to really read it and study it and ask God to show you the wonders within it.
This is why our bible study is so important, those who attend all say, when they read it alone, they miss so much but when we study and look and think, then we see so much more of God’s truth for us. The disciples thought they understood, but on the first Sunday/Monday they clearly did not, so Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures.
Jesus would often use a parable or story that people would remember and then explain to the disciples what that parable meant. Carmine Gallo, a Harvard University communication expert who analysed the 500 most popular TED talks, noticed that, on average, 65 per cent of their content was stories. His conclusion? Stories are more persuasive because they resonate with our emotions. Jesus used stories for us to remember as an aid to help us understand what He is like. The gospels are stories of the life of Jesus, they help us remember at the times that we need Him the most. When we are worried, anxious, afraid, upset, unsure, go to scripture and it will help you.
Writer and medical humanities professor Marilyn McEntyre tells the story of visiting an exhibition of Russian icons and being ‘riveted by a face of Jesus across the room’ (Marilyn McEntyre, When Poets Pray, Eerdmans Publishing, 2019). She walked towards it ‘as if summoned by name’ and stared into its dark eyes. As a result of this experience, she began to read the Gospels again, and reading the beginning of John ‘an image of Jesus not unlike the icon…seemed to occupy space in the room’. Prior to these experiences, she had had problems relating to Jesus in prayer. One we have an image of Jesus we can then relate to Him better. This story suggests that an emotional experience had opened her heart, that then opened her mind to Scripture. This is what happened to the disciples they experience such a strong emotional experience (the resurrection) that they felt so close to Jesus, that it was easy for Him to ‘open their minds’.
Our minds very often want facts and statistics to prove things, our hearts ‘know’ they don’t need proof. Once your heart is open to Jesus, then your mind will be too. Faith is a belief in the unseen, you know in your heart something is true even if you cant prove it with your mind. This is what happened to the disciples when Jesus entered the upper rom on that night. Emotional they believed and then their hearts were opened to the truth.
‘Sit down and have a cup of tea’ – a classic British response to a crisis. John Steinbeck, when a war correspondent, recorded the story of five commandos who undertook a perilous mission but began and ended with a cup of tea. Is it just the comforting warmth of the tea that helps, or is it something about the need to ‘sit down’ and to wait while the drink is prepared? Perhaps the ordinariness of the task in the midst of extraordinary happenings is settling. Is this why Jesus asked for food, to make the situation seem ordinary, something that would normally happen and in that place, people relax and chat and in that relaxed state we can think and be open. This is why we offer food at church events, it draws people in and gives then something to focus on and relax and then people open up.
In its Friday food pantry ministry, the Episcopal Church of St Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco distributes food to 800 families each week. The inspiration came from journalist Sara Miles. As a dedicated atheist, she walked into the church off the street in 1999, received the eucharistic bread and wine, and was converted there and then. In her words, ‘the mysterious sacrament turned out to be not a symbolic wafer but actual food – indeed, the bread of life’. The emotional impact of the sacrament made Sara Miles want to extend the life of Jesus through actual food – just as Jesus did himself when he appeared to his disciples and ate with them. Maybe our mission is to feed the hungry physically and spirituality.
In our reading from Acts we see the disciples feeding in this way as Peter heals the disabled man at the Beautiful gate to the surprise of the Jerusalem crowds. The beggar’s transformation fills them with ‘wonder and amazement’ (Acts 3.10), and they are ‘utterly astonished’ (3.11). Their attention is transfixed by the apostles, but there is no allowing these onlookers to become fixated by their strong feelings. Peter recalls the story of Jesus, in which they have played a part. His message is that what they now see – the power of Jesus’ name at work in the lame man – can release them from their inner paralysis: ‘you killed the Author of life…I know that you acted in ignorance…Repent therefore and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out and that you live.'
This is the aftermath of Easter, to be filled with the resurrected power of Jesus and so to feed his world, to physically heal and physically feed, and from there to open the minds of people to His spiritual filling of every person. We cannot just speak of the spiritual without dealing with the physical, our ministry has to be as Jesus’ was and look at both the physical and the spiritual. Let us become a church that is open to the needs of the community around us and in meeting their physical need may we also open their minds to their spiritual needs and may we then like Peter be prepared to speak about Jesus to all those we meet.
Hymn 806 Beauty for Brokenness