Third Sunday of Easter
First Reading Acts 2:14a. 36-41
On the Day of Pentecost Peter reassures a crowd in Jerusalem that the disciples are not drunk but filled with the Holy Spirit. He then issues some direct orders.
Second Reading 1 Peter 1:17-23
We know that we are ransomed by the blood of Christ, and that affects our behaviour towards each other.
Gospel Luke 24:13-35
Jesus meets two of his disciples as they walk back to their old lives at Emmaus. They don’t recognise him until he breaks the bread.
One day I should train up and run the London Marathon, and watching the highlights on Sunday afternoon of this year’s event I am in awe of the determination of so many – including a policeman named Tom dressed as a monkey crawling on all fours (and finished on Friday!). Of course it is a bit inconvenient that the race is held on a Sunday…and then there is all the preparation and exercise to be done, which hardly fills me with excitement. To get trim enough I would need to give up chocolate for one. You may also have been following a group of people preparing for the London Marathon in the BBC 1 programme, Mind over Marathon. The participants honestly talk about their struggle with their mental health and the challenge of preparing physically, emotionally and mentally for such an endeavour. But what a wonderful feeling it must be to complete that gruelling journey, to run the race, to complete a marathon – as those able to participate achieve their goal and, with some help from the Royal Family, highlight issues of mental health. Their journey is full of struggle, but also achievement.
What has been your most memorable achievement or journey? Just think of the excitement of reaching the destination, the joy of achieving something wonderful. Just pause and have a think. The disciples in today’s Gospel account were on a journey, along the road to Emmaus. Their journey was physically tough and they are full of doubts – has it all been worthwhile? Have they actually achieved anything? It was also a spiritual journey, as they grappled with their faith and all that they had seen and experienced in Jerusalem. It was still Easter Day and they were filled with awe and wonder – but they were also going back – back to their lives before they had met Jesus. They had seen him die on the cross and now, thinking it is all over, they head back to Emmaus.
Jesus had been taken from them, and they were devastated. And then to add to their confusion, some of his followers had said that his body was missing from the tomb and he was alive. What to believe? Were the women telling the truth? They had seen Jesus dead, so how could he be alive – surely not. It is almost as if Jesus was no more than a wonderful memory, but what should they do now? So off they walk the long road, back to their old lives.
There are times when we feel like walking away from things, times when we don’t quite know what to believe, times when we find it hard to comprehend the truth. Times when our feelings, emotions, hopes and even faith are challenged. How often have we thought to ourselves, when things get tough, that we can just slip into our old ways, and be done with it – return to what we know and is tried and tested? But for these disciples, the journey had only just begun, and it wasn’t to end with fishing. The same is true for each of us.
A stranger walks with them. Now they don’t recognise him, but he seems friendly enough. So they share with him all that has happened. How a man named Jesus came into their lives, called them to do new and exciting things, and took them on the most wonderful journey of faith. The stranger listens to them; then he teaches them as they journey along. Their hearts burn within them, indeed, he inspires them, his knowledge of the scriptures surpasses almost everyone they have ever known before, well everyone, except Jesus himself. This stranger is so fascinating to the disciples, that when he goes to walk on, they ask him to stay with them for the evening meal. So he agrees. They gather around the table, just as we do here for the Eucharist day by day, Sunday by Sunday, and something quite unexpected, quite wonderful happens. These humble, lowly, depressed disciples discover that Jesus is actually present and they recognise him in the broken bread. Then it all makes sense: it was the Lord who had walked with them along the road. It was indeed Jesus who was present with them along life’s journey. It is Jesus who is present, and made known to us today, here at St Mary’s in the breaking of the bread. The journey of faith that each one of us is travelling, a lifelong journey, is not made alone - with the high points, come the lows. If only life was as simple as making one decision to believe, and then all would be ok, with no more challenge along the way – but life is full of challenge. However, our faith is there to encourage us – and our Church is here to support us!
Those disciples could tell us a thing or two about the low points: death, persecution, hunger, fear and much more besides. They had seen it all. We too have struggles in our own lives, among our families and friends, in our community of Thorpe and here at St Mary’s as we cope with a changing world, as we walk the journey of faith. Yet Jesus, the Risen Lord of life and love, has imparted the most wonderful gift to us: his very presence to guide and feed and sustain us.
We don’t walk the journey of faith alone: even when we feel so very alone, we are not. Jesus walks with his people, he teaches us by his word, the Bible, especially the Gospels, and he makes himself known to us here, every time we gather as his people, around the table, the altar, to break the bread. That is why the Priest sometimes calls us to communion with the words, ‘Draw near with faith.’ That is what we are called to do at every step of the road that we walk: ‘draw near’ to Jesus our Lord and be in his presence. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world, walking the way of joy, love, peace and forgiveness. What a wonderful path that is, liberated by God’s love, proven by Jesus to be alive!
I’m not sure that I have the discipline to become a marathon runner! But there is a race that we are all on, the journey of life which is a pathway for faith – and it is challenging. When doubts crowd in, or the fears catch up with you, or you feel that the light of faith has grown dim for you, come to the table of the Lord. Come to this Church and let Jesus himself be made known to you in the breaking of the bread. Let him mould, shape, use, and fill you – transform you and collectively transform this Church. Let him be made known to you and you to him. Know that even in those times of doubt, he walks with you. He is faithful, and we are called to be faithful disciples likewise, fed and nourished by him, who is life and love. Amen.
1. The London Marathon is a witness to the determination and strength of so many. In ‘Mind over Marathon’ a group grapple with issues of Mental Health as they prepare to run the race.
2. The disciples had given up everything to follow Jesus but now he has died on the Cross they walk back to their old lives.
3. We are all on a race – a journey of life and faith. The Church gives us the opportunity to support one another as we run the race together.
4. There are many challenges along the way and we can sometimes ask 'is it worth it' – like the disciples we may have doubts. But Jesus meets us in the broken bread and is with us – walking with us, loving us, shaping us into the people God is calling us to be as we journey on together.