Rev. Mark's Sermon
It seems so long ago but do you remember celebrating Easter Sunday? Resurrection, celebration and joy were in the air despite our Easter in ‘lockdown.’ But so much has happened in our country and the world since then as we struggle with this pandemic which has cost so much in human life, not just exposing our vulnerabilities as people but also telling us something about how we have to learn lessons about how we relate to our environment. It reminds us too that we may not have appreciated our interdependency with others, and as a country our reliance on God.
Two weeks ago. It seems so distant, doesn’t? Our perception of time has no doubt be skewed by our isolation – mine certainly has despite my routines. We may have had our ups and downs in mood – highs and lows: optimism, hope and expectation but also darkness, despair, worry, anxiety, frustration, angst and anger – the consequences of ‘quarantine fatigue’, so many feelings and emotions contained in us all, we are human after all. Doubts too. On this journey we are on together we may have started having doubts about our own faith. We might ask questions and subject Christianity to its own ‘stress test’ to see how resilient, and indeed how relevant it is in times like ours now. Times that we are reminded constantly on the news which are described as unprecedented and unparalleled.
But questioning is all right – it is allowed I am pleased to say. Thomas doubted. The German theologian Paul Tillich reminds us too that: “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.”
And so, onwards on to the Road to Emmaus. Two disciples, one without a name, and in conversation. A time of journeying away from Jerusalem, perhaps in fear and trepidation, but also their opportunity for discussion and reflection; recounting the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus and seeking to make sense of these events and the meaning behind them. Confusion, questions and doubts were in their minds so much so that they did not even realise that Jesus, the stranger, was travelling alongside them. Their awareness was low, and their attention was elsewhere. They were living in their minds and in their conversations.
And as we walk alongside the two disciples we meet Jesus too, the teacher, again reminding them that the Messiah was sent to suffer and die; he tells the story about himself in all the scriptures and by reminding them, he jogs our memories too that throughout the Bible God shows us his saving activity across the ages which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us that our faith is built on firm foundations.
Their trip along the road continues and Jesus is invited to stay with them and become their guest. There must have been something special about him – the tone of conversation, presence, and perhaps his companionship too, but they were no doubt reminded as well about the importance of showing hospitality and care to others which was part of their teaching and tradition. On their journey together, both disciples invited Jesus and he accepted and went with them. During this difficult and challenging time we are experiencing now – which will pass – we may like to invite Jesus back into our own lives if our awareness of him has felt less strong as our attentions are diverted elsewhere with all of the emotional and practical pressures and uncertainties we face on a daily basis. But when invited, Christ comes along and is present with us in moments of joy and darkness.
And more is revealed about Jesus on the Road to Emmaus – a story that keeps on giving. There is not just Word and Sacrament coming together in one passage – but he shows more of himself by becoming the host to the disciples as well. It is by the breaking of the bread that they recognise him again. By physically taking bread, blessing, breaking and giving it to them they remember Jesus and receive him once again into their hearts.
For us gathered virtually today at our Eucharist, we can re-member Jesus and celebrate once again our joy felt two weeks ago. We are reminded in the breaking of the bread that Jesus is with us, alongside us now, that he offered himself for us upon the cross, that he served with love and showed something about God’s nature. Emmanuel, God with us. As we step out in faith this week, day-by-day, living moment by moment let us all feel replenished spiritually by this Eucharist and be assured by Jesus who said at the end of Matthew 28:
“And remember, I am with you until the end of the age.”