Tag Archives: Holy Scripture

Walking The Emmaus Road

The Road to Emmaus by Daniel Bonnell

The story of the Road to Emmaus lends itself beautifully for us to think about our own journeys of faith; the processes we go through of discovering who Jesus is, wanting to know more  about him and when we have that moment of revelation, confessing him as our Lord and Saviour. Here is my sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter 2017, based on Luke 24:13-35

May I speak and may you hear through the grace of our Lord; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

The story of the Road to Emmaus, one of the most vivid and insightful accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. So often there are stories in the gospels that make you really want to be a fly on the wall, or in this case a fly on the road.

We also need to understand that the journey to Emmaus is both a literal and a spiritual journey. On the one hand it recounts the journey of two of Jesus’ disciples who, after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, walk seven miles from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. On the other hand it mirrors the journey that we all take from not knowing or recognising Jesus, to understanding what the bibles say about him, to recognising him for who he is and that he is the reason we are willing declare our faith and can call ourselves Christians.

It’s a journey that we are all on; all of us at different stages, independent of length of time or knowledge and understanding, but like today’s gospel story there are waypoints, crossroads, defining moments. A journey we’ll see that those disciples found didn’t end in the house in Emmaus but began a new voyage of life changing discovery.

Over the last few weeks it has been wonderful to journey with some of our young people and adults as we have explored what it means to be a Christian, the joy of the Gospel and prepared some of them for one of their own defining moments when they will confirm and recognise their faith at the upcoming Deanery Confirmation service. Each of them will have their own story to tell, their own unique journey they’ve travelled to get to that point, their own experience of a relationship with Christ. So what does the story tell us about both their and our own journeys?

Firstly it’s interesting to wonder who those two disciples might have been. Well we are told the name of one of them, Cleopas – a disciple whose name or variant of it some scholars claim has appeared before in other gospels. In John he is mentioned only by association with his wife Mary, one of the women standing at the cross with Jesus’ mother, Mary wife of Clopas. Secondly, it’s generally assumed, rightly or wrongly that the second unnamed disciple is a man. Perhaps it might make sense that Cleopas and Mary, husband and wife, both close disciples of Jesus, were making their way back home together

A bas relief on a church at Emmaus showing Jesus with a male and female companion

Of course nobody knows for sure, but it does lend itself to the inclusivity of Jesus’ message to all regardless of gender, race or sexuality. What we do know is that it is Jesus that seeks us in the first instance. On the road, Jesus himself ‘came near to them’ and although the disciples knew who Jesus was, they did not recognise him. They knew a lot about him, they had heard a lot about him and yet they were unable to recognise him when they met him. This could be said to be true for many people, even nowadays; they’ve heard of Jesus and even some of the things that he did, and yet they don’t recognise him or respond to him. They don’t engage in wanting to find out more, despite his presence.

We could also ask why the two disciples were prevented from recognising Jesus. Perhaps God had a purpose in blinding their eyes from reality. It’s not cruelty on God’s part, but by a gradual revelation of himself, Jesus allows them and us to learn that we can trust God’s promises. Remember that the disciples as a whole had been told about these events many times beforehand, but still they had not believed

Maybe it was because events had not happened as expected. Their preconceptions of who Jesus was and what he had come to do had been turned on its head; perhaps they dismissed the whole thing as misplaced hope and trust. When things turn out different to how we expect how often do we give up and admit defeat instead of trying to understand whether there is a reason for it.

It could be that they had too little faith – why didn’t they believe the reports of the women, even when they’d seen the empty tomb for themselves. Or the whole idea of a supernatural event of God raising Jesus from the dead was a concept they couldn’t grasp; had they even considered who Jesus was?

Is this a mistake that’s repeated today? Just because someone knows about Jesus, doesn’t mean they know him. They may have heard about him, read about him, use his name and many claim to know him. But knowing about him and knowing him are two different things

Along our journey there will be others who help us to know more about Jesus, but ultimately it will be Jesus that opens our eyes. For the two disciples on the road he used the things that they would already know about, the scriptures, and how if they believed what the scriptures said about him then they would understand why he came and why he had to suffer. We too today have scripture to help reveal who Jesus is, and we have the double advantage of not only having the Old Testament but the New as well.

When we read and come to know the scriptures better they help to build up our faith, they are a reliable witness to who Jesus really is, and the truth that they contain lead us to a personal faith in Jesus. A personal faith and a personal relationship with Jesus, but it mustn’t stop there. If we personalise Jesus too much he fast becomes God in our own image. The relationship we are called to have is one of fellowship and community. It is not coincidence that it is around a supper table that the disciple’s eyes are opened.

Think how many of the resurrection appearances are associated with table fellowship: the request for something to eat when he appears to all the disciples almost immediately after the two from Emmaus had told their story, or having breakfast on the beach. It was during the intimacy of a shared meal when Jesus broke bread and gave thanks, that the disciples recognised him

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
Luke 24:30-31

We too through our sharing of communion also come to recognise Christ in the memorial of the bread and wine shared at the supper, which goes on to prompt us to share with others our recognition of his presence. I can vividly remember my own first communion, a real sense of being filled with the Holy Spirit, as the bread was placed in my hands and the wine sipped from the cup. That was my moment of my ‘heart burning within me’ as I acknowledged who Jesus really was and the transformation he was bringing to my life. Like the disciples in Emmaus when we are moved with similar emotions then surely there is only one thing we can do and that is to testify in our lives, actions and words why we are followers of Christ and invite others to join us on that journey.

It would be lovely to see lots of us there at the Confirmation service, not only to support those who are declaring their recognition of Jesus as Lord and Saviour, perhaps publicly for the first time, but to remember that we too are either travelling on a journey toward that decision or recalling the time when we too made that declaration.

We are called to walk together in fellowship and the great thing is that we also have a Saviour who walks alongside us. So we can never walk alone, however hard or tough the journey. Sometimes we may try to run on ahead, at other times we trail behind, but somehow eventually we learn to walk at God’s speed, and God continues to give glimpses of himself across our lives; enough to sustain us and keep our faith strong on the journey.

Amen

 

 

 

A Bible Is For Life, Not Just For Sundays?

Read the bible in whatever way possible

Read the bible in whatever way possible

At church recently we took the opportunity to think about the place that God’s word, in the form of the bible, takes in our worship and daily lives. Appropriately, it was on Bible Sunday*

It would be silly to ask you to put your hands up or answer out loud, but I’d like you to think what your answers might be to these questions…

I read the bible……

I read the bible every day……

I read the bible every day and then reflect on what I have read…

I read the bible every day and then reflect on what on what I have read and then try to apply it to my life…

The questions are not intended to be accusatory …. that you really should choose the last one in order to be deemed ‘saintly’. The most important thing is whether you actually read the bible!

At college we may not be required to bring our bibles to each lesson or lecture, where we talk about theology, liturgy and formation, but what has become obvious is just how vital Holy Scripture is to our faith. I don’t mean learning huge chunks of it off by heart or being able to recite whole gospels from memory, although it would be handy knowing exactly who said what, where and when sometimes… No, I mean looking to the bible to provide some guidance and answers to the many questions we have, not only about our faith, but about life in general. In the Book, or books to be more precise, lie all those answers. The problem so often is how we understand or interpret them – whether we accept them as instructions or guidance only.

Some people like to look up passages which have been selected as being particularly helpful for the different emotions we may be experiencing. When we’re worried, it might be calming to read, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life” or when facing bereavement to be comforted by “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”, both from Matthew’s gospel or when showing gratitude and thanksgiving to proclaim from the psalms “Let us come before him with thanksgiving.”

Even here though we have to be careful that this is not the only way we experience and use God’s word. There is always the danger that these become our preferred readings, to the exclusion of other, perhaps more difficult passages… and are they simply sentences in isolation whereas the whole verse or chapter may actually have more to tell us?

We also have to be aware of bias. So often nowadays we hear people asserting that their stand on different issues is fully justified because of specific passages in the bible. They trot out verse after verse of carefully selected scripture and vehemently declare this is the truth of the matter because it’s written in the bible and that the bible is the Word of God and you don’t argue with God!

All the while they either consciously or unconsciously blatantly ignore other scripture that might contradict their point of view… just think back to how the ordination of women was debated in the Church or how homosexuality is viewed in general. Surely these contradictory passages too are written in the bible and inarguably the Word of God?

What is does show is that it certainly isn’t easy. This book is not really a teaching manual – but it still does contain all the answers. Whenever we think or talk about God we are allowed to do so using all of our previous knowledge and information, but very much aware of the context in which we do so. What have been our examples, our own life experiences? What have we absorbed though our families, our education, our culture? All of these will give us a unique and corporate vision of what God is about, how he moves in our lives and how he moves us to be in his world. Yet we can’t truly be so individualistic without referring it back to and centring on the Scriptures.

Some people might nowadays treat as laughable the simplistic motto from the 80’s and 90’s of WWJD – What Would Jesus Do, but the basic premise makes perfect sense. When we find ourselves in situations where we have to make decisions it might not be a bad thing to simply ask… if I am trying to be more Christlike in my attitude and behaviour then I really need to understand what examples Jesus has given us… and where do I find that out… in the pages of the Bible.

Whether we’re reading about what Jesus was doing or where he was pointing us to what God was doing through him, fulfilling the prophecies; embodying the word that had gone forth or bringing us hope for the future, if we want to get the truest picture, not just some intellectual theologian’s take on it or an experienced commentator’s exegesis or the humble preacher’s attempt at exposition, then we have to go back to the source.

All those other things are subjective and come with lots of layers of opinion and interpretation. Not that I am saying that any or all of them are incorrect, but we need to peel back those layers and expose the heart of the matter, whether you believe it is the word of God to inspire or the inspired word of  God.  “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.Romans 15:4

'Go back to the source'

‘Go back to the source’

My original question emphasised the fact that the bible is a book that needs to be read. We need to make sure it’s not sitting as a pristine but dusty tome in our bookcases, but that it’s placed where it can naturally come to hand. Why not see it as your bedside table book, full of ripping yarns and adventures. Or put it with your dog-eared and food-specked cook books – using it to create delicious recipes for life or maybe in the glove compartment of your car – a combined road atlas and ‘Haynes’ manual to keep you going straight on the journey?

Wherever you keep it don’t forget that unlike a library book there’s no restriction on who could borrow it, it doesn’t have a return by date and each and every copy, whether it’s an original or translation will only ever be a first edition. Happy reading!

*Bible Sunday was celebrated on Sunday 23rd October 2013. It is an annual part of the Church of England’s calendar and resources each year are produced by the Bible Society. Follow this link for more information http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/about-bible-society/our-work/bible-sunday/