Rev. Rosemary Webb
4th May 2014
Can We See Who Is Next To Us?

We know this passage so well, the road to Emmaus, that perhaps we no longer truly listen to the words, for we know what comes next. This, of course, always is the risk when we do know something well. Or we listen and still find it hard to understand how two faithful disciples of Jesus could have walked side by side with him, without recognising him; or, hopefully, do we see in it that great message of hope, the reminder that however bleak things may be Jesus is walking alongside us, we may not see him but he is here.

There seem to be so many disasters, so many people whose lives are in limbo – the parents of the girls kidnapped in Nigeria, and indeed the girls themselves; the families of the missing in Northern Ireland and the Malaysian plane disaster also seems to go on for ever, for all those families it must be a nightmare, and then there are thousands of others people of whom we are unaware. Without proof what can they believe, and what I think must make it even harder for the Chinese families is that I have heard no mention of any services being held in China, no prayers being offered to bring comfort and perhaps for most of the Chinese there is no knowledge of the hope of salvation just an abyss without hope.

Probably they have the same feeling as that which the disciples were experiencing as they walked away from Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, they had learned the devastating news about Jesus’ death. Despite having heard about the women and indeed the other disciples reporting that Jesus was still alive, they couldn’t believe it all they could think of was his death on the Cross. They had such high hopes; they really had believed he was the one who would bring redemption to the oppressed people of Israel. But as they walked the Emmaus Road Cleopas and his friend concluded that he was dead. The person walking alongside them was a stranger, he spoke with them, they answered him, but they couldn’t who it was. We can feel ourselves thinking how could they not see him when he was so close? So close they could touch him, but the truth is they were blinded by their fears.

If we look at ourselves where would we be on the Emmaus Road, would we be talking away, putting forward our own views on what had happened; would we be aware of this person speaking to us, calling on us to listen to him? For surely the question is do we always remember that Jesus is always at our side, do we stop and listen to God, do we make room in our lives to hear his voice, or are we too busy, too wrapped up in our own problems to pause, stop and listen? God isn’t up there in the rafters or just that image in the stained glass windows, he is here in our midst and that isn’t just in church it is wherever we are. Like the disciples we may not recognise him, feel his presence, but as they learned it didn’t mean he wasn’t present, it is just they were too blind to see him, and so it can be for us.

Like the disciples we have two choices we can truly recognise Christ in our midst, or we can miss him, miss the resurrection, and if that happens we miss experiencing the deeper truths of scripture miss out on transforming our lives.

There are times for us all when we are coming to worship or spending time discussing with other Christians when, for whatever reason, our thoughts may be elsewhere. Or we might be going through a spiritually dry time. We are present in body – but not in mind or spirit. And that is why we actually need to concentrate on these two disciples, and take notice, for no matter where they were in their emotions, no matter how spiritually low they felt, the risen Christ came and walked with them. Jesus did not shrug his shoulders and walk away he stayed alongside. For he understood their emotions, he understand human frailty.

Christ really understood how the two men were feeling; his presence with them was not dependent on them understanding him, his presence with them is dependent on him understanding them! Christ understood how they felt and so he stayed with them, walked alongside them.

The risen Christ patiently walks with them, even though they do not understand. They may not have known about the resurrection, but the truth of Easter comes to them even without them at first understanding what Easter is all about.

From the beginning of time God has come looking for his children. We may not understand, we may stop coming to church thinking we are hiding from him, we may sit behind locked doors thinking he cannot see us, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t come looking for us – God is always present with us. We cannot stop that for God loves us all so much he will never forsake us, never forget us.

In the reading from Acts Peter is telling the people that they may have crucified Jesus but that Christ is still here for them all they have to do is repent and be baptised. They responded by asking ‘what shall we do?’ that same question we are still called to ask. Peter replied that we well as seeking forgiveness, they should be baptised and turn to Christ. Baptism is a very public demonstration of one’s faith and it isn’t possible to be a hidden disciple. And Peter was specific in that they were being baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ. That it was a commitment to serving Jesus, to following in his footsteps, and an acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit working in their lives.

The Easter message is one of a God who comes to us and walks with us; a God who comes to us in the ordinary and dwells with us in the ordinary, transforming the ordinary into the eternal. When we can accept that, it is then that we begin to understand, it is then that we begin to fully understand our relationship with God.

And that is why the Communion service is so important to us. That is why it is so important for us to receive the bread and wine, we may not truly understand why, but when Christ said ‘do this in remembrance of me’, he knew we need the assurance and strengthening that the partaking in it brings. We don’t need to understand why – we need to believe it and feel it, when Jesus spoke he always spoke the truth, he didn’t make false promises, whenever he calls us to do something there is a good reason, it is necessary.

We can all have doubts but whenever we have doubts all we need to do is remember his words ‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden – and I will refresh you’.

Luke 24 13-35