As a community separated by a virus but drawn together by faith, we worship today:
- Many of us are praying at 10am every Sunday
- We are joining with worship from all over the country watching BBC1 at 10:15am for Sunday Worship, or 1:15pm for Songs of Praise
- Revd Graeme Holdsworth takes Holy Communion on behalf of everyone in our parishes at 6pm
Here is a video letter from the Vicar of Marsden, Slaithwaite and East Scammonden…
Here is an audio recording of the Collect Prayer for today, the Gospel Reading and a Sermon. The Sermon has been divided into three tracks to accommodate the upload limit of SoundCloud… (I’ve been told this works best if you have the SoundCloud App on your phone, or open up the link and select today’s playlist directly)
Sermon notes for those who have difficulty hearing
I have never really liked sharing written sermon notes, as I find a sermon is not the written word, but the shared word. I find a sermon comes alive in the relationship between the Bible, the person preaching and the congregation hearing the sermon – but only when God goes between us, helping that understanding. One of the dangers of printing my sermon notes here is that they will be taken at face value, dissected and analyzed in ways I didn’t foresee. I’m not an author – but I recognise that those who are have difficulty hearing would find the printed word helpful… please read these notes as though they were being read.
May the words of my mouth, and the thoughts and meditations of our hearts, be acceptable to you, Jesus, our strength and our redeemer.
Now on the same day as the Resurrection – two of Jesus followers are leaving Jerusalem and heading to Emmaus. Of all the times I’ve read this bit of the Bible, I’ve not noticed before that the ‘Road to Emmaus’ story actually takes place on the same day that Mary and Martha discover the empty tomb, the same day Peter and another disciple race to the tomb to see for themselves, the same day Mary meets Jesus in the garden by the tombs and he calls her by name… on this day: two disciples are walking away. My initial reaction was – why? How can they leave at this time? It isn’t as though they didn’t know.
Jesus comes alongside them and asks what they are talking about – I was half expecting him to ask, ‘where are you going?’, ‘haven’t you heard I’m back?’ It is clear that both these disciples know what is going on, in fact they explain to Jesus everything that has happened and in addition mention that they’ve heard of the empty tomb. They’ve heard about the angels and Mary meeting Jesus… They’ve heard of the resurrection.
And yet – here they are, walking away. At first I couldn’t understand why they were leaving on this day of all days… but the more I thought about it, the more I found myself sympathising with them. I suspect they were overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with information and emotion and confusion… trying to make sense of it all and seeking some space – trying to get some peace to think and work it all out… while at the same time leaving the danger of Jerusalem behind.
Sometimes we have to get away to get a sense of perspective: there is a wonderful tradition of ‘going on a pilgrimage’ which helps people to find space to think, to find themselves, or to find a deeper relationship with God.
- Many young people travel to Taize in France every year and through the community they find, discover that believing in God is not as lonely as it may seem at home.
- Many other people take pilgrimages to places of religious significance – and it often seems that the loneliness of the journey has a more profound impact than the place itself; some of which have become overly touristy – victims of their own success.
- In the Quest for the Holy Grail – the mythical story of Arthur looking for the grail which held Jesus’ last supper… the grail becomes a symbol of God’s forgiveness. The journey to find the grail becomes a spiritual metaphor for the seeking of God’s grace, which is turns out is available to Arthur all along.
The ironic thing about pilgrimages is that God isn’t more at the end of a Pilgrimage than God already with us in our homes – but if the journey helps us to understand that, then the journey was worthwhile. The journey that Jesus’ two friends are on, away from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem may not be the fearful running away that I first assumed it was – it may indeed be the behaviour of two people who are trying to find the space to process the information.
I can, therefore, understand why the disciples are on the road to Emmaus – but why is Jesus there?
Again, the resurrection really does mess with the world as we know it. God defeats death and everything we know about the way the world works is turned upside down. Where would you expect the all-powerful Son of God to be at this time?
- In the temple showing himself to the chief priests and the scribes?
- Going back to Pilate’s palace and saying, “Boy, did you make a mistake washing your hands of me, Pilate!”
- Or appearing to the crowds who shouted for his crucifixion and having them kneel before him in trembling and fear…
Jesus isn’t found in any of these places. Instead of frightening everyone with a display of divine strength and power, Jesus continues to embody the love we’ve seen from him before and he chooses to spend a few hours walking with some friends… friends who were walking away from the confusion and the overwhelming chaos of Jerusalem… friends of his on a journey seeking understanding. And in their seeking, Jesus helps them.
I love this gentle revelation about the nature of Jesus, and I hope it is one you find encouraging.
Those who are looking for an all-powerful God to come thundering out of the sky and defend them against all unrighteousness – those who want God to smite their enemies… they are likely to be disappointed. Jesus has shown us that this is not how God’s love works. Jesus prioritises his time to be with those who are confused, doubtful, lost and alone.
The encouragement of the road to Emmaus story is that even as we seem to be walking away from God, God is walking with us. Even if we know the whole Bible, we can still learn from Jesus. Even if life is so scary that thinking about God is the last thing on our mind – that God doesn’t stop being with us in the middle of the fear and the running away.
There is nowhere we can be lost from the love of God.
Not even if we are walking away.