Easter 3A, Small Worship 26-04-2020
Heaven on the Road
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him.
He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’
‘What things?’ he asked.
‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’
He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.
As the sun chased them home after the worst weekend in history, with heavy hearts and sombre internal thoughts, the travellers had their gloomy fog of grief and fear rudely interrupted by a person who sounded like he had been living on Mars!
The stranger joins them on the road. He asks a question that they just cannot believe anyone living in the area this last week or two could ask. “What’s all this talk about Jesus of Nazareth?”. Or maybe in our time now, “What is all this stuff about some virus? Is there some kind of virus thing happening at the moment?
If this was not 10kms from Jerusalem but 10kms from Adelaide, it might have been more like, “Strewth mate, where have you been?
Faces downcast, unfulfilled hopes of a better life, disappointment in a person who let us down, guilt about how badly our society can treat people, innocence trampled on, injustice in the system, no confidence in the politicians, lost confidence in the faith of our families, bordering on lost faith in the promises of God upon which we have lived our lives.
It is all here in these people on this journey on that road. Sounds like an apt description of Australia right now!
• The Prime Minister is supposed to fix everything and he isn’t.
• Things are supposed to be getting better; even with all our technology and medicine and digital ways of connecting, they are not.
• That panic buying and those racist attacks on unsuspecting AUSTRALIAN people of Chinese descent make me feel ashamed.
• We are always disappointed with our politicians. Knocking politicians is a national sport in Australia!
• As for faith? The church does not look or feel like ‘church’. We cannot sing and pray like we always have. We cannot be side-by-side at God’s holy table and receive holy peace in that piece of bread and sip of wine.
It is like being in exile. The Old Testament people found themselves without a temple, without a capital city, living in a strange way in a strange place with no end in sight.
They call out God down by the rivers of Babylon as they weep and ask:
How can we possibly sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
You might not feel like singing faith either. The two people on the road that day didn’t.
But the first notes began to play, not by them, but by him…….
They tell the stranger about this rumour. Earlier in the day. some of the women said the man who was so dead, and with whom they are so disappointed, was seen alive.
Well, that is probably just silly gossip. But it obviously got them wondering.
Remembering the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is like that. You can laugh it off as mere child’s play or hocus-pocus, but it does get you wondering…..
Could it be true? And if it is, then I am confronted with a truth that changes everything about how I see my life going – at the end and so, how it goes now.
And then the best bible study in history happened! Oh, how I would have loved to been at this bible study!
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Right there on the dusty road of doubt, not in the classroom of cleanliness, he explained, ‘everything’ about ‘himself’ from ‘all’ of the Old Testament, just like he always had to his close friends (Mark 4:4).
He “explained’; He ‘unfolded’. Like mum unfolding a hand-crafted tablecloth that her mum had made to her daughter now and telling the story of how this magnificent piece of work had been done and why.
These downhearted but highly privileged people see the whole intricate cloth of God’s handiwork to save his creation from annihilation unfolded right before them.
The shadows of gloom and doom, worry, fear, doubt, dashed hopes and self-preservation begin to subside as the full scale, the full story, the big-picture meaning of what God had actually done right there in their little lives, but for the whole future of the whole world is unfolded in their hearing.
And it is all from the prophets, the psalms and Moses – these are the three parts of the Hebrew Old Testament bible – the Law, or ‘Moses’, the first five books (most authoritative), The Prophets – major ones: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor ones; like Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Malachi…. (second authority), and then The Writings; Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes and etc….
The whole Word of God unpacked by The Word of God in human words to human ears.
Can you begin to feel that heart of faith burning in you?
You have heard these same things unfolded. You have heard the Word, spoken by the Word and the Spirit in human words in your human ears, and are again now.
As for them, so Jesus has let you see his presence right here in this old dying creation.
He is telling you that he is recreating you and everything else in this old creation right now, despite what your health, your mind, your vision, your understanding, your situation says. He is continuing his good work in you.
Jesus simply pulled back the curtain to show his heaven of hope right there in their hell of hopelessness. Same for you.
They heard that heaven was right there alongside them all the time in their earthly journey, but always hidden – only seen by the ears hearing Jesus speak on the road.
Heaven is not the end of the world after all. Heaven is now, and on the dusty road, because Jesus is now – now in part as in a foggy forest, one day in bright light without barrier.
And then even more real, more present, more able to be physically grasped, the cloth unfolded to set a table for a meal.
In this COVID time we are learning things.
We are learning that Jesus’ heavenly presence comes to us where we are – on the road, in a home, alone or with a friend.
We are learning that it is his word spoken and shared together is what makes us his church. He makes us his church, not the church building or organisation, good gifts thought they be.
We are learning that his Word is the ONLY way we can recognise him on our road. It is not our being good, or doing good, or even attending a church service in a church building (good though that is), and certainly not depending on our own hopes and dreams or resources.
His speaking is what creates new faith, hope and love, whatever is ‘going viral’.
What resources are you relying on? Where are you looking for hope, healing and future at this time of uncertainty?
On the banks of these COVID rivers, how shall we continue to live the new song of faith in Jesus’ resurrection victory?
What or who will make your heart sing when we cannot sing together?
Invite the Stranger in. Let him speak. Let him unfold the story fully in this time when the world has more available time. He will get your heart singing.
On this COVID road, we will learn how to be his church on the move; on the road, in new ways for when we are back by Jordan’s sweet banks.