Psalm 66:8, 16-20

 Bless our God, O peoples, 

let the sound of his praise be heard,

who has kept us among the living,
    and has not let our feet slip.
 Come and hear, all you who fear God,
    and I will tell what he has done for me.
I cried aloud to him,
    and he was extolled with my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened;
    he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

Blessed be God,
    because he has not rejected my prayer
    or removed his steadfast love from me.

A prayer from ‘Grant us your peace’ by David Grant

Lord, our God,

A brief recollection on our national life

reveals times of burden too great to bear,

times of test, searing our public consciousness,

times of communal dousing that submerge our perceptions,

often trying us all to the edge of our endurance.

Yet we are still here.

We could argue the world was beyond your control.

We could conclude that you reject us.

We could believe you punish us.

But, no, we are still here bringing praise and offering

for our living and not dying,

for our place of space, with no threat of oppression.

From this communal space you grant each one a hearing.

So, we come, to make our confessions

and receive your forgiveness.

We are wise to our technique of cherishing sin,

or at best mumbling inaudibly our confession prayers,

which keeps us in limping control, ensuring non-forgiveness.

So, we risk speaking, and risk your hearing,

and risk a forgiveness-primed transformation,

wrapped in steadfast love,

signposting subversive testimony to all listeners

that you, God, are above all gods;

there is no other, and only you deserve our allegiance.

Thanks be to God.

Amen

 

Luke 24:13-35

The Walk to Emmaus

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.

Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”  He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah[e] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 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; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Our reflection today comes from a ‘guest’ preacher, Rev Dr Murray Rae.  Murray is Professor of Theology at Otago University.  This article was originally published in the Otago Daily Times HERE and Murray has kindly given his permission for its reproduction.

How do we want to order our new world?

In Luke’s gospel the story is told of two of Jesus’ disciples walking the road to Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem.  Three days earlier the disciples had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. The one in whom they had trusted, the one who they dared to believe was Israel’s Messiah had been brutally killed at the hands of the Roman authorities.

Their hopes had come to a tragic end. Earlier that day, however, some women who were followers of Jesus — Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James — had visited Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. The body of Jesus was no longer there. Two men at the tomb declared that Jesus was alive and the women rushed to tell the other disciples. To begin with however, the women’s story was too much for the disciples to believe. They considered it to be an idle tale.

And so, later that day, the two disciples made their way to Emmaus, dejected, bewildered, and unable to make sense of all that they had seen and heard.

As they were walking, Jesus himself came near and began to walk with them on the road. Strangely, however, “their eyes were kept from recognising him”.

It’s a telling phrase. In the colloquial language of our own day, we might say that the disciples simply couldn’t get their heads around the idea that the one they saw crucified had now been raised from the dead. Of course, they couldn’t!

They were confronted by a reality that simply couldn’t be accommodated within their prior estimations of what is and is not possible in this world. It took time for their blindness to be overcome. It took time for the disciples to discover that the world had changed and that

the forces of death that nailed Jesus to the cross no longer had the last word.

I wonder whether our current struggle against Covid-19 might help us to see reality in a new light, to imagine a different way of ordering our world? Our eyes are being opened, for instance, to how essential the “lowly” workers among us — the shelf-stackers, the checkout operators, the fruit pickers — really are.

We recognise now how vital they are to the wellbeing of all. Might we imagine a new reality in which they are paid what they are really worth? A living wage would be a good place to start.

Reports are coming in from around the world about the lockdown giving our environment a reprieve. People in the smog-filled cities of China are beginning to see and breathe clear air.

Dramatic reductions in the level of pollution have enabled people in northern India to see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years. Can we imagine a new reality in which the smoke stops belching from polluting factories, fossil fuels are left in the ground, and we learn to live more responsibly, more sustainably, in our world?

In cities around New Zealand, the homeless have been gathered up and given places to stay that are warm and comfortable and offer relief from the suffering of life on the street. We have found the resources to ensure that those normally excluded get to share in the common good. Can we picture a reality in which that resourcefulness becomes the norm?

Covid-19 provides us with an opportunity to think afresh about what the world should look like once the threat of the virus has been subdued. Is a new reality possible? Can we take stock, and muster a new determination to tackle those other features of our life together that threaten the common good?

The two disciples walking toward Emmaus could not imagine a world in which the powers of death no longer held sway. And so, to begin with, their eyes were kept from seeing the new reality that lay before them. It was not until the evening when Jesus broke bread and blessed it and gave it to them that their eyes were opened and they recognised the risen Lord.

Ever since that first Easter encounter, Jesus has been inviting us to share in a new reality, a new way of being human. In this new reality the poor hear good news, the blind see, and sinners are forgiven.

In this new way of ordering the world, swords are beaten into ploughshares, the hungry are fed, the homeless are given shelter, and fruit harvesters are sent home each night with a wage sufficient for their needs. Is it too good to be true?

Our inclination to think so is not a sign of the impossibility of such a world but rather of our lack of imagination and of faith.

 – Murray Rae

Take moment with God in prayer

Imagine yourself on the road to Emmaus with the disciples

Imagine trying to make sense of it all

What are you thinking?  What are you feeling?  Is there something you would like to ask them?

What opportunities do you think we could take in making the world an easier place for everyone to live in?

Sit with God in this scene for a moment of stillness…

We pray: (from The Church of Ireland website)

Risen One,

like those disciples on the road to Emmaus,

we struggle to recognize you in the everyday journey of our lives.

We seek your wisdom in the midst of the questions we have

about the circumstances we find ourselves in—

circumstances sometimes beyond our control,

but often of our own making.

Open our eyes, Light of the World,

to your work of transformation in and around us.

As we walk with you day by day,

may your new life be made manifest in what we say to others.

Help us to understand the power of our words to hurt or to heal;

give us the graciousness to make all our conversations holy.

Just as we desire that our speaking be holy,

may our seeing be holy as well.

We are bombarded with images every day, O Christ,

that shape our attitudes and behaviours.

As you opened the scriptures to the disciples

and taught them everything,

open our eyes to behold you in your Word,

in the beauty of nature,

the beauty of another human being

and the beauty of sacred art.

And in our seeing,

help us to recognize and welcome the stranger in our midst.

May our welcome be a celebration of the gifts and graces

of persons who are different from us

and not merely some token tolerance of an outsider.

You were known to the disciples in the breaking of the bread.

May your resurrection presence guide us in the decisions we make

about what we take into our bodies—

especially what we eat and what we drink.

Help us to understand our eating and drinking as sacred events,

not to be abused or approached mindlessly.

So often we forget, Holy One,

that you invite us to abide with you;

to have our lives hidden in you.

We thank you that you travel with us in our joys and our concerns. Amen.

Blessing:      

Shalom my friend,

God’s peace my friend, go with you now:

and stay with you in all you do,

Shalom, Shalom.