Monday, 24 April 2023

Walking with the Crucified and Risen Lord.

Acts 2.14a, 36-41 The Lord added to their number those who were being saved

1 Peter 1.17-23 You have been born anew through the living and enduring word of God.

Luke 24.13-35 They recognised him in the breaking of bread


For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears and my feet from falling.

I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. Alleluia. (Psalm 116)




The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings life where there is death, light where there is darkness and hope where there is despair.


But never confuse this with frothy, naïve, optimism.


Jesus says in the gospels, ‘I came that you may have life and have it abundantly’ (John 10.10) and St Paul says that we should ‘take hold of the life that really is life’. (1 Timothy 6.19).


In other words, there’s more to life than going through the motions.


For the Christian though the starting point for finding life is to die; to die to self, to sin, to all the power games and manipulations that we get caught up in, to all the illusions we set up for ourselves or others draw us into.


That’s the implication of being baptised. Seeking life. Receiving life. Living life.


That is at the heart of the spiritual life.


The greatest exemplars of this, the saints, have rarely been the rich, the highly esteemed, the totally ‘sorted’.


Rather, to be a saint is to be on the path, on the way, moving from death, darkness and despair to life, light and hope in Christ.


The saint walks in ‘the way, the truth and the life’: always with Christ; always in the name of Christ; always through Christ.


Today’s gospel reading maps out this journey, this way to life and insight and encounter with the living God.


It all takes place on the Day of Resurrection itself.


Our two disciples were trudging along the road going over and over with each other what had been happening in the past few days.


As they told their, as yet unidentified, companion, they were discussing, “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”.


It's a story of bewilderment and disappointment. And they were stuck in it. Even what the women had told them – that they had heard that Jesus was alive - hadn’t stirred these disciples from their self-consumed misery.


How often does life throw bewilderment and disappointment at us? At home or at work; when we look around us in the wider world and even around Croydon, perhaps especially around Croydon at the moment – bewilderment and disappointment.


Like the two disciples, bewilderment and disappointment may come in to us in our faith, our life of prayer or at church. Spiritual torpor, or acedie as the great spiritual writers from earliest times call it, is spiritual listlessness, bewilderment, disappointment.


‘We had hoped…’ we say with the two bewildered, disappointed disciples.


But that’s where something arresting and decisive happens.


What did we say at the beginning? What is the message of Eastertide?


It is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ brings life where there is death, light where there is darkness and hope where there is despair.


And the Crucified and Risen Lord himself, in person, brings recognition and clarity to our bewilderment and disappointment.


The Crucified and Risen Lord does that for these two disciples, first by opening up the scriptures; showing that they should not be surprised that he, the Messiah, had to suffer these things and then enter into his glory.


By pointing to Moses and the Prophets he shows that God chooses to work in the mirk and mire of human existence, meeting us where we are, before taking us along the path to life, life in all its abundance, life that really is life.


And what a Bible Study session those two disciples got with the Word of God himself, the Word Made Flesh.


No wonder they themselves said, ‘‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’




When did you last open your Bible and seriously read it knowing that your heart would burn with meeting the Crucified and Risen Lord in it?


When did you last hear a reading from the scriptures and sense you had met the Crucified and Risen Lord?


When did you last hammer my door down asking for more Bible study?


I wonder how many Christians sense, in the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, that ‘the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4.12)


Then the story moves on. It wasn’t just the scriptures that set their hearts racing as things fell into place and bewilderment turned to clarity.


They showed beautiful hospitality and invited him into their home. It was a deeper invitation into their hearts and lives, an invitation you can make today.


Then as we heard, ‘he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus’.


Do you see the pattern? The scriptures are opened and insight shared; bread is broken and Jesus Christ is made present in his Church.


This is what we do Sunday by Sunday, actually day by day, in this parish, this is the Eucharist: the word moves us to the sacrament, which itself moves us from bewilderment and disappointment to clarity and hope in the Crucified and Risen Lord.


This is what our Easter proclamation of life, hope and light is rooted in, deep roots.


Then, as we read, ‘he vanished from their sight’.


You’d forgive them for being bewildered and disappointed: he’d gone. Again.


This time they don’t brood between themselves, they don’t mope. They have met him in the sacrament; they will always meet him and feed on him in the breaking of bread where he is present.


They immediately got up – having already said how late it was - and returned to Jerusalem – where they had first met their bewilderment and disappointment - and they found other disciples who were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how Christ had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.’


There is the Emmaus Road journey. This is where the Christian Way takes us. This is where the Eucharist takes us: In the words of our psalm, ‘For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.’


Are you ready to tell of what has happened to you, on the way, and to tell of Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen Lord?

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