23 April 2023
The Emmaus Road is a compelling story. It is a curious way for Jesus to reveal himself to these two disciples, but it is also a moment that called them to a response. It is all too easy for faith to become an academic exercise or a “thing we do” on Sundays which has little connection with life. But if the resurrection is to be known and lived, we cannot just have ideas about it. We must respond to it – not just once, as to a once-off event, but in every moment, as to something that is a constant reality in the universe. It is this challenge that makes this week of the Easter Season both meaningful and pregnant with possibility.
May our worship this week lead us to encounter life such that we cannot avoid offering ourselves to life in response!
Acts 2:14a, 36-41: Peter continues his sermon on the Day of Pentecost and encourages his hearers to believe in Jesus as Messiah, to repent and to receive God’s Spirit, and 3000 people respond.
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19: A psalm of praise, thanksgiving and commitment in response to God’s gracious rescue.
1 Peter 1:17-23: Because God, through raising Christ from death, has led God’s people to eternal life, we should love one another.
Luke 24:13-35: Jesus appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who invite him to stay the night with them. They share a meal and, as Jesus breaks the bread, they recognise him.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
God’s life and grace, and the gift of resurrection, are wonderful things to know about, but they mean very little in real terms without a response from us. While God’s grace and love are always available, it is as we respond that we are able to appropriate and benefit from them. The power of Peter’s sermon was only realised by his hearers when they responded to what he had said. The psalmist recognises that God’s gracious rescue is made real when he responds with gratitude, praise and commitment. Peter invites the believers who have come to faith in Christ and received God’s life to respond by living lives of love toward one another, which of course, is how God’s life is experienced. Finally, the two disciples on the Emmaus Road have heard about Jesus’ resurrection, but it is only when they recognise him at the meal as he breaks bread that the reality of the resurrection hits home to them and they experience it for themselves. It is not that God needs our response in order to love us, forgive us, or save us, but that for us to know, experience and live out of the life and grace of God, we need to appropriate what God has given us and respond to the realities that we encounter. This call for response is a powerful and hopeful part of the Gospel we preach, and is the gift we are invited to share in worship this week.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: When we begin to talk and think about applying the Gospel to the realities of our world, ideas like resurrection and response don’t often come up, and yet they are key. As we have already explored, resurrection is what God is doing in the world in all sorts of ways, and we are called to co-operate and co-create with God as this life-giving work is happening. This is where the response comes in. When tsunamis and earthquakes hit, we are called to respond to the Christ at work in the midst of grief, death and suffering. When the planet is threatened by greedy consumerism, we are called to respond to the Christ who gave life to the universe. When war and conflict harm innocent people, and when dictators bomb their own, we are called to respond to the Christ who brings peace. Wherever life is at work to rescue, heal and restore, there is a response that we are called to make. We can ignore it and go about our lives as if it doesn’t matter, or we can seek to be a part of the life-giving work of God. We can walk with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and then let him walk on, or we can invite him in for a meal. We can stay alone and amazed at the Christ we’ve encountered, or we can run back into community and share what we’ve experienced, drawing others into God’s life. Whether by prayer, contribution, volunteering or voting, our task is to remain always open to God’s life and where it may break out next, and then to be ready with a response that brings grace and life to others. In what ways can your community be part of the work of resurrection in the most broken and hurting parts of our world this week?
LOCAL APPLICATION: In every Church community we speak easily about God’s life and God’s resurrection and how it is available for us. It’s easy, though, for this to become either academic or individualistic. What we sometimes fail to recognise is that whenever we see God’s life at work in another, or in our communities, there is a response that we can make. One of the great privileges of the faith is that we get to participate with Jesus in what God is doing in the world. This is far more than just praying a personal prayer to receive God’s life or preaching ‘evangelistic’ sermons to ‘get people saved’. It’s when we watch to see what God is already doing, where God’s life is already breaking out, and then we respond to this by co-creating, co-caring and co-welcoming people, that we, and those God touches, really connect with and experience God’s life. The big question this week, then, is to discover where in your church resurrection is beginning to break out (or is continuing to break out), and where in your community or neighbourhood is resurrection at work? Then this must be followed up with the question of what our response should be – how does God want us to participate, to notice, communicate and spread the life of God? So often we feel that we have to make things happen, and that the initiative begins with us. The resurrection helps us to recognise that the initiative is always God’s. God’s life is always breaking out whether we see it or not. Our task is not to make anything happen, but to respond – to get on board with – what God is already doing. This is a liberating and empowering thought, but also a challenging one. We can choose to do our own thing, or nothing, but if we really want to encounter God and be involved in Gospel work, we better recognise and respond to God’s thing! How can you do this more or better in your community this week?
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Responding To Life
The Life That Is Truly Good
O Master Let Me Walk With Thee
I Sought The Lord
Crown Him With Many Crowns
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
Maker In Whom We Live
My Life Is In You, Lord (Link to YouTube video)
Mighty To Save (Link to YouTube video)
Everlasting God (Link to YouTube video)
I Will Offer Up My Life (Link to YouTube video)
Once Again (Link to YouTube video)
A Liturgy for the Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet
1 Peter 1