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Wednesday: speaking with Jesus

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles 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 recognizing 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 farther. 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 recognized 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 recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Luke 24:13-35, New International Version

Reading this passage again and thinking about it brings back some memories and raises some questions we don’t often think about.

Looking back over my own life since I became a Christian I remember times when I know that Jesus has spoken to me in various ways and been with me in various situations:-

My teenage years serving time as and apprentice Joiner and Carpenter and meeting Jesus for the first time.
My time searching for Jesus call on my life.
My time as a mission Carpenter in Papua.
Meeting and marrying my wife.
My time in teachers college training as an industrial arts teacher.
Back to New Guinea teaching in a coed High School.
Settling in Australia and serving in various churches and working as a Builder and latterly as a Joinery Manufacturer.
Now retired.

Two things stand out to me in the above passage.

  • How often does Jesus walk with us and we do not recognise Him?
  • How often do we feel the fire and warmth of His presence and even then are not sensitive to His presence?

I could list many ways in which I have experienced Jesus presence and the times when I have been ignorant. This would be no great advantage to you. I ask you to dwell on your own experiences. I believe He treats us all as individuals and speaks to us and meets with us in ways that suit us.

May the fire, warmth and peace of Jesus be yours each day.

R. Fraser

Sunday: orientation

Click to listen to audio version

We cry to God, we cry aloud!
In the day of our trouble we seek you, God.
Has your steadfast love ceased for ever?
Are your promises at an end?
Have you forgotten to be gracious 
and shut up your compassion?

We call God’s deeds to mind;
we remember your wonders of old,
and muse upon your mighty works.

Your way, O God, is holy.

Uniting in Worship 2, pg. 199

Some demand signs
and others seek insight,
but we have only the Christ crucified,
stumbling block and folly of our time.

In faith, we appeal to God.
In hope, we will not let God go.
In love, we claim God’s attention.

Uniting in Worship, pg. 200-201

It’s the second Sunday in Easter and, to be honest, I feel completely flat after the energy and emotion of that holy week.

Like the disciples, I find myself behind closed doors but they do not keep out the heartache and the heaviness with which people are struggling due to ill health or accidents, grief or loneliness, financial worries or fear for vulnerable loved ones. What the doors do do is keep me from the
re-energising presence of people, the touch that offers comfort, the sense of broader community that pulls me out of my own unsettled headspace ….

So, the familiar story of Jesus appearing to the disciples in the upper room takes on new meaning and deeper significance for me as I wonder what it must have been like to be part of that first family of Christians who had no sense of being a resurrection community, no expectation of their crucified Lord showing up in the midst of their misery and despair.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:19-31 New International Version


But Jesus does show up – to the wonder, the astonishment, the surprise of those who are present – and the disbelief of Thomas who was not (perhaps he was the one tasked with going out to search for toilet paper). And the book of John specifically records the stories of these two encounters – one with Thomas and one without – because they present the need for a radical about-face as those who have been dealing with death suddenly have to deal with life.

English writer and philosopher Gilbert Chesterton wrote:

“What has really happened during the last seven days and nights? Seven times we have been dissolved into the darkness as we shall be dissolved into dust; our very selves, so far as we know, have been wiped out of the world of living things; and seven times we have been raised like Lazarus, and found all our limbs and senses unaltered, with the coming of the day.”
So seven days and seven nights have passed since we retold the resurrection story. And seven days and seven nights passed between Thomas hearing the story told by the other disciples and actually experiencing the wonder of the risen Lord embodied before him. How many days and nights must pass for us to be reoriented from death to life, from the “now” which preoccupies so much of our thinking and doing to the eternal, from the fear which keeps us behind closed doors in far more than a physical sense to a life founded on peace and purpose and forgiveness and faith?

Through this Gospel account, may you receive this – and each – new day as the remarkable gift that it truly is: an invitation to this time and this place to believe and to love as we enter again and again and again into the surprise and delight and creativity of the resurrection story as participants rather than spectators.

Some questions that I am pondering as I acknowledge my own need for re-orientation which you may want to reflect on in the seven days and seven nights that lie ahead before we join two disciples on the road to Emmaus and discover, with them, Jesus in the simple act of breaking bread:

What does resurrection life look like to you?
What does it mean in the midst of the suffering and sorrow of our days?
How does it shape who we are and what we do when we move again beyond the closed doors into a world that has little sense of the divine, the sacred, the eternal?

May the God of the Easter garden bless you in every season of the heart.
May the God of the mountainside bless this time we’ve spent apart.
May the God of the beach bless you whether tides ebb or flow.
May the God of the upper room bless your doubts that all may know
the deep love of God that is stronger than death.
Amen.

Wednesday: on the verge

I’m spending my time following Easter reading slowly through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s appearances to his disciples. 

While I have long loved the story of how he travels with two disciples on the road to Emmaus and makes himself known to them in the breaking of bread, I find myself intrigued at the moment by what follows afterwards when those same disciples return to Jerusalem to share the news of their encounter with the eleven who are still behind closed doors. 

As they are recounting this miracle, Jesus appears in their midst – startling and frightening them all.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:36-48, New International Version

I wonder how often we, desiring God’s presence, pleading for God’s guidance, are actually upset and disturbed when our prayers are answered and we encounter God in a way so real, so tangible that we would tell friends later, “I came face to face with God.” 

Coming face to face with God can be terrifying – especially when it is unexpected, or our lives are in disorder, or we are carrying around within us some secret shame, some “hidden” sin.  Think of Peter still labouring under the burden of having denied his association with Christ, or John’s shame at being unable to stay awake in the garden, or Nathanael’s heartache at not having borne witness to the suffering of his Lord and teacher upon the cross.

Jesus comes into their midst without judgement, speaking words of peace, offering the signs necessary to turn their fear and trembling into joy and amazement, and their joy and amazement into certainty and belief.

A central truth of the Christian life that we often neglect is that every encounter with Jesus places us on the verge of change and invites us into newness.

Often we are looking instead for the presence of God to satisfy an emptiness within us, to bring a little comfort and peace into a difficult day, but the God who puts our lives back together does so with the hope and desire that those lives will be lived in a different way.

It is for this reason that Jesus opens the disciples’ minds to the Scriptures: so that they can bear witness – testify – to the new life that the suffering and resurrection of Christ has made possible.

The Good News that we preach and proclaim over Easter does not stop with Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. The purpose of Jesus’s excruciating suffering is not just that we might claim forgiveness and the assurance of an eternal life in God’s kingdom. We need to fully understand and bear witness to the fact that the resurrected Lord gives us the power and the passion to be different, to turn away from and leave behind those relationships that drain us, those habits that have a hold on us, those mistakes and failures which limit our imagination and rob us of life.

Christ’s resurrection brings us to the brink of change.  All things are possible.  All ways are open. So, which direction will we choose to walk in? And who do we choose to walk with us?

***

May the God of the Easter garden bless you in every season of the heart.
May the God of the mountainside bless this time we’ve spent apart.
May the God of the beach bless you whether tides ebb or flow.
May the God of the upper room bless your doubts that all may know
the deep love of God that is stronger than death.

Amen.

Love letter 4

To the people of God on the way to the promised end

Last weekend was a time of great rejoicing with and within the wider Body as we attended the induction service of our new Presbytery minister, Nigel Hawken on Saturday, and on Sunday commissioned Pilgrim’s elders with the good news that Chist IS with us.

One of the most significant moments for me was the presentation of gifts as the children brought forward the prayer leis that they had made during the service, placed them around the elders’ necks, and then received a blessing in turn as the elders (some even kneeling) laid hands upon them.

In order to be a living Church, our conversations have to hold in tension these four threads:

  • God’s continuing mission in the world,
  • expressing our unity in diversity,
  • personally committing to playing a part in building up Christ’s body,
  • and regularly considering the legacy that we will leave our children and their children and their children’s children.

In the story of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain we witness how the past and future are brought together in the persons of Moses and Elijah (pioneers of our faith) and Peter, James and John (pivotal figures in the early Church) to bear witness to that glorious affirmation – “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear him!” (Matthew 17:5)

Today, we find ourselves with Christ on that high mountain from which he leads us towards the table of remembrance, the cross of great suffering, and, ultimately, the liberating hope of the empty tomb.

How do these places give shape and substance to our mission, our unity, our stewardship, and our legacy as we claim, in Christ, our own belovedness and seek to pass that affirmation on?

Yours in Christ
Yvonne