Order of Service for Sunday 26th April 2020 – Third Sunday of Easter Prepared by the Rev Andrew Prout
Let us still our hearts and minds, and know in this space and moment, that God is near.
May we hear the voice of the Risen Christ who says ‘Peace be with you’
And who equally says with gentle word ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.
Loving God, we come to worship you, to be in your presence, and to acknowledge in these weeks following Easter that ‘Christ is risen!’ Hear us we proclaim your goodness. Sanctify us as we sing your praises. Change us as we think upon all that it means to say, with Thomas ‘My Lord and my God’. Now God of our being, on a road between Jerusalem and Emmaus, with disciples long ago, may we be find you in the hearing of Scriptures and in the envisioned breaking of bread, in the name of Him who broke it and gave you thanks, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn STF 296 (John L. Bell and Graham Maule / Alt. tune Bethany)
Verse 1,2 & 4
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Living and death-overcoming God, we thank you for raising your son Jesus Christ from the dead, and how, in the same love that possesses you, He who is now raised reaches out to us as he did to disciples long ago. We thank you that your love is infinite, your victory is complete, and your compassion is without compare. Forgive us when we fail to see all that is possible by faith, all that is revealed in your kingdom of hope, and all that can be overcome through your love. Have mercy on us and ever remind us of the way everlasting through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen
God of life and love, your Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Open our eyes that we may see him in his redeeming work; who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 53: 1-12
Gospel Reading: Luke 24: 13-35
Hymn STF 597 (Charles Wesley 1707-1788)
The set gospel for this third Sunday of Easter (Year A), the account of Jesus meeting two disciples on the Emmaus Road, is a powerful story on so many levels. For this reason it is often highlighted by many as one of their favourite Bible stories. In the first instance we find ourselves identifying with the two disciples, Cleopas and his unnamed travelling companion, who may have been his wife. They are at a low point having followed Jesus no doubt from his time in Galilee, and having witnessed or heard of his death by crucifixion. They had thought that was it, and even though some of their number had claimed He had risen, and spoken of an empty tomb and a vision of angels it was all, as far as they were concerned, too much to believe.
Jesus, unrecognized to them, draws alongside them and simply asks ‘What are you talking about?’ and then as they recount their experience he says to them ‘Tell me more’. This reminds me of how Jesus always welcomes a conversation with us. This is particularly relevant as we continue in lockdown and find ourselves possibly feeling anxious about the future. Jesus draws alongside us with listening ear and simply says ‘Tell me more. I want to hear’.
After Jesus had illuminated the two travellers in his exposition of the Scriptures concerning what they had to say about the Messiah (see for example Isaiah 53:1-12), the two disciples urged him strongly ‘Stay with us. For it is nearly evening and the day is almost over’. Jesus welcomes their invitation and agrees to share supper and stay with them. It is of course deeply significant that the moment of revelation for the disciples comes when he breaks the bread. It is one of the reasons why Christians have always found significance in the act of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, for it is here, in the giving thanks, in the breaking and in the sharing that we meet the risen Christ. Though at present we are not able to share in the Lord’s Supper we nonetheless look forward to the time when we shall. It is however but one of many ways we can meet with Jesus.
Let us consider how in the unfolding of this story, having seen Jesus enter a conversation, drawing alongside two troubled souls, we also witness him responding to invitation. I am reminded of the words of St. John in the book of Revelation (3:20), where Jesus says … ‘Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me’. Cleopas and his companion opened the door of their hearts and their home to Jesus, and their reward would be great. In these unfamiliar times where so much time is spent in the four walls of our homes we too can do the same.
Finally, the Emmaus Road story concludes with the excitement of the return journey from Emmaus to Jerusalem, as the two disciples, set free of any fear (note night has fallen and the road would have been dangerous) race to tell the other disciples as soon as they can ‘We have seen the Lord!’. On arrival (after completing this exceptional example of daily exercise!), they hear the other disciples themselves bearing testimony ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon’. Then we are told that while they were talking about these things Jesus himself cam and stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. This concluding part of the story reminds us of the power of Christ to take away our fears, to turn sorrow to joy and darkness to light, and in doing so to give us, in the words of Thomas Chisholm’s hymn ‘strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow’. It is ultimately to all of his disciples that Christ reveals himself. All are to be strengthened. All are to become witnesses.
I pray today each of us will find strength and encouragement in this wonderful story. May we, like Cleopas and his unnamed companion, discover that Christ is always near, ready as then to hear our story and listen to our concerns, both for ourselves and for the world, and ready as then also to respond to our invitation.
And for we who are ready to share our lives with Christ, and open unto him our hearts, our minds and our homes, may we see this is but this is but the prelude and gateway to new life, blessed assurance and a peace that passes all understanding. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Lord we thank you that we do not travel life’s road and way alone. In Christ you draw near and reveal unto us the meaning of the Scriptures. In Christ you draw near and enter our conversations. In Christ you draw near and make possible a divine encounter in the breaking of the bread. In Christ you draw near and remove our fears and give us peace. In Christ you draw near and leave us in no doubt that ‘He is risen!’ Lord we give you thanks. Amen.
Prayers of Intercession with silence between each petition and paragraph
Risen Lord Jesus, as you draw alongside us even now, and say ‘Tell me more’, so we share with you our concerns for the world, our nation, the ones we love and ourselves at this time.
We pray for all who have been impacted by the worst effects of this dreadful virus, leaving them hospitalised and even now fighting for their lives. We pray for all who are caring for them and putting their own lives at risk. We pray for scientists seeking solutions and governments faced with difficult decisions. We remember all who have died and pray for all who have been bereaved.
We pray for the economic consequences of this pandemic, for local and national businesses folding and buckling under the strain, for those losing their jobs and the security of a regular income, for the world’s poor who live day by day and have no state support, and for a global effort to aid economic recovery, support the most vulnerable, and sustain the planet we all call home.
We pray for the people of God in every place. May we be a bold and courageous people, ready ourselves to walk alongside others, face the darkness, and proclaim the hope, joy, justice and peace of the Gospel.
We pray finally for those we know and love, on earth and in heaven, and for ourselves.
Lord Jesus we say unto you gladly ‘Draw near. Hear us as we speak and in you may we find life and solace, purpose and peace, and know we are never alone. For is not your word unto us … ‘I am with you always unto the end of the age. We say the Lord’s Prayer …
Our Father …
Hymn STF 303 (Samuel Medley 1738-1799)
God the Father enfold us and the world in his everlasting arms.
Christ our Redeemer grant us, and all whom have need in this hour, peace.
Spirit, Holy Counsellor, give wisdom that we may navigate these times.
And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit remain and be with us always. Amen
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