The New Road – Sermon – 26 April 2020

Welcome - Rick and Deb Cowell

Pastor’s Welcome

Have you ever been on a road to somewhere, but you weren’t exactly sure where you were going, or how you were going to get there? It reminds me of being a child with my parents and three siblings. Every once in a while, we would be all placed in the car (remember: these were the days before car seats, and when we used to stuff our seat belts underneath our seats!), and the family would set off down the road. As children, we were not always told where we were going, but we were farm kids, so anyplace was a great treat!

Our lives are a bit like that right now. We are on a trip that we didn’t plan, and we have no idea where it we will end up. Will it end with things returning to normal? Or have things changed forever? And if some things have changed, which things?

Our scripture this morning is the story of two disciples who met up with Jesus on the road to the small town of Emmaus, on the very day of His resurrection. At least, they thought their destination for the day was Emmaus! Jesus, however, had other plans!

Song of Praise

Call to Worship

Psalm 40:1-3

1   I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
2   He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
3   He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Pastoral Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

We approach You together today to worship, but we also confess the uncertainty and anxiety that remain on our hearts. We know You, and we have given our lives to You, but we also find ourselves holding back.

Rather than embracing you completely in the midst of these trying days, we too often find ourselves feeling alone and directionless. One minute we are walking with You, and the next we find ourselves going in the opposite direction. Help us Lord, t0 slow down enough to know that You are here – to stop our constant movement long enough to experience the assurance of Your presence.

As we feel lost in these days, may we set our hearts on being found by You! Lord, help us to learn the lessons You have placed before us, and to find the blessings You desire us to receive.

We lift up to you those who are struggling in the midst of this time of isolation. Some struggles may be new and directly caused by our current circumstances, while others are unrelated – either way we lift them up to You, asking for your healing in our hearts and bodies, and Your transforming power in our lives.

Finally, I ask that every one of us would become more and more open to You. Be with us as we seek to expose the clutter that comes between us and the abundant life You have called us to; clutter that, once exposed, can be removed only by Your hand.

And now, as we open up Your Word, may our hearts be receptive to the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, who alone transforms us and gives us new life.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Passage: Luke 24:13-35

On the Road to Emmaus

13  Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  14  They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.  15  As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;  16  but they were kept from recognizing him.

17  He asked them,  “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast.  18  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?”

19  “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.  20  The chief priests and our rulers  handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;  21  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.  22  In addition, some of our women amazed us.  They went to the tomb early this morning  23  but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.  24  Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25  He said to them,  “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  26  Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  27  And beginning with Moses  and all the Prophets,  he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28  As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.  29  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.

30  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it  and began to give it to them.  31  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him,  and he disappeared from their sight.  32  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?”

33  They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together  34  and saying, “It is true! The Lord  has risen and has appeared to Simon.”  35  Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Message – The New Road

Where are You Going? (verses 13-16)

The two disciples of Jesus (not from “the twelve” but still very close to Him) were walking the short distance to the village of Emmaus on the night of Jesus resurrection, but that would not be their final destination that evening! They were so focussed on the events of the past few days they could not see the obvious – Jesus was right there with them!

Instead, they were intent on getting as far away from Jerusalem as they could. True, there were some strange reports of Jesus’ missing body and some question of Him being seen; but these reports hadn’t convinced them.

For these two disciples, it was all over. All the promise of a new day with Jesus as the Messiah who would liberate Israel ended up being just a big disappointment. And not only that, but they were afraid things could get dangerous. This talk of an empty tomb would surely incite the Romans to take further measures by stamping out this “Jesus uprising” once and for all – and that would most likely mean tracking down His followers and eliminating them. The text describes them as “downcast,” which indicates a state of depression and despair. Not only that, they were most likely wondering how they would now be able to go home. They had left so quickly and full of hope, convinced that God had called them – now they had to return home looking like the fools they thought they were.

Reflection

Have you ever experienced anything like the tunnel vision of these two disciples? Convinced you had been doing the right thing; convinced your vision and understanding was clear; convinced that your opinions were correct and therefore not open to hearing other views? We often talk of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day having these convictions, but these disciples were experiencing the very same kind of blindness.

When have you been blind to something that turned out to be true? How hard was it to convince you to even consider you could be wrong?

Humble Enough to Hear God’s Voice (17-24)

As they walked together, Jesus told them a story that was different from the one that had sent them on their way home – the story that had left them so hopeless.

The did have Jesus partially right – He was a prophet. Jesus did speak on behalf of God with an authority that was undeniable and performed miracles that clearly required the power of the Holy Spirit – miracles over nature, over sickness, and even over death.

And yet, they had killed Jesus the prophet; another in a long line of God’s prophets silenced by His own people. All that promise seemed wasted.

But Jesus was telling them a new story, framing the facts in a whole different light. This wasn’t easy for them to hear, and they remained reluctant to change their minds – but they did listen.

Reflection

How open are you to a fresh word from God. Are you willing to admit that there is more to Him than you have always believed?

When faith is new we have a thirst to know more about God, similar to the thirst to know our spouses when we first started dating. And yet, most anyone who had been married for longer than a year will tell you that their understanding of their spouse has grown deeper over time. We can even look back on the early days of our relationships and chuckle at our naivety. A relationship that doesn’t reflect this growth in intimacy over time will inevitably flounder.

So it is in our relationship with God. I encourage you to spend some time this week (and even longer if needed) asking God to open up your mind to the possibility that you don’t yet know the whole story of what God wants to do in your life; open to the chance that He is far more than you have ever understood Him to be!

Will You Respond (25-35)

In the last part of this story, the disciples asked this fellow traveller (Jesus) to stay with them at the end of the day. This wasn’t because they recognized Him yet, but because it was the culturally proper thing to do – offering hospitality to a traveller.

It is only after being invited in that Jesus revealed to them His identity. It didn’t happen with more teaching, conversation or questions – but simply in the act of breaking bread. In a moment, their eyes were opened.

And when that happened, they were forever changed! Emmaus was no longer their destination for the evening. In fact they were so excited with this revelation that they set out (presumably) in the dark back to Jerusalem with this world changing news!

JESUS WAS ALIVE! The reports from the women were right after all! The empty tomb was explained!

The story of who Jesus was and why He had come was becoming clear to them, and they would never be the same!

Reflection

Have you encountered the risen Jesus in your life? Have you let Him challenge everything you thought was true, and change the whole direction of your life?

It doesn’t matter how much you and I know about Jesus if we can’t recognize Him. For many of us, our discipleship has been made up of studying the Bible, listening to teachers and pastors, and singing songs. Knowledge of Jesus and participating in worship is good – a foundation that is necessary for us – but God is calling us to far more than knowledge about Him. He is calling us to really see Him and to commit our lives to drawing closer to Him in a relationship that has the power to totally change the course of our life’s journey!

Back to Psalm 40:1-3

As we prepare to be dismissed from our worship together, let’s once again hear the words of Psalm 40, and listen for the promise of God to those who seek Him.

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Song: We Are Not Alone

Benediction

Father, help me to live this day to the full,
being true to You, in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others,
being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost,
proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.

Amen