1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame; •
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Incline your ear to me; •
make haste to deliver me.
3 Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me,
for you are my rock and my stronghold; •
guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake.
4 Take me out of the net
that they have laid secretly for me, •
for you are my strength.
5 Into your hands I commend my spirit, •
for you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.
15 ‘My times are in your hand; •
deliver me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
16 ‘Make your face to shine upon your servant, •
and save me for your mercy’s sake.’
But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘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. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Sermon on Fifth Sunday of Easter
The story from Luke starts out rather prosaically, doesn’t it? “Now … two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all [the] things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing … a fellow came near and went with them [for a ways].” It is a quite ordinary story – people do walk about with one another and are joined by acquaintances and strangers.
Don’t we all walk along and sometimes people fall in step with us? Sometimes we walk with others, sharing their journey in some way. After we have spoken about the weather, don’t we often begin talking with them about the cares of their day, perhaps even their current ultimate concerns are revealed as the miles pass beneath our feet? – I find it amazing how deeply a conversation can plunge into the anxieties of life. I am surprised that we can open up the depths of life’s discomfiture with a stranger. Isn’t this what happens in airports as we board our planes for our holidays or to visit friends and family, perhaps on a mission of mercy because of illness. These anxious moments of transition from the world we know to the unknown can trigger the release of all our emotions to a stranger who happens to sit down next to us as we begin a shared journey.
This is what is happening to these two men walking away from Jerusalem, isn’t it? They were wondering “about all [the] things that had happened” and they were exceedingly surprised when they met “the only stranger in Jerusalem who [did] not know the things that [had] taken place.” How else could this fellow approach them and ask, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” It is a strange coincidence anyone could ask such an innocent question in the midst of the turmoil of the disciples’ own experience.
When we fall in with others, don’t we always ask about their conversation in one way or another – a questioning look or just taking an interest in their dialogue, sometimes we are bold and ask outright, “What are you talking about?” Strangers have done this to us, haven’t they? They are intrigued by what has piqued our interest – and we enquire, in our turn, about the topic of their conversation, don’t we? Yes, I think we do turn our attention to discussions round about us when we can, and what better time than when we are walking alongside someone?
Twenty years ago, the mission of my local church was defined to be alongside everyone who lived within the parish borders, especially those who did not wish to enter the building. Our mission was to show care for the whole of the population within the boundaries of the parish, and the odd parish boundary walk reinforced that feeling. That walk called everyone out who wanted to journey throughout the parish, visiting places which were off any public right of way, going through private land. But on that walk each of us would fall in step with one or another walker and speak with them. We would change dialogue partners as the miles went by. It was a wonderful way to make new friends and reinforce the fact that christians in the place walked around, just like everyone else, in other words, that we christians could be interested in whatever took their fancy as they trudged along the twenty-six miles of the parish boundary. Such desultory conversations are the stuff of life, aren’t they? Because they do reveal so much.
So what conversations have you had when you walked with others? Do you speak only of the weather? Were your antics last night the subject of conversation? What about the good, the beautiful and the true? What about love and grace? What about faith?
With whom did you walk this morning? What was your conversation as they ambled along to their appointment and as you strode out purposefully to come to church? Imagine if Jesus asked us this same question, “What are you talking about?”
The philosopher writes about language as the mark of human being. Our tongue sets us apart from everything else in the world. What we talk about with one another is so very important. Our speech reveals what we find important in our lives. We talk with others about things we find interesting, or complain that we are bored with something, or we drone on about what has fixed our attention. Speech is how we share our thoughts – don’t we have to answer questions at school, when the teacher asks us?
We even share our private selves through our words, don’t we? For instance, we whisper sweet nothings to our beloved, don’t we? We declare our deepest connection to lovers when we open our hearts to them through words. What we say to one another defines everything about us. When we speak with one another we are revealing the world in which we dwell and have our being.
When Jesus asked that very simple question about what we are saying to one another, Jesus is asking more than just what our words are. Jesus is actually asking us about how we relate to others. Jesus wants us to live life to the full and that means sharing life with others completely. However, how are we doing that? What do we talk about along the way we share with others?
Our conversations define us, don’t they? What we say with our friends reveals our lives – in other words, we do speak about what really matters to us. As this is true about our conversations with friends, isn’t this even more important when we speak with strangers? Don’t we really explain just who we are when we talk with someone we don’t know?
This is the story of the good samaritan writ large, I think. Didn’t he open his heart – as well as his purse – to the man who despised him? That is something no one does today. We don’t speak with strangers – and we tell our children not to speak with strangers – so our world is silent. Jesus is the stranger speaking with strangers, isn’t he?
When Jesus was “opening the scriptures” to those disciples on the road to Emmaus, didn’t he give us a model about how to live our lives? We can open our world of meaning to all whom we meet. We need to walk alongside them sharing conversation and disclosing our lives. When we walk with anyone, shouldn’t we be able to say ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while we were talking on the road?’