Welcome to Worship at home for the Second Sunday of Easter. Click this link to see and download the Worship at Home service sheet for today:
Reflection for the Sunday after Easter – Prune for Greater Fruitfulness?
Chapter 24 of Luke’s gospel tells the story of an experience that a couple of the disciples had while walking to the village of Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked a man they did not recognise came and walked alongside them. As they walked and talked, they told him their story: Full of sadness they described how how Jesus of Nazareth had, by his words and his deeds, proved himself to be a prophet in the sight of God and the whole people and yet how the chief priests and rulers had handed him over to be sentenced to death and had crucified him. They spoke of how they had been hoping that he was going to liberate Israel from the tyranny of Roman occupation and how, on this third day, the women had brought astounding news. Having gone early in the morning to the tomb, they had returned telling a story of an empty tomb and of angels who had told them that Jesus was alive! And they told how others had gone to the tomb and found things just as the women had said – although they did not see Jesus themselves.
Then this stranger walking with the disciples on the the Emmaus road, responded to their story by telling them his story. He started with Moses and the prophets and worked his way through the Hebrew Scriptures explaining to them all the things in scripture that referred to himself (Luke 24). It must have been a long conversation because it took the full seven miles until they reached the village of Emmaus. When they got there, the disciples offered the stranger hospitality and later, as he broke bread with them, their eyes were opened to recognise the truth of who this stranger was – Jesus himself.
Then the two disciples hurried back to Jerusalem where the eleven disciples and others had gathered. They had locked themselves away in this room after the crucifixion because they were afraid (John 20: 19-31). I wonder how they coped with a lock down situation? No doubt they suffered from the same feelings of anxiety and fear and depression that many of us have felt at the present time.
But as they waited in fear, a wonderful thing happened. Suddenly Jesus was there among them again – this time offering material proof for doubters – they could see his wounds. Jesus says to Thomas “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”.
Perhaps at this time, while we are in lock down, we should remind ourselves that, just as Jesus was among the disciples during their lock down time, so he is with us also in ours. We may not be able to see him, or touch his wounds as Thomas did, but his presence is no less real. And we can call upon the Holy Spirit at any time.
As the gospel story moves to the book of Acts, we read several accounts of the disciples telling their own story and we can see a great change that came over them. From running away and hiding themselves in a locked room, now, filled with the Holy Spirit, they find the courage to move out from their hiding place to begin to tell their story to anyone who will listen. The news of Jesus is so wonderful and so astounding that it just has to be told.
When they step out from their locked room the followers of Jesus, who become the nucleus of the early Christian community, realise that they will have to do things differently from then on – worship in different ways, adopt different ways and rituals and so on. Those of us who have been following Holy Habits in the last few months are by now very familiar with the passage from Acts 2: 42 – 47 which describes the early Christian community getting to grips with what it means to be a follow of Jesus and the new ways of being that this requires of them.
Earlier in the week I posted a reflection from Lee Abbey, Devon given by Rev Gordon Crowther, the new Warden of the Abbey. Gordon arrived to take up his post just as the Abbey was closing and going into lock down! In his message he suggests that this time of stopping doing all those things with which we fill out lives and our church life, might actually be a great gift from God.
In church I am often aware of how many of our people, who have been faithful and committed for so many years, feel the strain of keeping everything going. Some have even mentioned how this time has felt liberating as they have realised how much of their life is normally taken up by church activity.
So let us accept gracefully this time of enforced ‘stopping’ to pause and reflect considering questions like: What is life?, What is the meaning of what I am doing? In other words when we think about all that we do – what are the key things that are most important? What are we trying to achieve in terms of God’s mission and how effective are we being?
Maybe the lesson we learn from this is that we can actually achieve more by doing less! Gordon refers to the passage from John 15 where Jesus speaks of the gardener who must prune the vine in order for it to remain fruitful. He says: “Perhaps this is a time of pruning for greater fruitfulness”.
But we won’t know unless we listen to God and what he has to say. So let us also use this time to pray for God to reveal to us those things which are most important to pick up again when this is over, and where we can safely prune for greater fruitfulness.
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