Here are notes from our service today, along with some questions to reflect on at the end
Earlier this week, I was reading from Isaiah 54.
I was caught with verse 2 which says:-
‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes, for you will spread out to the right and to the left.’
Well, in the midst of the effects of the coronavirus and our response to it, that’s what we are seeking to do. As we livestream and then upload our services, we are able to reach way beyond our locality. When we start Alpha on Tuesday evening, there’s the potential to invite others, friends, family, work colleagues, from far and near to come and join in as we share in it via Zoom video conferencing.
I was caught with the phrase in Isaiah 54 strengthen your stakes.
That’s what we want to do at this time, to strengthen who we are, for all that we are being called to be, for the Kingdom.
Next week we will begin a series of teaching which came out of our Leadership day away together some 2 months ago. It’ll be entitled ‘Rooted the Thrive’.
As a Leadership, we believe wholeheartedly that God wants us to thrive, even in the midst of the current turmoil. That doesn’t mean everything is great, fabulous, we never face any struggles, it means we thrive even in the midst of struggles.
As a child I saw a violet growing up through the middle of a newly laid tarmac playground. I was amazed at how this tiny, frail little plant managed to force its way up through the hard tarmac. I was reminded that it was only able to do this because it had deep roots. For us to come through tough times, we need to have deep roots down into Jesus
Isaiah 54 continues in v9,10 (I’d encourage you to read the whole chapter, meditate on it, dwell on it, pray over it!)
The Lord is speaking through Isaiah and he says:
‘To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken, and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
I felt as I read that that the Holy Spirit would apply it to us today. Though the coronavirus is affecting people across the world, it’s not like the flood which wiped out all human life apart from the few in the ark. But there is a reminder that whatever happens, his unfailing love and his peace is there in the midst of the storm!
At this time, in the midst of our social distancing and self-isolation as appropriate, it’s my observation that many people are exercising more now, than they would normally do so. Perhaps part of it is that being stuck in your home and only being encouraged to go out for essential supplies, to go to work (if you can’t work from home) and for daily exercise – a walk, a bike or a run, people are desperate to get out!
I was talking with someone who said they are walking much more than they did before – have to admit it’s the opposite for me!
For many people the chosen form of exercise is a daily walk – and some folk have been sharing lovely pictures on social media that they’ve taken whilst out on their walks, or bike rides and so on. Here's some from a walk I went on this past week.
For many, walking regularly like this is a new thing.
At the time of Jesus, it wasn’t a new thing, it was the norm – it was how you got from a to b, for the majority of people.
But their daily walks were often a good bit longer than most of ours! For 2 people in our Bible reading today, they were walking from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus – a distance of around 7 miles – equivalent to walking from here at The Coton Centre – over to Hopwas, through and around the woods back.... and they did it twice... admittedly they had a meal in-between with Jesus.
Our Bible reading today is from Luke 24:13-35
You can read it here:-
A lot happens when we walk:
- Its good for our physical health (look at Captain Tom!)
- Its good for our mental health
In normal times,
- Its good for our social health, and it can be
- Good for our spiritual health
This walk was certainly good for the spiritual health of Cleopas and his friend – I’m guessing it was good for their mental health too, because I’m sure on their second walk back to Jerusalem, they were in a better place emotionally, having met with Jesus. (I know that for me, getting out for some physical exercise helps me with my mental and emotional health – it lifts my mood, releases the endorphins into the blood which lifts your spirits, even when you don’t feel like doing it! You find yourself focusing on positive things around you, rather than on the negative stuff that may be going on inside of your head!)
It was obviously good for their physical health! How many of us would walk 7 miles, sit down to a meal, and then say, ‘Hey! Let’s go and do it all again!!’ Most of us would sit on the couch after the meal and go to sleep!!
Walking is a great place for socialising (admittedly we can’t do that right now!)
Many years ago the church I was a part of was called at that time ‘Rutland Road Church’ and we had a number of groups that began with ‘R’s’ – ‘Rutland Raqueteers’, ‘Rutland Ramblers’.
Rutland Ramblers was generally, relatively easy walks that anyone who had reasonable physical health could come out and join in. It was great times for socialising, people chatting as they walked. We found that very often some of our most important pastoral care happened during those times as conversations opened up.
I remember the blessing of the NOSH men’s walk, soon after Julie and I arrived here in Tamworth just over a year ago. Such a blessed time for me starting to get to know some of the other men in and around the life of the church. Guys, any of you who would be happy to help with organising some future NOSH activities, do please be in touch with me, even during this period we are in at the moment.
Cleopas and his friend were walking along and as they did so they were chatting, v14 ‘ They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.’
As so often happens when you are out walking and chatting, you end up in conversation with others en-route – sometimes its just passing the time of day, saying hello, what a beautiful day it is; sometimes you get into deeper conversation.
For these 2 disciples, as they walked along they met this other guy who walked along with them – I know there are times when out on a bike ride that similar things happen – you come up alongside someone, pass the time of day and end up cycling along together and chatting, until your routes diverge.
The person joining them, seeing they are in deep conversation says, ‘What are you talking about?’
There are things you can do and conversations you can have as you’re walking along, but sometimes the moment comes, and you just have to stop to chat.
V17 ‘They stood still, their faces downcast.’
In a week when there has been much celebration, with Captain Tom going beyond his target in how far he would walk, and way beyond in terms of the finances raised; in a week when there has been celebration over some very elderly folk and our Prime Minister recovering from coronavirus and coming out of hospital and returning to their homes, there have been many others who have tragically lost those who are near and dear to them, who just feel like standing or sitting still with their faces downcast. These disciples knew the trauma of loss; they’d heard of others talking of hope in the midst of the sorrow, but they were lost in the sorrow.
Jesus draws alongside them in the midst of their grief – they are kept from recognising him initially – was this some miraculous blinding of their eyes and minds to who this man walking with them was? Or was it just that they were so overcome with grief, they couldn’t see anything clearly....?
In the midst of their despair, they say to Jesus, v18
‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’
It’s like today meeting someone who seems oblivious to the effects of Covid-19....
How can you not know what we’re talking about? Isn’t it obvious??!!
Jesus says, v19 ‘What things?’
Did Jesus want them to personify what they believed and knew about him?
They replied: ‘About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.’
They explained to Jesus how he had been sentenced to death and crucified. (Bizarre moment!! Explaining to someone who knows exactly what has happened to them, what has happened to them!!) Of how what had happened had led to lost hopes and expectations for the setting free of Israel. And then of how they’d been left all confused through some of the women not finding Jesus’ body in the tomb, of them seeing angels, saying that Jesus was alive, and then of how some of their friends had been to look, to check it out for themselves – and how they’d found that it was true that Jesus’ body wasn’t there – but they didn’t actually see him.... so was it true.... wasn’t it true....
Jesus then begins the process of revealing himself to them, and revealing what he had come to do.
I often find that if I go out walking that God often reveals things to me through what I see. I guess without other distractions, sometimes we get to hear God’s voice better and we get to spend time with him better, talking things over with him. One of the things I miss at the moment is my morning walk up to the church, chatting things over with the Lord as I go.....
Jesus well and truly puts them in the picture about what he had actually come to do...
Sometimes, I wonder if Jesus feels like coming and saying to some of us, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe...’
All the evidence is there for you to believe! Look at the wonder of creation, which declares the glory of God! Look at my word which explains exactly why I came and suffered and died and rose again, so that you might be saved and come into eternal life, if only you would turn from your sin, from your self-centredness and put your faith and trust in me, instead of relying upon yourself.
If you are ready to believe, you can make that step of putting your faith and trust in Christ today. When we come to break bread together shortly – remember how the bread speaks of Jesus’ body being given on the cross for us; remember how the wine speaks of his blood being poured out for us as a sacrifice so that our sins can be forgiven.
For Cleopas and his friend, they asked Jesus, having made friends with him on the road, to come in and to stay with them as it was getting late in the day.
As he shared a meal with them, Jesus took bread and he began to break it and to give it to them, and as Jesus did that, their eyes were opened, and they knew that it was Jesus – and Jesus then disappeared.
I have known a number of people over the years who have become Christians as we have come to share in communion. They have suddenly realised from the vivid symbols of bread and wine representing the body and blood of Jesus, that they had never come and turned from their sin, never thanked him for dying in their place, asking for his forgiveness – and that if they were to share in this communion they needed to do that, otherwise it would be a sham to do so. Maybe you need to do that now.....
The disciples said, v32 ‘ Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’
Perhaps right now, your heart, like mine, is burning within you, stirred by the Holy Spirit making the loving presence of our Father in heaven, and of our Lord and Saviour Jesus known to us.
If you’re burning like that right now, then give your life to Jesus, whether for the first time or the umpteenth time.
As we share in communion, you might like to call someone else and have them share in prayer with you over the phone as we break bread together.
Luke 22:19 ‘And he (Jesus) took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
So let us all take bread, and break it together, and do it in remembrance of him.
Prayer – eat – remember
Luke 22:20 ‘In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”’
Let’s take the cup, pour out and drink together, thanking him for his sacrifice on our behalf.
Prayer – drink – remember
Let us do the same this week. Tell others that our Lord is alive and working today. Tell others what he has done in our lives, how he has blessed us. Invite folks to come and share in Alpha. Come and join in yourself. Please register to do so. If you go to the home page of the website, click on ‘Upcoming events’, you’ll find Alpha there and you can register to come and join in so we can plan groups appropriately.
Concluding prayer & blessing
From our 2020 Vision verse:-
I pray that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened, that we may know the hope of his calling, the wealth of his glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of his power, towards us who believe.
Ephesians 1:18,19 CSB
Questions to consider
READ the passage from Luke 24:13-35
Can you think of any times when you have been travelling and have got into a significant conversation with someone else? Share about it with other members of your group, or perhaps call someone and talk about it.
The disciples poured out how they were feeling at that point. Is there anything that you need to pour out to someone else about how you are feeling at present? If you are not in that place, is there someone you should contact to draw alongside?
Cleopas, and his friend, when asked what they were thinking about, said, ‘About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.’
If you were asked to describe Jesus, who he was, what he has done, what would you want to say?
The disciples had doubts, questions. Are there any doubts or questions that you have about God, Jesus, your relationship with him? Who could you speak with about these things?
As Jesus broke bread with the disciples, and as he opened the scriptures to them, they had a revelation of who Jesus was and of what he had come to do. Can you think back to any times when you have known Jesus giving a fresh understanding of who he is, and what that means for you? Share this with someone else for their encouragement.
V34 ‘It is true! The Lord has risen….’
Take time to praise and worship our risen Saviour Jesus Christ.