Sunday Sermon - 8th May 2011

Revd Jan KeartonScroll to end for more past sermons

Sermon given by Revd Jan Kearton 8th May 2011

A week, Harold Wilson famously said once, is a long time in politics. This week’s elections have been dramatic, and many of our politicians may be discovering that they’ve arrived at a crossroads. Those elected for the first time must use the excitement they feel to help them to face change and confusion in their lives for a while. Those defeated must prepare to walk a road that passes through shock and disappointment, rejection, uncertainty and even career change. For Scotland, the road to independence may be just over the horizon. For voters in the UK, the road ahead is clear - first past the post it is.

Roads have opened up in world affairs too - Osama Bin Laden has been killed and that   single event has begun to open roads to the future that we can’t clearly see at present - they could be easier to travel or yet more challenging still. In the sporting world, a new road has opened up for Seve Ballesteros, and a different one must be travelled by his family, his friends and those who loved to watch him play.

Our deployed soldiers are walking difficult roads, dusty, hard and white in the glaring heat, mapped out by duty. Protestors in Libya and Syria are walking dangerous, purposeful roads filled with promise but whose directions are hidden from sight around the next bend.  

What road are you travelling today? Perhaps you’ll head off to the shops or go to football practice, go out for a walk or potter in the garden. Are you heading for a huge Sunday lunch and a sleepy collapse on the sofa this afternoon? Wherever you’re headed, I hope the journey’s not too demanding for this Sunday in Easter.

Jesus and Cleopas

The first Easter day set a journey in motion for Cleopas and his fellow disciple - a journey away from Jerusalem and the horror of Good Friday, an exploratory journey into doubt and confusion about the women’s news that morning. In their sadness at the loss of Jesus, Cleopas and his fellow are joined on the road by a stranger who walks alongside them.

Another explorer, Ernest Shackleton, made an Antarctic journey to South Georgia until his ship ‘The Endurance’ was stranded on Elephant Island. He and two companions set out in a lifeboat for the South Georgia coast, eight hundred miles away. When they arrived they travelled across completely uncharted mountains to a remote whaling station where they could report and get help for the stranded crew.

He later said:

‘When I look back on those days I have no doubt that Providence guided us, not only across those snowfields, but across the storm-white sea. .. I know that during that long and racking March of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to me often that we were four, not three. I said nothing to my companions on the point, but afterwards Worsley said to me, ‘Boss, I had a curious feeling on the March that there was another person with us.’

I remember in the nineteen sixties or seventies reading an account written by a young woman who had been captured and tortured in South America. During the painful bouts of torture she became aware of a dim figure standing with her whom she didn’t quite recognise but whose presence was deeply reassuring and helped her to endure. Looking back on the experience, she realised that the presence of the shadowy stranger had changed her experience of horror - she knew in a profound sense that she would never be alone in hard times.

Walking away from confusion and horror in Jerusalem, Cleopas and his fellow disciple didn’t realise that they were in fact walking towards a real encounter with their risen Lord. Jesus’ presence with them would be life-changing again. In that deep encounter with Jesus, they uncovered several resurrection truths. Firstly, that the road of questioning and sadness can be the very road where the risen Christ will choose to meet us; secondly, that Jesus continues to be truly, physically present with his disciples in word and bread and wine; thirdly, that although Christ has vanished from our sight he hasn’t abandoned us to solitary travel but chooses to be with us still; and finally that these truths can set us free to have a living relationship with him, to be his faithful servants and witnesses and to tell others about the difference that his presence makes to our lives.

The road that we’re walking together this morning is Cleopas’ road - the road to a shared meal with Jesus, the Eucharist. Like Cleopas we meet Christ first in word and he sets our hearts on fire with his love. Warmed by that love, we’re ready to experience him closely in the taking, blessing, breaking and sharing of bread and in the outpouring and blessing of  wine.

Like Cleopas may each of us truly encounter our living Lord and receive the redemption that he offers this morning. May we continue as his faithful witnesses along the roads he calls us to walk with him, and may we always gain courage and hope from the reassurance of his unseen presence with us.

AMEN.    

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