‘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.’
These words began the Gospel reading for today, a Gospel which as I’ve thought about it has shaped me both as a person, but also as a priest. For the themes of the reading have seeped deeply into how I understand ministry and the church I’ve been called to serve.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that it finds echoes in our vision statement here at St. Mary’s, words written first on the back of an envelope that you find everywhere, on our posters, on our newssheet, on our website and so on. It’s one of those things the incumbent bangs on about.
Hopefully you know what I’m talking about, so please can you join me and say the words (if you’ve forgotten the words are on the Sunday Sheet) that St Mary’s is a place ‘Where all find a welcome and are nurtured in their journey with Christ.’
‘Where all find a welcome and are nurtured in their journey with Christ.’ Let’s think about those echoes between our vision statement and the Gospel for today because there are a number of connections.
About how Jesus meets us wherever we are on our journey. How he listens first before teaching and nurturing and how through our journey with him we are changed.
So what of that Gospel? Two disciples are on a journey to a place called Emmaus. They were walking together. Chatting about what had happened. Trying to make some sense of it. Then the reading says ‘Jesus himself came near.’
That’s a good image of how we imagine Jesus’ relationship with us now too. For this Jesus does come near, journeys with us and shares our life.
In the reading it’s interesting that Jesus, doesn’t immediately reveal to them who he is, there are no words of “here I am” and so on, first of all he comes alongside and he listens.
Here is an image of what his Church should be, a listening church that strives to welcome all, a church that meets people where they are, listens and loves. St Mary’s is truly we pray a place where, ‘Where all find a welcome.’
That’s not always easy and sometimes it means being brave enough to be a different kind of church than we might once have been. It means taking risks as we go beyond these walls inviting all to come and share in the life changing journey of faith together, eager to listen and learn together.
That takes us back to the Gospel for once Jesus had listened ‘he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.’ In some little way that’s what the ‘and are nurtured’ of our vision statement is all about, how we can be nurtured and learn together.
That nurture is made real in what we do through Faithbook at the Brown Cow, through Pilgrim (new courses start next week), through Draw near with faith (it starts next Saturday) and so on. There are opportunities for us all to learn and grow here, whether your journey is just beginning or it’s a well-worn path.
Just as Jesus walked with the disciples explained things to them and helped them to see things differently, so as his people today we strive to do the same. For though Jesus finds us where we are, he doesn’t leave us there, he invites us on a journey. The journey of a lifetime. A journey that transforms us.
The disciples after they met Jesus, as they reflected on their time with him said ‘did not our hearts burn within us.’
Here the St Luke is trying to express the sense of excitement that had Jesus kindled in them, as they learned what his life, death and resurrection meant. Having met him on that road and in the pub when he broke bread and things were never the same again.
Is that not true of us too, especially at the moment, have not our hearts burned within us in these days of Easter? Are we not alive with the Good news of the risen Christ?
So in these great days of Easter, may God give us grace to live into the boldness our vision statement that St Mary’s may truly be a place where ‘all find a welcome and are nurtured in their journey with Christ.’