Brief Encounters

A friend of mine once wrote a series of plays based on memorable stories from the Bible. He called it ‘Brief Encounters.’ In these brief encounters he helped both actor and audience to see that these stories though centuries old, have an enduring quality to them.

These brief encounters came to mind because in these days of Easter, Jesus’ resurrection appearances are often brief encounters.They are mysterious and intriguing with an enduring quality that makes us stop and think time and again.

This evening is one example when Jesus meets some of the disciples through a brief encounter on the road to Emmaus. It’s a passage I know well, I chose it as the Gospel for when I began my ministry as a parish priest.

It spoke to me then and still does about how we might make Christ known.

How we should come along alongside people and listen, just as Jesus did.
How we should share our stories and talk to help make sense of this life, just as Jesus did.
Of how we meet Jesus the breaking of bread and of how ‘hearts’ are ‘burning within us’ when we meet Jesus along the way.

I could talk about any one of these this evening but instead I want to spend this time reflecting on some other words from the reading, ‘their eyes were kept from recognising him.’

I’ve always been puzzled by the mystery that surrounds the resurrection appearances. For in these brief encounters it’s clear that Jesus has changed.He is unrecognizable to people who knew him well. But then something happens, a word, an action and they know. Why though all this mystery?
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“You want the impossible”

“You want the impossible.” Even if you’ve never seen the Star Wars films, you probably know at least some of the characters. Han Solo, C3-PO, Yoda and Luke Skywalker whose words they are.

He says them when he’s learning to be a Jedi Knight and faced with one particular task, a task he cannot imagine being able to complete, he says to his teacher “You want the impossible.”

Perhaps these were words muttered amongst the two tribes that we heard of in our reading from Ezekiel. Two tribes, each with their own identity likely forged to some extent by their differences, them and us.

We know something of this ‘them and us’ too. Think Lancashire and Yorkshire, Leeds and Bradford, Newcastle and Sunderland, Arsenal and Tottenham and so on. There’s a bit of us that likes belonging to a tribe and it was just the same in Ezekiel’s time.

God’s people had ended up in two tribes and yet these two tribes or two sticks as Ezekiel memorably describes it are, impossible as it may seem, to become one ‘in order that they become one in my hand.’

And it was impossible too that a man who for some, a person to be hated would became an apostle and evangelist for Christ.

In the reading Paul tells his story and is unflinching in his truth telling. He says that he tried to ‘force’ the followers of Jesus ‘to blaspheme.’ Yet this same man speaks words of grace and truth that are still being heard today.

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Big and Small – Pentecost is for All

Sometimes I struggle a bit with this great day for I sometimes feel as though I’m celebrating a birthday of someone or rather something I don’t know that well. Yet though that’s where this sermon began, I’m thankful that as my words today will show, it’s not where I end up.

So why the struggle?

It’s something about that feeling of being excluded.

Often we human beings are good at finding ways to divide ourselves. It’s understandable enough I suppose, we’re all different with different gifts and abilities. No use trying to say we’re the same when we are not. Continue reading “Big and Small – Pentecost is for All”

A vision for living – The Good Life

One of my favourite sitcoms was and still is ‘The Good Life’. You remember it, Tom Good, fed up with his life, of the rat race, to and from work, the pressures that go with it, leave him longing for another way, so with the lovely Barbara they decide to become self-sufficient in Surbiton and live what is for them the good life.

At some point they’d grasped another vision of how their lives might look, no longer dictated by external demands in being self-sufficient they were singing their own song. This morning we remembered Lady Richeldis and her vision of the Holy House at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham but what of us?

So let me begin tonight by posing three related questions. What would you describe as your vision for life? What would be the factors that inform that vision? And have those factors changed?

And vision is also on our minds because of that first reading from Ezekiel when in verse 27 we heard ‘The vision that he sees is for many years ahead; he prophesises for distant times.’

So how would you describe your vision for life? For many of us I guess it’s something we don’t think about it that much. We just get on with living.

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