The road to Emmaus.26th April 2020

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Most commentators notice the chiastic structure of the story (a pattern of inverted parallelism), Joel Green’s  version is the one above.(in his NICNT commentary)

The above was taken for Ian Paul’s site where you can also find the link to Malcolm Guite’s beautiful sonnets for today  which we used for our inspiration this morning.

We reflected on how it seems so unfair that in our deepest need we have so little to grasp on to and,

Psalm 23:4 The Message (MSG)

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.

doesn’t ring true.

Each of us spoke of how the glimmer, even the desire and anger, showed we cared. For some of us the passion with which we cried out in anger when God wasn’t there was inspiring. For some nature in its glory helped in times of bewilderment.

It was encouraging how often this brought us back to the story of the Emmaus Road .

This was the art offered to us

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We were all encouraged that it was the burning in their hearts and Jesus showing himself that brought joy to the disciples.

Isaiah 42:3 New International Version (NIV)

A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

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Thomas: Sunday 19th April 2020

Sunday’s ‘virtual’ meeting this week was focussed around the story of the time when the disciples were together after the resurrection and Jesus appeared to them.

We spent time in the conversation considering what that might have actually been like. Some people expressed empathy and understanding for Thomas (remembered as “doubting Thomas”) and we discussed what tone of voice Jesus might have used in inviting Thomas to come and touch his wounds.

Many of us agreed that Jesus‘ motivation for appearing would most likely have been to reassure and affirm his friends rather than to reprimand or shame them for doubting. It is likely that he understood the trauma and anguish they had gone through by watching him die and how unbelievable it would have been to them that he was in fact resurrected back to life.

This led to us considering the impact this might have had on the disciples for their futures. They had witnessed a gruesome, traumatic and devastating event as their friend was killed on the cross but here a week or so later they see he is alive and well. Imagine the safety and security this would bring in knowing that even if the worst possible thing happens- it turns out all right in the end.

Maybe this was the key to their strength in facing the ordeals that they each did as they were martyred at the end of their lives?

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Lock-down meeting

We continue to meet each Sunday remotely, using google meet. Our format is first to be the community and share a coffee, swap stories and report on the week. We then continue to use the excellent resources provided by Vanderbilt Divinity Library and read in turn from the readings for the day. In addition, we follow through by watching together the presentation, put together by the Library, of art round the world to represent the words in the readings.

And then we discuss how each of us has been spoken to through the readings.

This is fruitful and it sets us up in our prayer, which includes the Lord’s Prayer, and for the blessing of the week to come.

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Reflections on Jacob’s ladder

By Catedrales e Iglesias Album 2646

Enrique López-Tamayo Biosca / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

There is an intriguing passage early in St John’s gospel where Jesus is recruiting his disciples and says to the sceptical Nathanial:  “… You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” (John 1, v.51).

The reference is clearly to Jacob’s dream at Bethel in the Old Testament (Genesis 28, v.12), the episode generally referred to a “Jacob’s ladder”, when God renewed with Jacob the covenant originally made with Abraham, that through his descendants all the families of the Earth should be blessed. This covenant and Jacob’s prophetic dream are fulfilled in Jesus, who is the bridge between God and man.

Jesus’s life here on Earth demonstrates this two-way angelic traffic. He was constantly in communion with his Father, a relationship cultivated in prayer, meditation on scripture, waiting, listening and growing sensitivity. In return, he heard the Father’s voice, receiving grace, direction, power and authority. Not only this, but Jesus made clear to his followers that the same relationship was open to them: he both exemplified it and taught them to live it.

Thinking of Jacob’s ladder and how it might be interpreted, an old hymn from my childhood came to mind: “Oh happy band of pilgrims”. The writer rather grimly evokes:

“The trials that beset you, the sorrows you endure,

The manifold temptations that death alone can cure”,

and goes on:

“What are they but the ladder set up to Heaven on Earth”.

While not wanting to deny that suffering, embraced in the right spirit, can bring us closer to God, this seems to me very typical of the human approach: How do I get up there? What must I do? There is a wonderful gospel song, known to me in a version by the Golden Gate Quartet, on this theme: “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder”:

Heaven is to be scaled with scaling ladders by “soldiers of the cross”.

Of course, images and metaphors can only be stretched so far before they collapse in the heap, but the scripture that comes to my mind at this point is: “As he is, so are we in this world.” (I John 4, v.17). Jesus is the bridge, the ladder. So are we. Isn’t that what he called us to be? Rather than seeing the ladder as something external, difficult and dangerous we have to climb, rung by painful rung, might we not see ourselves as the ladder, individually and collectively. To quote Psalm 84: “The highway to your city runs through my heart”.

The traffic between Earth and Heaven passes through us, and in both directions. This is not something we have to strive for. God in his grace has made us the go-betweens, the priests of the new covenant (to use another metaphor!). We enter into this role by cultivating our communion with the Father, just as Jesus did and taught his disciples to do. So relax, chaps. We are perfectly loved and accepted. By the grace of God we are what we are. Abide in him. Let the grapes grow on your particular branch of the vine.

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Famous prayers – Late have I loved you – Augustine | Reflections

Famous prayers – Late have I loved you – Augustine | Reflections
— Read on kathwilliamson.blogspot.com/2009/04/famous-prayers-late-have-i-loved-you.html

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