What follows are elements from the Sermon I would have given on the above date, including Communion, as I revisited this sermon which was to be the last of a trio on the basis of “Words” it struck me how relevant it was to the current situation. - Keith Finch, Nelmes URC
Acts 2: 14a, 36-41
Peter concludes his open-air sermon with a strong statement about the identity of Jesus: ‘God has made him both Lord and Messiah’, and a hard-hitting accusation: ‘this Jesus whom you crucified’ (v.36).
How could they get it so wrong? They ask the anguished question, ‘What should we do?’ (v.37). Peter’s answer is surprising – he does not tell them to go away in sackcloth and ashes, but to be baptized and then they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a promise for all who hear God’s call. Peter gives them an urgent yet open invitation
Two disappointed and heartsick disciples are making their way home when Jesus himself comes and walks beside them. Their eyes are kept (literally, ‘held back’) from recognising him. We are not told who or what prevents them from knowing – it could be God’s direct action, or the trauma they have experienced in witnessing his death, or a combination of both.
Jesus asks them what they have been talking about as they walked along, and there follows the almost comical scene of Cleopas and his companion recounting the story of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ to – Jesus of Nazareth! When he first asks them, though, they stand still ‘looking sad’, as if the horror of recent events has sapped all their energy. The word for ‘sad’ here could also be translated ‘angry’. Either way, they are overcome with deep emotion or say, ‘We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.’ ‘Redeeming Israel’ could mean freeing Israel from Roman rule, but it could also indicate more far-reaching hopes, such as the idea that the Messiah would end all wars or bring about the end of time. Whatever they were hoping for, it all seems lost now.
Then the unrecognised Jesus begins to reframe their experience by explaining to them, from the Scriptures, that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer; it was in God’s plan and not a terrible accident. It is as if this unknown teacher takes their isolated beads of knowledge and re-strings them into a different sequence revealing a new pattern. Their hearts burn within them as they listen to him. It is this new knowledge, plus their own generous hospitality, that paves the way for the moment when they recognise him in the breaking of the bread
The gift of story is significant in the way the Scriptures have been written and shared. They began as a faithful retelling of stories from generation to generation: around a fire, walking along the road, and then written down for us to hold onto today. Much as I touched on when we attempt to build a Family Tree.
Jesus begins to reframe the experience of the two disciples on the road by explaining God’s story, told through the Scriptures. It is as if this unknown teacher takes their isolated beads of knowledge and re-strings them into a different sequence, revealing a new pattern: God’s story. We see within scripture the imperative and the power of sharing God’s story.