[Zephaniah 3.14-end;] Acts 2.14a,36-41; 1 Peter 1.17-23;
Almighty Father, who in your great mercy gladdened the
disciples with the sight of the risen Lord: give us such knowledge
of his presence with us, that we may be strengthened and sustained
by his risen life and serve you continually in righteousness and
truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
SOMETIMES we can risk being vulnerable with other people, if we
are not looking at them, but just keeping company with them. While
working for a few months as a hospital chaplain in the United
States, I visited a patient who was curt with everyone, and upset
most of the nurses. She was not sure what to make of a chaplain
with a British accent, especially when, somehow, I ended up
teaching her to knit.
I discovered that, as I sat alongside her, sorting things out
when her knitting went a bit awry, she started to talk. As her
scarf grew, some of her story crept out. When we said a final
goodbye, she was surprised to find that she had not only knitted
most of a scarf, but had expressed things that she had never before
articulated, and that her anger was gradually being defused. The
nurses noticed the change.
So I can understand how these two disciples started to talk, as
they trudged home from Jerusalem, after the extraordinary events
about which even strangers in the city knew. We do not know how
much they knew, except that they heard from people who had gone to
the tomb, and heard also that the Apostles did not believe the
How things had changed by the time Peter spoke so boldly to the
crowds about God's making the crucified Jesus the Lord and Messiah,
or when the epistle was written, with its absolute assurance that
God raised Christ from the dead.
But that was later; this was still the third day after the
crucifixion, with its horrific memories of Jesus's suffering, and
now the wild rumours. Walking side by side probably freed these
disciples to express their doubts and confusion.
When Jesus joined them, he specifically referred to their
walking, and then Luke records that they stood still. We can
imagine it happening: the stopping, turning, and raising their
heads to look at him. Here was eye contact; sad eye contact.
The rhythm of walking broken, they did not answer the question
directly, but asked one back of him, and resumed their discussion
only when he pressed again. He coaxed their doubts and fears out of
them, and gradually their confusion and grief poured out in a
torrent of words.
Ultimately, "We had hoped . . ." said it all. Somehow, we are
miles away from the collect's assurance that the disciples were
gladdened with the sight of the risen Lord.
Yet that changed, not as a result of what Jesus said, but of
what he did - actions spoke louder than words. Incidentally, this
is another indication that there were more than just the 12
disciples at the Last Supper: these two recognised Jesus's actions
of four days earlier. Once their eyes had been opened, Jesus
promptly vanished. Again, they were left to make sense of the
inexplicable but, this time, on the basis of their own
In Luke's account, this was the first encounter with the risen
Jesus because, until now, although his body was evidently missing,
only angels had been seen. By that evening, Peter, too, had had a
similar encounter, and the rest knew about it. The collect's
petition for such knowledge of his presence with us as will
strengthen and sustain us for continual service was being answered
for them, and will be for us.
In the breaking of the bread
we recognise you,
As you take the bread and bless
and break and give;
In the wine poured out
and shared we know forgiveness,
By your body and your blood,
O Lord, we live.
In our pain and in our grief
you walk beside us
Staying with us as we voice
our deepest fear.
As the darkness falls around us, Lord, stay with us,
Still the doubts that rise,
speak peace we need to hear.
In the opening of scripture,
we know you;
As you speak the words of life
our hearts are stirred,
In the truth revealed
we understand God's purpose:
To our slow and doubting hearts,
Lord, speak your word.
In the gathering of your
come among us,
You are risen indeed,
we know that to be true.
Break the bread and bless
the wine and feed your people,
Through your Holy Spirit's
power our lives renew.
© 1988 Rosalind Brown