Breakthrough! – Worship @ Home Sunday, 11 April 2021

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Elizabeth Turner

Song: Christ is alive, let Christians sing

Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
His cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring.
His love in death shall never die.

Christ is alive! No longer bound
To distant years in Palestine,
He comes to claim the here and now
And conquer ev’ry place and time.

Not throned above, remotely high,
Untouched, unmoved by human pains,
But daily, in the midst of life,
Our Saviour with the Father reigns.

In ev’ry insult, rift and war,
Where colour, scorn or wealth divide,
He suffers still, yet loves the more,
And lives, though ever crucified.

Christ is alive! His Spirit burns
Through this and ev’ry future age,
Till all creation lives and learns
His joy, his justice, love and praise.

Song: Lord I lift your name on high

Lord, I lift your name on high;
Lord, I love to sing Your praises.
I’m so glad You’re in my life;
I’m so glad You came to save us.

You came from heaven to earth to show the way,
From the earth to the cross,
My debt to pay.
From the cross to the grave,
From the grave to the sky,
Lord, I lift Your name on high.

Rick Founds.
© 1989 Maranatha! Music/Adm. by CopyCare.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen.

Bible Reading Luke 24:13-35

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along, they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”

35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.

Breakthrough

Experiencing a moment of ‘breakthrough’ in almost any context can be so exhilarating that we forget what we need to do to reach that joyous state! The disciples on the road home to Emmaus on that first Easter day ought to have ‘stayed’ with the report of the women returning from the tomb earlier that day. If ‘amazing’ things were being reported to them by the women of ‘empty tombs, angelic visitations and conversations conveying the news that Jesus was alive’ and further confirmation by some men of their number that the tomb was indeed empty, why weren’t they taking the time to consider all these reports and weigh up what that meant? Especially as Jesus himself had prepared his disciples whilst he was still alive for all that was to happen to him later. 

Being good Jewish men, their lessons in the synagogue as boys would have highlighted key texts concerning a coming Messiah, his life, death and coming kingdom and all that would mean not just for Jews but for the whole world. Had they put their heads together, laying all the pieces of this conundrum as they saw it before them—what they had learned, what they had seen, what they had heard—they might have had the breakthrough that would have dazzled, thrilled and lifted their spirits sky-high!

Perhaps they felt they had ‘wrestled’ with it long enough and weren’t getting anywhere, and so felt it was time to ‘call it a day’, head home and move on with the rest of their lives. Walking with Jesus had been good whilst it lasted; they’d had some wonderful experiences with him that they wouldn’t forget in a hurry. Such a shame that it had all ended so horribly for them. But now that it was it, that part of their life was over. As for the mystery of the empty tomb, well it would have to remain just that: a mystery.

Neil Armstrong, the first man who walked on the moon, wrote,  “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”[1] Having a ‘breakthrough’ in our understanding or encountering challenging experiences requires both mental and physical effort if we would walk in awesome places.

As the two disciples make their way homeward, it seems that the events of Jesus’ trial, dreadful death and the day’s mystery is very much the heart of their conversation, for the pathos of it all is carried in their faces, posture and pace. So, when Jesus falls into step with them as they walk the Emmaus road, he asks them “What are you talking about, so sad and gloomy?” (Luke 24:17).

Unaware of their fellow traveller’s identity as they hardly look at him, the disciples dolefully relate the events that surely ‘everyone in Jerusalem’ ought to have known. The playful enquiry of Jesus should have been enough of an ‘interrupter’ to jolt them from their cyclical mood of misery and attend to the presence and person of their companion. Had the disciples looked him fully in the face, they might have had a growing awareness of who it was they were addressing as they related the tale of these events. The disciples might sooner have comprehended that this was no day for gloom or despair, but for unbridled joy and exultation as they stood in the presence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ!

It took a guided ‘hop, skip and a jump’ by Jesus through the pages of Scripture, to help them understand that what they had seen, was indeed what had been foretold; so fulfilling those prophesies and bringing regeneration and joy to all people who believe. As they listened, maybe even questioned and debated these familiar texts, it was perhaps rather like the scenario of car headlights catching the reflective studs of ‘cat’s eyes’ along the road, illuminating the shape of the way ahead so as to give the driver confidence to continue his or her journey.

But it was not until the disciples reached home that their real ‘breakthrough’ moment occurred, in the familiar way Jesus prayed and broke the bread. They’d seen it only days before at that last Passover supper they had shared with Jesus in the upper room. They had seen it when he had miraculously fed the 5,000 plus and the 4,000 plus with the little he had been offered. And presumably they had seen that same action in the many other unrecorded meals they shared together as friends, during the course of his ministry in proclaiming the good news of God’s saving grace. Like that final piece of a jigsaw popped into place to reveal the complete picture, they suddenly realised they had been in the company of Jesus once more and could not contain their joy!

On hurtling back to Jerusalem in order to find and tell the other disciples that they had seen the risen Lord Jesus, they found the group ‘buzzing’ with the news of another ‘breakthrough’ encounter. Jesus’ special appearance to Peter a little earlier on that first Easter day happens away from our gaze. It would have been a poignant moment of reconnection following Peter’s denials of ever knowing Jesus. The compassion and love that Jesus had for Peter and for the disciples on the Emmaus road, each locked into their own ‘dungeons of despair’, highlights a truth author Anne Lamott shares: “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

Jesus would aid more ‘breakthrough’ moments in the lives of his followers today, if only we would take the Scriptures to heart, and take time to wonder what God wants us to understand from those words and stories; to consider what their impact on our lives and living for him would yield as we allow ourselves to be shaped by them.

The ‘Godly Play Stories’, or ‘Stories for the Soul’ as they are sometimes called, very helpfully immerse us in the stories of Scripture in a way that perhaps we are not always led to, by simply reading plain text.

When we ‘see’ something of the struggle of Abram & Sarai, for example – ordinary people no different from us, following the call of God on their lives and all that it meant for them – we begin to see how our own simple steps of obedience to God in our day might translate to a bigger, more extra-ordinary story of faith. The words and stories of Scripture are not meant only to be read and tucked away again on a bookshelf; we are meant to read the narratives and ‘wonder’ about them.

In a way we need to become ‘curious’ about the Bible stories and bring the elements of those stories to live in the contexts of our own present-day issues. Speaking about research, Geoffrey Hinton stated, “In the long run, curiosity-driven research just works better… Real breakthroughs come from people focusing on what they’re excited about.”

The same could be said about our faith walk. The breakthroughs come when we become excited about God and focus our attention on him and on his incomparable power. When God’s people came ‘so close to God’ and allowed ‘God to come so close’ to them, they saw God move very powerfully in their lives. When that happened, their joy knew no bounds, as we saw in the story of the disciples on the road home to Emmaus.

If we have chosen to make God King of our lives, have we retained our excitement in being in relationship with him? If not, let us focus our attention fully on him and rekindle our love for him and the delight that he is in our lives.

Let us keep looking toward God through the pages of our Bibles, as he reveals himself to us in our everyday lives. Let us wonder and wrestle with him around the things that amaze us, that confuse us or that concern us. And as we fall into step with him, we will surely experience the most joyous and astonishing breakthrough moments that only he can bring! 

Song: O disclose thy lovely face

Sing to any tune that goes with “Rock of Ages”

Jesus face by Greg Joens

O disclose thy lovely face!
Quicken all my drooping powers;
Gasps my fainting soul for grace
As a thirsty land for showers.
Haste, my Lord, no more delay;
Come, my Saviour, come away.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee;
Joyless is the day’s return
Till thy mercy’s beams I see,
Till thou inward light impart,
Glad my eyes and warm my heart.

Visit, then, this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiance divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Pastoral Prayer: Emmaus Road

Risen One, like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, we struggle to recognize you in the everyday journey of our lives. We seek your wisdom in the midst of the questions we have about the circumstances we find ourselves in—circumstances sometimes beyond our control, but often of our own making.

Open our eyes, Light of the World, to your work of transformation in and around us. As we walk with you day by day, may your new life be made manifest in what we say to others. Help us to understand the power of our words to hurt or to heal; give us the graciousness to make all our conversations holy.

Just as we desire that our speaking be holy, may our seeing be holy as well. We are bombarded with images everyday O Christ, that shape our attitudes and behaviours. As you opened the scriptures to the disciples and taught them everything, open our eyes to behold you in your Word, in the beauty of nature, the beauty of another human being and the beauty of sacred art.

And in our seeing, help us to recognize and welcome the stranger in our midst. May our welcome be a celebration of the gifts and graces of persons who are different from us and not merely some token tolerance of an outsider.

You were known to the disciples in the breaking of the bread. May your resurrection presence guide us in the decisions we make about what we take into our bodies—especially what we eat and what we drink. Help us to understand our eating and drinking as sacred events, not to be abused or approached mindlessly.

So often we forget, Holy One, that you invite us to abide with you; to have our lives hidden in you. We thank you that you travel with us in our joys and our concerns.

Amen.

~ posted on the Church of Ireland website.
http://www.churchnewsireland.org/wp-content/uploads/Easter-3-.pdf

Song: When we walk with the Lord

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of his word.
What a glory he sheds on our way;
While we do his good will,
He abides with us still.
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise,
Not a cloud in the skies,
But his smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt nor a fear,
Not a sigh nor a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear.
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil he doth richly repay;
Not a grief nor a loss,
Not a frown nor a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove
The delights of his love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor he shows,
And the joy he bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at this feet,
Or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What he says we will do,
Where he sends we will go,
Never fear, only trust and obey.

John Henry Sammis (1846-1919)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.


[1] (Neil Armstrong, Anne Lamott & Geoffrey Hinton Quotes Source: https://www.brainyquote.com)

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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