Rocky Road Epistles Chapter 5

Rocky Road Epistle for Sunday 19th April 2020

Chapter 5

The next chapter from your minister in exile, to those whose normal life is restricted or (as one of our fellowship put it) those who feel they are under house arrest. 

How has this last week been?  Easter still happened, Jesus is risen, Hallelujah!

I gave you 2 challenges last week.  How many of you sang on your doorstep? Phil and I did, it was a lovely experience to express faith in the open air and we got a round of applause afterwards from various neighbours!

The other challenge was to make a note of one or more “Daily Joys”, things that have brought you joy during the day.  What joys has the Lord given you this last week?  Have you told others?

We are now in the fourth week of this lock down.  The initial novelty has worn off and it is now the challenge of keeping going.  It reminds me of cycling up a hill.  Phil and I have been out on our bikes for exercise, but whichever way we go there are hills.  The ones like the road we live on are doable since the end is in sight at the top.  The harder ones are where you cannot see the top, where the going gets harder and you come round a corner to find another section of the uphill with no end in sight.  At that point I sometimes have to walk, but we still keep going up.  Let us encourage each other to keep going, keep praying, keep phoning each other and keep going up in our spiritual journeys.

A couple of thoughts for you

Thank you to those who have encouraged me with comments on these epistles.  It was great to share Maundy Thursday Communion and know that others were doing the same.  A few of you joined us online which was great.  Please see the note later about the weekly Bible Studies on Wednesday evenings.

Passage for next week is John 20 v.19-31


Reflection from Phillip

based on the passage for this week

The Walk to Emmaus  Luke 24:13-35

Of all the Easter stories, this one about the walk to Emmaus, is my favourite.  It involves two people, Cleopas and an unknown companion, who were in the despair of grief and confusion for their friend Jesus of Nazareth, the one they hoped would be the promised Messiah, had been crucified.  Then there was news of an empty tomb and extraordinary stories of angels declaring that Jesus was alive.  What were the friends to make of it?  Perhaps they had had enough of the big city and decided it was time to leave for their home in Emmaus.

As they journeyed, someone joined them, and it wasn't just a thought in their minds.  It was no wishful thinking.  Luke is quite clear about it - Jesus himself came up and walked along with them (v15).  They didn't see him coming towards them or bump into him at a road junction, from what is said in verse 18 about the visitor having been in Jerusalem, he was travelling the same direction as them.

There they were, friends on a journey, and as many do, they were talking and discussing.  The events puzzled them, Jesus had been crucified, so how could he be alive again.  Humanly speaking they could not understand it.  Tired and absorbed in their conversation, they didn't notice Jesus walking with them and clearly listening to them, for some while before he spoke.  But when he did speak, Jesus' question caused them to stand still (v17).  It could have been genuine surprise that a third person was in on their conversation, but the real reason for their shock was that the stranger didn't know what had been going on.  So, they started to tell him and described Jesus as a prophet.  "powerful in word and deed before God" (v19), but they limited him to a prophet.  Their perception of Jesus was finite and as far as they were concerned, he was now dead.  They simply didn't believe that resurrection could happen.

So, Jesus started to teach them, and beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (v27).  That is one of the most important lessons we can learn from this story.  We need to grasp fully the whole of scripture, not just the comfortable bits.  Humanly speaking Cleopas and his friend failed to recognise Jesus because they had homed in on just one thing.  Jesus was dead, and no amount of hearsay evidence about an empty tomb and visions of angels could have persuaded them otherwise.  Like many a modern-day sceptic they were convinced that resurrection miracles could not happen.  But they were about to have their eyes opened. 

It was nearly evening, and the friends had reached their destination.  Jesus acted as if he were going further and I'm sure he would have gone on and out of their lives if they hadn't invited him to stay.  Jesus will come and dine with us, but as he says in the book of Revelation (3:20), we must open the door and invite him in.  Cleopas and his companion invited Jesus in.  He was no longer a stranger, they welcomed him in and gave him the honour of saying grace at the meal.  As Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them, their eyes were opened.

Now I don't know exactly what it was that triggered it for them.  They could have heard Jesus say grace before, and his style of praying as the beloved Son giving thanks to his heavenly Father must have been unique.  Perhaps as Jesus took the bread, they noticed his hands and wrists that were marked where the nails had been.  Whatever it was, suddenly they recognised him.  It was the resurrected Jesus!

Now the two friends had probably taken a couple of hours to walk to Emmaus.  It was now dark, but those two friends had got just one thing in mind - to get back to the others.  They had news to tell and the others had news for them.  For yes it was true, the Lord has risen.

I said at the start that this is my favourite Easter story and I also think it is an appropriate one for our current situation for like the two friends we are in small groups or alone with plenty of time for thoughts to spiral around in our heads.  Yet we are not isolated, for Jesus is with us; the silent companion on the road and the guest at the table when we invite him in.  For it is true, Jesus is not dead.  He has risen and is alive!

Prayer

Loving Father we thank you for your care of us.  We lift to you those who are caring for others at this time, those described as being on the front line in the NHS, those working in the emergency services, in shops, in transport, in care homes and caring in the community.  Bless those who seek to support others around them or who are caring for friends or family.  Give us all wisdom on what we can do to show your love to those around.

We praise you Jesus, our suffering Saviour, risen Redeemer and coming King.  We ask you to be close to those suffering from Covid 19, their families and those looking after them.  We pray for those who are suffering in other ways and those who need medical help in such difficult circumstances.  We also remember before you those migrants who are still making dangerous journeys to escape from suffering.

Holy Spirit, breath of the living God, grant us strength to keep going, bring wisdom to those in authority as they make decisions at this time and bring peace into those households where people are facing abuse or violence.

Almighty God, our great three in one, we bring you all our prayers knowing that as we hold onto you, you hold onto us.  Amen

Song for Sunday

This is a most beautiful hymn and reminds me of the words of Jesus,
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds” John 12 v.23-24. 
That seed has been sown in our lives (“parable of the sower” Luke 8 v.1-15).  Charles Spurgeon pointed out that “Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil and let us see what we are made of.”  God uses difficult circumstances, tragedy, suffering, pain, betrayal, and even death itself, not to hurt or punish us, but to bring us to a deeper faith. 

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
love lives again that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid him, love whom men had slain,
thinking that he never would awake again,
laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen;
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain,
back from the dead my risen Lord is seen;
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
then His touch can call us back to life again,
back from the dead my risen Lord is seen;
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Words John Crum,
© Oxford University Press, CCLI #5638


Encouragement in prayer

  • On a Sunday morning, around 10.45am, take time to pray, read the week’s passage & reflection and even sing the hymn.  Around 11am say the Lord’s Prayer
  • On a weekday morning around 10am pause to pray for a few minutes, use the prayer diary or the directory to pray for a few people from our fellowship as well those you are concerned for.  Again, finish that session with the Lord’s prayer
  • Use the prayer diary which has Bible readings on weekdays.  Thanks to Margaret for all you have done in producing this

Suggestions

  • To remind you that each Wednesday and Sunday at 7pm, Lynn Green (General Secretary of the Baptist Union) is hosting a live prayer event that is gathering Baptists up and down the country.  This is a great way to feel connected to the wider family at a time when many of us are isolated and under pressure.  Please use this link to connect to the event www.baptist.org.uk/prayerbroadcasts

Weekly Bible Study on Wednesdays at 7.30pm, all are welcome to join in and if you do not have internet you can join us over the phone.

As mentioned in last week’s Epistle we are starting this Wednesday (15th) to do a “lock down” Bible Study which will be a gentle stroll through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

The passage for 15th April is Philippians 1 v.1-11, I am aware that some of you will receive this epistle after 15th, but you can still look at the passage yourself. 

If you would like to join with others, we are using the online “Zoom” system again. 

If you are on e-mail you should have received the link. 

  • If you have a smart phone you can also access this, please contact me and I can send you the necessary links and password
  • If you have a phone and want to join in the Bible Study then please contact Laura directly for instructions. The cost is the cost of a normal phone call, but if you need to keep within an hour for length and we go over that, there should be no problem of you ringing off and then ringing back in.

If you prefer to do this Bible Study at home then why not look for five “somethings”?

  1. Something about God
  2. Something about people or myself
  3. Something that stands out
  4. Something you don’t understand
  5. Something that is a command or promise or encouragement

The passage for the 22nd April is Philippians 1 v.12-18


Lastly

Here is something that Craig has written on Facebook which I thought would be good to share with all the fellowship.

Happy Easter everyone! Jesus has risen, Hallelujah! Jesus is alive to this day!

I’m reading the happy story Norman The Caterpillar.  πŸ›  In the beginning Norman the caterpillar πŸ›is a bit sad πŸ˜”,but by the end he is as happy as can be and he spends the rest of his life with his friend Cynthia the snail.  🐌

Norman is sad 😭in the beginning because he is abnormal and goes everywhere backwards! Other forest creatures make fun of him because of this.  When this happens in the story, Norman crawls up a tree 🌳 and hides under a twig there. 

People made fun of Jesus on the cross.  So Norman the caterpillar being teased by the forest creatures and then going up a tree and hiding under a twig is a bit like soldiers mocking Jesus and nailing him to a cross.✝️

Norman stayed up a tree all night, just like Jesus lay in the tomb all day the next day.  ⚰️ The twig covering Norman up in the tree is a bit like the stone that was in front of Jesus’s tomb.  The next day in the story, Norman has grown wings and become a butterfly! πŸ¦‹ His friend Cynthia the snail comes looking for him and thinks it’s a dream when she finds him as a butterfly flying and not in the tree.🌳  Cynthia knew that Norman had gone up a tree because she been asking all the forest creatures if they seen him and some of them told her that seen Norman crawl up a tree.  Cynthia not finding Norman in the tree is a bit like the stone being rolled away from the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. 

Norman then says to her “Cynthia look at me you’re not dreaming!” πŸ˜ƒ Cynthia had been searching for Norman all day and all night and when she couldn’t find him she started crying and ended up calling in her own tears, for she was deeply in love with Norman.  He was her best friend and she adored him.  Jesus was Mary’s son and Mary loved him.

So Cynthia looking for Norman is a bit like Mary coming along and finding the empty tomb with Jesus no longer there!  Mary burst into tears! Then Jesus walked up to her and asked “why are you crying?” Mary answers “because they’ve taken my Lord and I don’t know where they’ve put him”.  😭 Then Jesus says “Mary it’s me!” Then Mary’s tears turned to happiness!πŸ˜„ That’s a bit like Norman saying to Cynthia “Cynthia look it’s me Norman!” Then also there and then Cynthia turned from sad ☹️ to happy.  πŸ˜ƒ

It just goes to show that Easter 🐣 had a sad beginning, but a happy ending.  Everyone was sad on the first day because Jesus was crucified on the cross, but three days later everyone was rejoicing because Jesus came back to life! So Easter and the story Norman The Caterpillar have something in common don’t they?! I didn’t realise that until now!

The stone in front of his tomb had been rolled away and the tomb was empty!!! There were two angels πŸ‘Ό πŸ‘Ό in the tomb dressed in white and they told his mother Mary and the other woman who was with her (who was also named Mary) “Jesus has risen, he is no longer dead, go to Galilee and there you will see him.”

They also told Mary Jesus’s mother and her friend (also called Mary) to tell the disciples that they would see Jesus in Galilee.  Originally, both women named Mary, had gone to put oil and spices on Jesus’s body early on the Sunday morning.  They were expecting to find him lying dead in his tomb.