La cena in Emmaus

A sermon preached
at the Mint Methodist Church, Exeter,
by the Minister, Rev Andrew Sails
at 10.30 p.m. on 10th April 2005,
on the 3rd Sunday of Easter,
on the Sunday
following the funeral of John Paul II
and at the start of the Global Week of Action
for Trade Justice

Readings:  Luke 24:13-35

Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus

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Luke 24:13-35



I listened on Friday to an interview with a Longbridge family  -
the husband in his 50s faced with the collapse of MG Rover
where he had worked all his life, the whole family on the edge of tears.  
They talked of the consortium which took over in 2000,
and the hopes they had of it at the time –
and of the hoped for Chinese deal –
we thought it would be our salvation they said –
but it is not to be– the future is bleak - all our hopes are dashed.


It is a hard thing to have dreamed and dared believe
and then find your hopes turn to dust….


That’s how it must have been for those disciples
trudging home to Emmaus from Jerusalem –
how they had hoped that their salvation was at hand,
that the future was bright, and now all is doom and despondency.



Can you put yourselves in their shoes?

Hot sandals for tired feet -
The seven miles home can never have seemed further.
The evening Sun is setting in the Western sky
straight in front of them

They are heading West into the hills beyond Jerusalem.

The road is dusty, their legs ache, their hearts ache.

The dark shadows begin to fall,
reflecting the darkness in their inner being.

Everything has gone wrong, dreams have turned sour,
and God it seems has deserted them.



There is of course an irony in the Emmaus story –
the disciples are so wrapped up in the despair and sorrow,
so little expecting or looking for God,
that they are blind to the man walking with them

Maybe as they squint into the setting sun with tears in their eyes
their vision is literally blurred.   

But their physical lack of sight is matched by spiritual blindness -
preoccupied with their own thoughts ands sorrows,
they just don’t see the Risen Lord.

BUT – and here is the Good News -

As the blind disciples walked towards the Emmaus sunset-
even though they did not know it –
Christ was with them every step of the way.


And I guess we have all known at sometime what it is like to be there –
maybe we feel it right now –
it is easy to feel our own feet heavy –
all hope gone – God feeling very far away.


But –and here is the Gospel –
what was true on that dusty road outside Emmaus is true on your road and mine –
on every road –


It doesn’t matter whether you are

·        A Cardinal or a Car worker

·        A Duchess or a Dustman,

·        A Prince or a Pauper,

There is no journey Christ does not share with us



One Night a man had a dream.
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand;
one belonged to him and the other to the Lord.
Looking back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life
there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened
at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.
"Lord, I thought you promised to walk with me all the way,
but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life,
 there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why when I needed you most
you would leave me."
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child,
I love you and would never leave you.
During your times of trial & suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."



However sorrowful and solitary that journey may seem,
However deep and dark our sin,

Every road is the Emmaus Road –


The Emmaus Road is a symbol of hope for the despairing -
but it also provides a Gospel challenge for Saints.



During the Funeral mass for Pope John Paul II on Friday,
some people in the crowd carried banners saying “Santo Subito” –
calling on the Church to declare John Paul a Saint immediately.

I am happy to leave that issue to the Vatican sisters and brothers -
but it is worth remembering  at a deeper level
St Paul reminds us that all followers of Christ –
whether a Pope or the most recent member of God’s family –
every one of us is part of the glorious company of saints,
militant on earth and triumphant in heaven.   



Recall how St Paul says that as Christians we are called to be the Body of Christ –
how we are called to carry on the work which he began by being his hands and feet.


We give thanks for the life of John Paul II
and for the way in which he sought to represent Christ in his life.   
But his life was but one manifestation –
albeit a very prominent and public one –
of a general commission to all Christians to be Christ’s representatives on earth.


So let me invite you in your mind’s eye to walk to Emmaus again –
but this time see yourself as representing Christ himself
as you meet with the brokenness and blindness and despondency
of the human condition on the road of life.


Christ saw the pain and despair of those on the road with him -
and he was there for them.

He calls us to do likewise.


Later in the service some of the young people will read out brief passages
representing the plight of the poor and the needy of the world -
as Christ’s representatives we are called
to speak and minister to the struggle and despair of those on the road with us.


When John Paul II visited Harlem back in 1979,
he simply said “I believe in you” –
in other words in spite of the deprivation and marginalized status
of so many he met with there,
he spoke to them of their dignity which no one could take away.


When John Paul II addressed Mexican Indians later that same year,
he said that he wanted to be
“your voice – the voice of those who cannot speak or are silenced”



So we are called

·        to meet on the road with the poor, the despairing and the weak.

·        To declare our solidarity with them

·        To see the Spirit of God within them

·        To walk with them and work and speak for them.


There are a 1001 ways to do that –

You don’t have to be a Pope, just a follower of Jesus -

But at the start of this Global Week of Action  on Trade,
please remember the things the Young people have said –

·        Send a card
(and if you can, tackle those standing for parliament
in your constituency on the question of trade and development)

·        Wear the white band
(and find other ways to spread the word about care for the needy of the planet

·        Read the Fairtrade Booklet
(and don’t just think about it –
put it into action when you go shopping next week.)


These are just some of the ways in which we may
help bear the burdens of our sisters and brothers and
walk in our Lord’s footsteps on the way to Emmaus.


Because remember exactly how and when
the despairing and grieving disciples recognized the life giving presence of Christ.


It was at the moment when he shared bread with them.


As Christ walked the Road to Emmaus,
so we are called to walk alongside the defeated and despairing
and offer them life and hope and the Good News of the Gospel.    

As Christ was recognized on the Emmaus Road,
so may we make Christ known
at our point of solidarity with the despairing
and our sharing of bread.




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