Sunday Worship – 23rd April 2023

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF) or Hymns & Psalms (H&P) numbers will be given where available)

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across our circuit and with the congregation at Baildon Methodist Church and led by Claire Nott, one of our Circuit Local Preachers.

Click on the blue links to follow them for bible readings and associated links

Travelling with Jesus to Emmaus

Pre-service video: You’re calling us, Graham Kendrick

Call to worship

Lift your feet up, one at a time and place them back on the ground. Wiggle your toes, feel your feet firmly in contact with the ground. We come to worship today to meet the risen Christ, to journey with the Spirit as our companion and the word of the Lord a lamp for our feet.

Our opening song is a celebration of the Gospel we proclaim –

Song – StF 295 Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord

Gathering Prayer

Risen Christ, yours is the heartbeat of grace deep within us, the light step beside us on our journeys, the footprints in the sand, revealing how you carry us when we grow weary. Yours is the face we glimpse when we perceive one another’s holiness. Yours are the promises: that life conquers death, that goodness is stronger than evil, and that we can build our lives around your shining truth. Show us where you are today, in this place, and in each of us. Amen.1

Prayers of confession and assurance Using Ps 116 (The Message)

 1-4 I love God because he listened to me, listened as I begged for mercy. He listened so intently as I laid out my case before him. Death stared me in the face, hell was hard on my heels. Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn; then I called out to God for help: “Please, God!” I cried out. “Save my life!”

We lay before God now anything we want to confess and for which we seek forgiveness and assurance <silence>

Friends on the journey, hear the good news of the gospel: Jesus is near. Grace is real. We do not have to be perfect in our actions or our beliefs. We need only to open our hearts—to mystery, love, presence and joy.1

Today’s service is based around one of the set lectionary readings, Luke 24:13-35, which will be read in sections throughout the service with a short reflection, linked prayers and song accompanying each part.


Luke 24: 13-17

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven milesfrom Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognising him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.

Reflection 1: Have you been to see this statue? It is currently in Centenary Square in Bradford. It was created by the artist Alfie Bradley and is called ‘Knife Angel’.2 It contains over 100 000 weapons, handed in to knife amnesty bins across all 43 UK police forces and provides a visible symbol of the grief and misery caused by knife crime. 30% of the blades handed in held visible bloodstains – all were sterilised and blunted before forming the sculpture.

The statue aims to remind people of the dangers of carrying knives and represents the grief of families who have lost loved ones to violence. Engraved on the blades forming the angel’s wings are messages from families of those affected by knife crime – names of victims, pleas for no further deaths, outpouring of grief. Grief that the two travellers in our verses from Luke would have identified with – they were walking and talking to try to make sense of everything they had just witnessed in Jerusalem. It is the afternoon of the third day since Jesus was killed – they saw him crucified and know that his body is no longer in the tomb. Everything must have felt overwhelming until they just had to get out of the town and spend time away from everyone else. I imagine them continuously asking, “Why?”, uncertain what it all means, wondering what the future will hold without their friend and leader, distraught that the plans they had would not happen. As they walk, they are joined by Jesus, fulfilment of the comforting promise, “Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt 18:20)


Loving Lord, we pray for those we know who have been reduced to despair, for those who have suffered great grief, who are left numb by sorrow and loss; for those still overwhelmed by the separation death brings from someone they loved and who loved them. We pray for all who need the assurance that you are listening, even when they don’t recognise that you are alongside them. <silence> Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Our second song is our response to Jesus asking, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”, “What troubles you?”

Song – StF 519 Father I place into your hands


Luke 24: 18-27

18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

Reflection 2: At this point in their journey, the two travellers would not appreciate the irony of walking alongside Christ whilst complaining that it is the third day since Jesus died but he hasn’t risen as he promised he would. Not for the first time, they have misunderstood Jesus’ purpose and mission. Those who followed Jesus, as well as the people in power, thought that he would lead an insurgency to overthrow the Roman occupation and free or redeem Israel this way. It is not a coincidence that this journey is to Emmaus, scene of a major battle fought a century and a half earlier by Judas Maccabeus and his troops against the Seleucids. The Maccabean victory meant the end of one of the worst holocausts in Jewish history and the independence of Judah for the first time since the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in 586 BC4, independence which had been lost with the expansion of the Roman empire. Jesus takes the opportunity to correct their understanding of scripture and interpret it for them. Matthew Henry, in his bible commentary of 1706, says, ‘We cannot go far in any part, but we meet with something that has reference to Christ, some prophecy, some promise, some prayer, some type or other. A golden thread of gospel grace runs through the whole web of the Old Testament. Christ is the best expositor of Scripture; and even after his resurrection, he led people to know the mystery concerning himself, not by advancing new notions, but by showing how the Scripture was fulfilled, and turning them to the earnest study of it.’ The Methodist Conference convened a working party in the 1990s to explore the nature of authority and the place of the Bible in the Methodist Church. It led to the publication of the 1998 report ‘A lamp to my feet and a light to my path’.5 As you might expect they discovered that there was much diversity in approaches to interpreting and using the Bible but they were clear that ‘the Word of God explodes any human constraints that we might impose on the text’. It also suggested that the task of interpretation is not finished but is ongoing and forms an important part of responsible and expectant Christian faith today. In fact it now forms one of the 12 responses to Our Calling in the Methodist Way of Life – ‘we will look and listen for God in Scripture and the world.’ As these two travellers to Emmaus found, what we expect is not always what God ‘delivers’. We need to be open to challenges to our human interpretation and be alert to Jesus talking to us when we least expect it.


Father, we pray for those who are under Christ; for those who have opened their hearts and lives to his loving presence; for those who have recently been brought face to face with his life-changing grace and for those who have known and trusted him for many, many years; for those who are beginning to realise just what they have missed in life and for those who are beginning to experience all that life can be through the power of his Spirit. We pray for Christians all over the world. May all they say and do and are proclaim the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Our third song recognises that although God speaks to us in very many ways the message is always one of grace and salvation

Song – StF 158 – Lord, you sometimes speak in wonders


Luke 24: 28-32

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

Reflection 3: This 1958 picture by Roy de Maistre is in the Methodist Modern Art Collection and shows the moment recognition dawns on the travellers that their companion is Jesus. The wounds, the nail hole in Jesus’ left hand and the wound of the spear in his side are clearly visible and confirm their realisation. The travellers offer the stranger hospitality, worrying about him travelling on alone on the darkening road.

That invitation to Jesus leads to recognition of the full glory of who he is. The taking, blessing and breaking of bread not just a standard start of a meal together but deliberately invoking the Last Supper, days earlier, and linking back to those Scripture passages Jesus had just interpreted about being the true bread from heaven. John Wesley, in his Aldersgate experience,6 talked about his heart being strangely warmed and Cleopas and his companion have the same feeling here. That moment of realisation as Wesley described it of “trusting in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

The 18th Century poet, William Cowper,7 says in one of his letters that he once was friends with a man of fine taste who confessed to him that although he could not subscribe to the truth of Christianity, he could never read this passage in Luke’s Gospel about the journey to Emmaus without being deeply affected by it, and feeling that if the stamp of divinity was impressed upon anything in the Scriptures, it was upon that passage. This gospel account has prompted action by many people of faith including the founding of the charity, Emmaus, in Paris in 1949 by a Catholic Priest horrified at the homelessness and despair of people living on the streets, inspired by the hospitality and good news offered in these verses.

In de Maistre’s artwork I’m struck by the ‘still life’ of the fruit painted next to Jesus who is ‘still alive’ and gives us life eternal. In 1959, the artist commented: ‘religion is not merely a subject for a painting but a perpetual reality which has preoccupied me ever since I remember and is inseparable for me from every other thought’. Can we say the same? Do we look for God in every moment and recognise him in strangers, in actions and in creation? Do we look at people risking their lives to come across the channel in small boats and think they are here to take our jobs or do we recognise the image of God within them and imagine ourselves so desperate that we’d leave everything behind to travel towards a possible hope.


Lord, we pray for those who are hungry and those in need of shelter, for communities whose homes have been destroyed by flood, hurricane or earthquake. We bring before you those who live on the edge of existence and who are dependent on the world’s aid. We ask your blessing on the work of charities and aid agencies that seek to bring hope to the hopeless, food to the hungry, medicine to the sick and comfort to the dying and all whose love and care is a reflection of God’s grace for all. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Generous God, everything we have first came from you and we dedicate our gifts of money, time and talent to be used in your service and to reflect your love in our churches, circuit and wider world. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Our fourth song, written by Charles Wesley, summarises this journey to Emmaus and reminds us to have hearts burning with the message of salvation and faith in Jesus.

Song – StF 308 On the journey to Emmaus


Luke 24: 33-35

33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem, and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Reflection 4: Despite the dangers of travelling the road at night, Cleopas and his companion immediately rush back to Jerusalem, unable to keep quiet about the events of the afternoon and evening. They cannot wait to share their joy and testimony about seeing the risen Lord. Cleopas lives up to his name: ‘kleo’ in Greek meaning a verbal glorifying and ‘pas’ from ‘pater’ meaning father so he finds the disciples and glorifies the father.

Are we as eager to share the good news of our faith with our friends and family? Do we talk about recognising Jesus in different situations and reflect openly when we realise the Spirit has been moving in our lives? The journey to Emmaus provides hope when all seems lost, assurance of Jesus walking with us throughout life, trust in Christ for salvation and a reminder that the Bible is a lamp to our feet and a lantern for our path. It challenges us to listen to the experiences of others, to provide hospitality and to look for God in places where we would not expect to find God’s presence. Sometimes, it is in the midst of despair and circumstances that seem overwhelming that we realise how wonderful God’s plans are for ourselves and the world. As William Cowper’s well-known hymn says, ‘God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform; he plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.’

Using words from Ps 116 as our prayer of thanksgiving, let us pray together,

12-19 What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me? I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God! I’ll pray in the name of God; I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it together with his people. Oh, God, here I am, your servant, your faithful servant: set me free for your service! I’m ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice and pray in the name of God. I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it in company with his people, in the place of worship, in God’s house, Hallelujah!

Lord’s Prayer

Song – StF 563 O Jesus I have promised

This week, if you are able to do so, go out for a walk with others in your family or church family, to talk together about what you know about Jesus and how he helps you in your life today. Or take a walk by yourself, looking out for Jesus in conversations with people you meet or in creation.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen

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