Luke 14:13-35
The Importance of Story

Usually when we look at the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus we focus on Jesus revealing himself to the disciples through speaking Scripture to them and then in the breaking of bread.  Today I’d like to take a slightly different slant on the text.  Have you ever considered how keen Jesus was to allow the disciples to tell their side of the story?

There they were, walking along the road together, talking about all of the amazing and bizarre things that had happened to them over the preceding days, when Jesus came near and asked them what they were talking about.  They were looking sad, so Jesus would have had a fairly good idea, but rather than give his opinion on what they might be talking about he opened the conversation up to them and then he listened as they were walking along.

Then they set about recounting the story of Jesus, the prophet who had been handed over to be condemned and crucified, their hopes of him being the king who would redeem Israel had been dashed and it all happened three days ago.  Then they had been told by some friends of theirs that they had gone to the place where he had been buried and his body wasn’t there anymore, some had been there and verified the report and had passed it on to them.

They hadn’t even really been listening to their own story; Jesus had to explain to them everything that had been prophesied in the Scriptures about him that had taken place in the previous days.  But did you notice what happened then?  That’s right, absolutely nothing, they still didn’t work it out, and they still didn’t recognise him.

It was as though they were walking along with blinkers on, not the flashing ones on the corners of your car, the ones they use for horses to keep them focussed on what’s in front of them and stop them from being distracted from the task at hand.  They were totally focussed on what was going on in their lives, concerned for their own future but also the future of the rest of the people of Israel.  They were so focussed that they didn’t recognise that Jesus was there with them.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that, where you are so focussed on the task at hand that you don’t even realise someone is talking to you or waving to you.  I know of a couple of people from a previous congregation who stopped coming to church because a fellow congregation member had ignored them a couple of times in a supermarket.  The truth is the other person was simply focussed on getting in, getting the shopping done and heading home and wasn’t taking the time to look around for people they may or may not know.  There was no malice intended, they had no grievance with the other person, in fact if they had time and weren’t so focussed they probably would have stopped for a chat.

Sometimes when we are upset or worried or concerned we tend to narrow our vision too, just like the disciples on the road to Emmaus we get all caught up in pondering our circumstances and don’t take much notice of what’s going on around us.  There are lots of reasons why our blinkers might come up.  Grief and loss are perfect examples, and they are exactly the circumstances that the disciples were faced with.  We then perhaps can’t blame them for being a bit slow on the uptake when Jesus is talking with them, because we would expect the same of ourselves.

You’ve all heard the adage, “What Would Jesus Do?” Well in this case he simply asked them to share their story.  He took the time to listen, he could have laid his whole story on them first but he waited and he listened to their cares and concerns, then he explained the Scriptures to them.  The Scripture became relevant because of their situation; it spoke to their needs, their fears and their desires.

Have you any of you noticed a bit of a trend within our congregation?  Over the last few years we have been slowly but surely in various different contexts getting you to share your stories.  At its very beginning Shedmen revolved around one person each month sharing their story, whether it is about their work situation, their family background, some exciting event in their lives, or even some challenge that they had faced.  As we sat and listened and then asked questions we began to see God at work in our lives.  That initial format has been tweaked several times in recent months to what is now deliberately and in depth and prayerful discussion and sharing of an individual’s story, in life, faith and love.

Our newest group, our Treasured Ladies Club also has at its core the opportunity for sharing of story, and even our new Wednesday club has a time where everyone gathered has a chance to share an insight into their lives.  Some of our other small groups have followed a similar format throughout the last few years.  As we have progressed along our journey together we have slowly but surely seen Christ revealed in our lives through others.  When we pause along the road and take the time to notice, when we take the blinkers off for a moment we discover Jesus is there, active in our lives, even when we can’t physically see him he is there, he has promised to be with us to the end of the age, and when we pause for long enough we see him reveal himself through story.

Remember on Maundy Thursday we heard Jesus tell his disciples that they should love one another as he has loved them.  That’s precisely what we are doing as we share and listen to each other’s stories and then respond in love and caring in accordance with Scripture.

What a blessing it was to see you all throughout the Easter festival hanging around to talk with each other, reflecting on what you had seen and heard, sharing the events of your long weekend with each other, genuinely interested in what each other had to say.

The way Jesus puts emphasis on hearing the story of the disciples may not be the central theme of this text, but it is something I wanted you to ponder, to put into practice.  You know that this was Jesus who appeared to the disciples, you know why he came and what he won for you on the cross.  As you take the journey through this life with those around you, listen to each other’s stories, share the impact that Jesus’ story has had on you and care for each other as Christ cares for each and every one of you.