23rd April 2023 10.30am – Third Sunday of Easter Eucharist

The Readings

Acts 2.14a, 36-41

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Luke 24.13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 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?’ 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, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 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. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 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. 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.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 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. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Revd Dr Alan Billings


I was recently talking to a member of my staff in my Monday to Friday job. She’s a relatively young woman in her twenties. I asked her whether she’d had a good weekend. She told me how, every Sunday, she and her partner meet up with her parents and grandmother for lunch in one of the pubs in the Stannington-Bradfield area, where they all live.

She said, ‘I expect it sounds a bit dull. It’s become a habit.’

I said it didn’t sound dull at all and that some habits were good. This Sunday habit was a brilliant way of both celebrating something of great value in her life – her family relationships – and also a way of deepening them. I imagine they talk about all sorts of things, enjoy one another’s company, are very relaxed - and grow their love for one another. I would call their Sunday lunch a habit of love.

A habit of love.

Many families do something similar. It may not be every Sunday; it may be on birthdays or anniversaries or at Christmas or Easter. It may be a zoom or telephone call on Friday nights – whatever. Family rituals when they come together and deepen their relationships. Habits of love.

Another member of my staff told me how she hugs her children, two boys, every night before they go to sleep. Every night. She said she did it not only because she loved them, but in order to love them more.

They’ll probably resist it when they get to be teenagers, but they’ll remember, and probably do the same with their own children. A habit of love.

In a similar way I think we can talk about habits of faith. Habits of faith.

People often seem to think that being a Christian means believing things. Well, there are, of course, things that we believe. We will shortly say a summary of them in the creed. But long before Christians had things to say together, there were things we did together. We formed habits.

Today’s gospel reminds us how soon after Christ’s death and resurrection one of those habits came into being and why.

There was obviously a circle of people around Jesus that was wider than the twelve apostles. There were the women for a start, the ones who saw where the body of Jesus was lain after his crucifixion, and who came to the tomb on Easter morning and found the tomb empty. Then there were these two men whom we read about just now in the gospel. On the day of resurrection they are journeying, walking, from Jerusalem to Emmaus – about seven miles. As they travel, they are joined by the risen Christ, though they don’t know about his resurrection and at first don’t recognise him. Until, that is, when they persuade him to stay with them that night. As they gather round the table to eat together, he blesses and breaks the bread.

It is as the bread is broken that they realise they are in the presence of the risen Lord. Their faith is strengthened through this action.

And this blessing and breaking of bread becomes a habit for all Christians. They go on repeating this week by week, recalling as they do so the words that Christ spoke at his last supper on the night before he died. Taking the bread he said that it was his body broken for us.

Breaking the bread becomes a habit. A habit of faith. In this way faith is built up, faith is deepened. Because every time we do this we become aware of Christ’s risen presence with us, as those two discovered at Emmaus. And every time we do it we remember all that he did for us in coming among us, dying and rising for us. It strengthens and deepens our faith.

So yes, faith is in part about what we believe. We do need to be able to put things into words and to feel confident that what we say is trustworthy.

But what principally deepens our faith week by week is coming here for the breaking of the bread. As Luke tells us, Christ was known to them in the breaking of the bread – known to them and so known to us.

Just as the love that dwells in families is the result of the habits of love, so our faith in the risen Christ is the result of the habits of faith.

The Prayers
Prepared by Catherine

Risen Christ,
who made yourself known to your disciples
through walking alongside them
through interpretation of the scriptures
through accepting hospitality
and through the breaking of bread,
we pray for your Church, that in the same simple ways,
we, your disciples today, might similarly make you known to the world.
Jesus, Lord of life,
In your mercy, hear us.
Risen Christ,
who came to earth with a message of peace
and hope for all the world,
we pray for your world
and especially those areas where there is no peace
and hope is a challenge.
We pray for peacemakers, negotiators, aid agencies and governments.
We hold before you the people of Sudan
and continue to remember many other places of war and unrest.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.
Risen Christ,
Who lived among others in community
We pray for our own local community
We give thanks for the efforts of local artists to brighten up our neighbourhood
and all who maintain our streets and parks.
We think of those struggling to pay bills or to feed their households
and continue to remember the work of the food bank.
We pray for the upcoming local elections
that all may use their votes thoughtfully
and that those elected may serve our area wisely.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.
Risen Christ,
You showed compassion for the sick, the lonely and the confused.
We pray for all who are unwell or in any kind of need,
asking that we too might show compassion
and support them in any way we can.
In a few moments’ silence we think of those known to us personally who are in particular need…
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.
Risen Christ,
You overcame death and your disciples rejoiced.
We pray for those close to death and those who have died.
We think particularly of Richard, and any others known to us.
Be with all who mourn the loss of a loved one,
In times of sadness, help us to hold on to that Easter hope and joy
experienced by the women at the empty tomb
the disciples in the upper room
and the pair on the Emmaus road
And help us to share that hope and joy with others.
Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Common Worship, Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000