23 April 2023 – 3rd Sunday of Easter
I am sure you have noticed that a great many people to talk in acronyms these days. I suspect it is to make life easier when sending text messages, but those of us who find it hard to keep up, can easily be confused as the meanings are not always obvious. We have probably all managed to grasp OMG and have at last worked out that LOL does not – as I originally thought mean lots of love, but rather laugh out loud. The next most common is probably FOMO, or fear of missing out – not something that bothers me anymore, but which is important when you are young and need to keep up, and our gospel reading last week told us of what happened to Thomas when he missed out. One of the slightly less well-known acronyms is RBF – something which I am told that I suffer from. It translates as resting bitch face – hardly complimentary but implies that you look miserable even when you don’t feel it. I know that I have this, as when I worked as a checkout operator in the days when Wincanton had a Safeway store, customers would frequently come to my till when it was quiet and tell me to cheer up, or that I looked bored, so they would bring me something to do. I should probably confess here, that the job was not terribly interesting, and on quiet days I almost certainly was bored!
Today’s Gospel reading seems to be all about recognition and hospitality, but it begins with a chance meeting with a stranger who did not know why Cleopas and his companion were looking sad. We don’t know much about them beyond the one name, but it does seem that they must have been present on Maundy Thursday for supper with Jesus and the twelve – making a lie of Da Vinci’s famous painting which may have given rise to the superstition that it is unlucky to sit down with 13 at a table. It does sound as if it might have been quite a party, although not the happiest of atmospheres. It was at that supper that Jesus first broke and blessed the bread and wine as his body and blood, although he may have done it at shared meals many times before, and it was through this familiar action that they suddenly realised why they had found meeting with him so exciting. That is the sort of realisation that often comes to you if you are watching or taking part in a quiz and you hear the words ‘I will know as soon as you say the answer’. This is not as silly as it may sound, as often an answer that is just out of memory becomes obvious as soon as you hear it.
As they walked and talked with the stranger, the two knew that they should know who this man was, but could not, until they saw him break the bread call it to mind. I am equally bad at remembering names, although I do hope that I would recognise the voice of Jesus if I heard it. But I do wonder if I really would. How many times do we find ourselves thinking of a friend who we have not seen for a while, and wondering how they are? How often do we feel that it would be a good idea to drop in on somebody, or offer hospitality of some kind without really knowing why we feel this? And how often do we ignore these thoughts because they don’t fit in with the day we had planned?
I do believe that the Holy Spirit does send us nudges of things that we should think seriously about. We are told in the letter to the Hebrews that showing hospitality to strangers is important, as some who have done this have entertained angels without realising it, and in the story of Abraham and his three visitors, it is implied, although not actually said, that God had visited him with the news of his promise of a son.
I do wonder how often we miss hearing what God is trying to say to us because it is not a good time, or the message doesn’t fit in with our plans? I have no way of knowing the answer to that, but I cannot help feeling that being more open to the Holy Spirit might make me a more effective servant of God, and just possibly convince people that he is interested in us now, and not just a story that we were told as children.
There is, however, a more important way of seeking to recognise Jesus – one which is easy to overlook but is perhaps the most vital. When I started to think about this subject, the first thought that came to me, oddly enough was the poem entitled ‘Christmas’ by John Betjeman, and I will finish with a couple of verses of it now:
And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?
And is it true? For if it is,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
 From ‘Christmas’ by John Betjeman Copyright © 2006 – 2010 Famous Poets And Poems . com.