In our concluding session we will review what we have discovered, and make plans for the journey from here, individually and in common cause with others.

Our reading is Luke 24, which tells the story of the disciples’ return to Emmaus, and back again to Jerusalem. Again it is worth reading the whole chapter beforehand, and imagining yourself in the scene.

How easy do you find it to reconstruct the story, with what the text gives you? How clear do you find you are about what exactly is going on ?

Image: Leonard J Matthews

For Cleopas the cruellest twist, three days after Jesus’ death, seems to be that the world has simply moved on. And the moment they recognise him, Jesus disappears. It is only after they return to Jerusalem, and have begun telling their story, that they can actually behold him. In their words he became flesh again – but tantalisingly, the closing chapters of Luke’s gospel implies, even that was only for a few brief hours.

In that short time, Jesus urges his disciples ‘Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see’. Then, not content with just telling them, ‘when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet’. He wanted them to ‘reckon with his mutilated body, with the traumatic somatic’ as Ched Myers puts it in this compelling sermon.

And yet, it seems, they only accept the awesome truth when Jesus is finally taken from them for good.

Preparatory reading and reflection

Before the meeting, besides Luke 24, we also suggest reading Sam Wells’ sermon for Easter Sunday 2020 and Matthew Taylor on what the transition to ‘a new normal’ will look like. Also look at the conclusions which other groups doing Radical Presence are reaching, and see how they compare to your own.

Opening liturgy

Together with all in Christ, we wait
Come Holy Spirit; soak into our deepest being
We reflect together with all your people
Come Holy Spirit; breeze through our staleness
We will hear the scriptures together
Come Holy Spirit; fire up our imaginations for good

There follows a moment of quiet, followed by these words of Cleopas (Luke 24.20-23):

“Our chief priests and leaders handed [Jesus] 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.

Questions for exploration

Take a minute each introduce yourselves and how you are, and agree a volunteer to summarise your group’s conclusions.

  1. How are you going to feel if, after the end of this pandemic, too many things have gone back to the way they used to be?
  2. For Sam Wells, reflecting on the pandemic, the resurrection supplants the prevailing story, of a competitive struggle for survival, with a ‘story 2’, telling of God’s tender and resolute commitment to humanity. What is the ‘story 2’ which you hope will survive this tragedy? Be as specific and practical as you can: what will success look like?
  3. Luke’s account of Jesus on the day of his ascension is elusive and provisional. So is Matthew Taylor’s account of the way we will have to emerge from lockdown. What can we learn from them about how the success we long for will be realised? How will we be able to tell success from failure?

Read Jesus’ last words as recorded by Luke (24.46-49):

‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.  And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

  • What similarities do you find in the conclusions of other groups, and what differences? How closely do you find it matches the ideas on the Covenant-20 page of this website?
  • How will you, as an individual, seek to make known, and make real, the new story you have to tell? How will you as a group, perhaps in common cause with others, seek to bring it into reality? See the conclusions below which emerged from Radical Presence conversations in May and June 2020.

Nurture:  Let’s nourish the roots of our discipleship, drawing on scripture, spirituality and theology, and supporting each other’s practice.  We could develop the Radical Presence formula for ongoing shared prayer, study, reflection and action.

Focus: Let’s craft and maintain a compelling, integrated vision for the way our churches, the nation and the world in the aftermath of the pandemic.  We could curate and popularise ideas which resource people to tell a story of a future.

Action:  Let’s equip ourselves, each other and our churches, through lobbying and lifestyle, to bring about a sustainable, just and compassionate world.  Green Christian could help you organise interest groups on particular topics or current campaigns.

Closing liturgy

Click here for a liturgy to close this session and the course.

The Chelmsford diocese group used the last session to launch a declaration: ‘Good Lament and Hard Hope’