We are to be Christ.

We are to be Christ.

Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10 Psalm 18(19):8-10,15 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27 & Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

…and what was given to the Lord to do in that unique way that was his mission in this world is now given to us. We are to be Christ through those doors to this community who needs him and his love and his Spirit.

[automatically transcribed]

I want to take us initially not to the readings that we’ve just heard, but to Easter day, to the evening of the first Easter day when two disciples are walking away from Jerusalem and they are on the road to Emmaus. It’s one of my absolutely favourite resurrection stories anywhere in the Gospels. And you’ll remember, I’m sure, what happens that those two disciples are walking along and talking to one another about all that has happened in Jerusalem over the previous few days.

And a stranger comes and walks with them. And as they walk further along the road, he unfolds the Scriptures to them. That’s what we’re told. He unfolds the Scriptures to them and he explains to them how everything that has happened, the death and the resurrection of the Lord, has all, as it were, being contained in the pages of the Scriptures.

And we’re told St Luke tells us, the same Gospel writer that we’ve heard from this morning, that their hearts burned within them, their hearts burned within them. As this stranger unfolds to them the Scriptures, they reach the home of these two in Emmaus. They go in, the two disciples invite the stranger to stay for something to eat with them and they break bread together.

And in the breaking of the bread, we’re told, you’ll remember, the stranger is recognised. The disciples realise, the penny drops, that the stranger is no less than the risen Lord, the risen Christ. And we’re told he vanished from their sight.

That story of the Emmaus road is a wonderful illustration of what we’re doing now, and I’m sure it was written by St Luke with just that purpose of explaining the mass, explaining what happens when we come together as members of the body of Christ. We listen to the Scriptures, we listen to the Word of God and we break bread together.

We come to the altar to celebrate and to receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood. And the Lord is here, the risen Christ is with us. And why did he vanish from their sight? Why did he vanish from the sight of the disciples at the breaking of the bread? Because, as it were, the Lord himself was now present in them, present in the Christian community, present in those who were his witnesses, who had listened to the word of God and who had shared in the breaking of the bread present in us.

The risen Christ is in his body by the power and operation of his Holy Spirit. So the Lord himself walks with the disciples and unfolds the Scriptures to them and explains how everything had been foretold. Now, of course, the Scriptures for those early disciples were not what we call the Gospels or the letters of St. Paul, our New Testament. The Scriptures for those two disciples were what we call the Old Testament, the writings of the prophets and the other parts and teachings and elements of what we now call the Old Testament.

And the wonderful lesson for us is that the good news of Jesus Christ, everything about the Lord, his death, his resurrection, it’s all as it were contained there in the books, in the pages of the Old Testament, we read the Scriptures, we read the whole Bible through the light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospel as it were shines its light back on the pages of the Bible. And all is there for us to see. Once we are reading with the eyes of faith, once we are reading as disciples of the written Lord. And that’s exactly what happens in our Gospel reading today.

Jesus himself comes into the synagogue, takes up the words of the Prophet Isaiah. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me. And he says as if to us now, he says to the congregation, today, these words are being fulfilled. Those words of the Prophet Isaiah, they make sense when we understand that they are speaking about Christ, they are speaking about our Saviour. And because Christ is now in his body, because Christ is now alive in and through the life of the Church and we are his members, what is true of Christ, what is fulfilled in the Lord through those words of the Prophet Isaiah is as it were now to be true of us.

So we are to be the people who in the world in our own generation bring good news to the poor. We are to bring Liberty to the captives. We are to bring sight to the blind. We are to be Christ in our own generation. And so, just as the Lord himself is anointed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that’s his baptism in the River Jordan, so we as members of the body of Christ, we too are anointed for the part that we will play in the life of the body of Christ, being by our words and actions, good news for the poor in our own generation.

So, of course, that brings us to confirmation. And when our two candidates for confirmation come forward after the prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, after the laying on of my hands, the Bishop’s hands the sign of communicating the Holy Spirit to you at your confirmation, you will be anointed with the noble oil of Chrism, setting you apart as members of the body of Christ to play your part in being the body of Christ in this Parish, in your own homes and families, in the place where you work and everything that you do, you will be anointed as the Lord Himself was anointed to be good news for the poor. And you will be equipped by the Holy Spirit to play your part.

In the second reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, that wonderful image of the Body of Christ in which the Spirit is given to each and every member with a particular part to play. Susan comes to be commissioned for the particular work of lay Ministry in this place. Father Matthew has been ordained to be your Parish priest. But everyone, every member of the body has their part to play. Every member of the body, every single one of us has a part to play in helping the whole body.

Helping all of us here present to be and to share that good news.

In the first reading from the Prophet Nehemiah that we heard this morning. That wonderful image of Nehemiah and Ezra and the Levites. All those people given those different ministries, unfolding the Scriptures, helping the people to understand what the Lord is saying through the pages of the Scriptures. And what’s the result. A day of celebration.

A day of Jubilee. Go and eat the fat and drink the sweet wine. A day of celebration. We should love reading the Word of God. Hearing it expounded.

We should love coming to live out the Emmaus Road experience here in Church. Listening to the Scriptures being unfolded, sharing in the breaking of bread. We should go out full of joy that we have shared in this and we should go out confident in our mission to be good news to the poor, sight to the blind, liberty to captives in our own generation.

So candidates for confirmation, we rejoice with you today as you take this great step into the fullness of the life of the Body of Christ. And we are reminded by all of our readings today that we are members together in the Body of Christ.

And what was given to the Lord to do in that unique way that was his mission in this world is now given to us. We are to be Christ through those doors to this community who needs him and his love and his Spirit. And it is given to us to be the means of God’s work going forward.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit.