Hymn: Come, Living God, When Least Expected Alan Gaunt Rejoice and Sing 354
Come, living God, when least expected,
when minds are dull and hearts are cold,
through sharpening word and warm affection
revealing truths as yet untold.
Break from the tomb in which we hide you
to speak again in startling ways;
break through the words in which we bind you
to resurrect our lifeless praise.
Come now, as once you came to Moses
within the bush alive with flame,
or to Elijah on the mountain,
by silence pressing home your claim.
So, let our minds be sharp to read you
in sight or sound or printed page,
and let us greet you in our neighbours,
in ardent youth or mellow age.
Then, through our gloom, your Son will meet us
as vivid truth and living Lord,
exploding doubt and disillusion
to scatter hope and joy abroad.
Then we will share his radiant brightness
and, blazing through the dread of night,
illuminate by love and reason,
for those in darkness, faith’s delight.
Alan Gaunt, retired URC minister, has written many hymns a few of which have been published. This hymn appeared first in New Hymns for Worship in 1973 and then in our own New Church Praise in 1975. The tune, Sunset, an unusual metre, was written by GG Stocks and first published in 1924. It was written for John Ellerton’s hymn “Before the day draws near its ending” which was published in Church Hymnary 3.
St 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.
Alan Gaunt’s hymn is a reminder that God always comes when we least expect and to approach God as a mere concept or resource is dangerous. The disciples on the road to Emmaus had, in the words of the first verse, dull minds and cold hearts and, like Moses, were surprised by the God they encountered.
The disciples on the road couldn’t see the reality in front of them due to their grief and despondency. The opportunity for divine encounter was, literally, in front of their noses. Over the last year I have been privileged to work in a number of churches as part of my re-training to be a URC minister. In each of these I’ve been struck by the ways the opportunities there are for mission – for encounter with God – which are startlingly obvious but which challenge us when we are settled into our normal patterns of life and work.
Come, living God when least expected,
sharpen our minds and warm our hearts
so that we see you at work in our midst,
calling us to find you at work in our world;
give us then the grace to join in with all that you are doing.
Andy Braunston is an ordinand at the Scottish Congregational and United Reformed Church College and co-ordinator of the URC Daily Devotion project.