Sunday, April 26, 2020 Third Sunday of Easter: On the Road

Prelude: We Have Come Into His House, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiJ0AdA05Ow

God speaks to each of us individually in ways that speak to our souls. Last week the risen Christ said, “touch, feel, experience and believe” to fearful disciples gathered behind locked doors. This week we ponder a different testimony by two followers who saw the risen Christ on Easter enroute to Emmaus.

Alleluia! Christ is risen.

Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Welcome to our virtual worship. The Lord be with you.

Confession and Forgiveness

If you were to keep watch over sins, O Lord, who could stand? Yet with you is forgiveness, and so we confess: (I invite you to reflect in the privacy of your home before a time of confession.)

Confession: Gracious God, have mercy on us. We confess that we have turned away from you, knowingly and unknowingly. We have wandered from your resurrection life. We have strayed from your love for all people. Turn us back to you, O God. Give us new hearts and right spirits, that we may find what is pleasing to you and dwell in your house forever. Amen.

Forgiveness: Receive good news: God turns to you in love. “I will put my spirit in you, and you shall live,” says our God. All your sin is forgiven in the name of ☩ Jesus Christ, who is the free and abounding gift of God’s grace for you. Amen.

 Gathering Hymn: Let us sing and focus our hearts and minds on God. That Easter Day with Joy was Bright LBW 384. It can be found on at this internet address: https://www.thetabernaclechoir.org/videos/that-easter-day-with-joy-was-bright.html

The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 The Prayer of the Day: O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread. Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

 Let us join together in an old favorite: When Morning Guilds the Sky ELW 853, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaUxsgkKcAo

 HEARING GOD’S WORD

Alleluia. Our hearts burn within us* while you open to us the scriptures. Alleluia. (Luke 24:32)

Our first reading is found in Acts 2:14a, 36-41

14aPeter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed [the crowd], 36“Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38Peter 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. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

1I love the Lord, who has heard my voice, and listened my supplication,
2for the Lord has given ear to me whenever I called.
3The cords of death entangled me; the anguish of the grave came upon me; I came to            grief and sorrow.
4Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray you, save my life.” 
12How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things God has done for me?
13I will lift the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
14I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all God’s people.
15Precious in your sight, O Lord, is the death of your servants.
16O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your handmaid; you           have freed me from my bonds.
17I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the  name of the                   Lord. 
18I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all God’s people,
19in the courts of the Lord‘s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah! 

Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-23

17If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
22Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

13Now on that same day [when Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene,] two [disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then 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?” 19He 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, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But 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. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and 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. 24Some 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.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But 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. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They 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?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

SERMON

I read this on Face Book this week: “THE FOUR STAGES OF LIFE:

1) You believe in Santa Claus,

2) You don’t believe in Santa Claus,

3) You are Santa Claus, and finally

4) You look like Santa Claus.”

This little summary of life seems to me to reflect much that is true about our faith in God and is reflected in our Easter testimony today. We could say: that followers of Jesus believed he would be the Messiah and restorer of Israel’s glory, but at the crucifixion their faith was torn apart, they didn’t know what they believed, and then needed to reconstruct faith because of the missing body and eventually became Christ-like in their lives – changing the world.

I would propose that we are going through a very similar social process now as we are caught in a public debate between health experts and economic needs. We trusted medical systems that dealt with illness though we admit sometime in the future we will die. Now we are sheltered, wearing masks and gloves and pondering our source of security. As we look at the statistics, we realize medicine cannot guarantee life and jobs cannot guarantee wealth. The decision to “shelter” in place, more and more places the responsibility of action on us. We are Santa Claus.

Often the story of faith follows a similar trajectory. A person believes until a major problem occurs in their life and Jesus does not ride in on his white charger and rescue them. “I’m spiritual but not religious,” is a polite way of saying, I don’t blindly believe in God, Santa Claus as I did when I was a child. I lead a good life and my decision on good is what is good.

Easter season looks at people whose lives had been turned upside down by the crucifixion and the disappearance of Jesus’s body on Easter morning. We are looking at reports of faith that had to be put back together in the face of major contradictions. Last week our reading from John went from the empty tomb on Easter morning to scared disciples behind locked doors Easter evening. Jesus appears and shows them his hands and side, eats fish with them, breathes the Holy Spirit on them and sends them. These people have a personal encounter with the risen Lord. Faith is recalibrated. These followers become committed believers and in fact die looking much like Jesus, martyred. And somehow, Christianity grows.

This week, our reading goes to Luke and the late afternoon of Easter day, before the closed-door encounter. Two followers of Jesus are walking from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus. They are not characterized by fear or doubt. They are confused and discussing all that has happened. They are trying to sort through their previous faith in Jesus and decide what is going on. Their childlike faith has met the unexplainable and they are in the process of reconstruction. It’s like when kids at school have whisper stories about Santa Claus and confusion results. “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus,” faith and reality conflict. We don’t understand. Today questions swirl around in the press, creating a similar crisis. How can hospitals be overwhelmed? How does the virus travel? Is my work essential? Am I essential??? Discussion follows. Our two followers today are deep in conversation and do not realize Jesus is walking with them.

During difficult times our vision narrows and our openness to new experiences of God. Again I note that even as the door did not stop Jesus from coming to his disciples, the ignorance of these two people does not stop Jesus from drawing near them. Jesus initiates conversation. Jesus is present but perhaps we do not recognize his presence.

Jesus draws them into a clarification of the situation when he asks, “What things” are going on that you are talking about?” When our vision has narrowed, we must clarify what really about a situation bothers us. Sheltering gives us a chance to clarify our issues. Are we afraid of death? Are we afraid of a future unable to pay bills? Do we have to face that we are not as “essential” as we would like to believe we are? I heard a nice sermon once by Andy Stanley who said, “The problem with running away from problems, is that wherever I go, there I am.” The problem is not the virus but what I believe about life. The problem is not that the body is missing from the tomb but whether these two people are going to believe Jesus is risen. There are so many reports!

Jesus does not say to them, touch and feel, but first lays a foundation for faith by going back to Moses and the scriptures and developing an understanding of reality. I told my children that Santa Claus, real or unreal, is not the problem. Whether I have been good or bad, is not the real issue.

Christmas confronts our understanding of the character of God. The resurrection confronts our understanding of God. Can God enter our real world as a human child, true God and true man? Can God die and live? The wisdom of God confuses our human wisdom. Will I trust God’s Word and believe? Jesus takes these two people back to Scripture and rebuilds their understanding of God.

Santa Claus comes at Christmas and gives gifts, not to reward the good and punish the bad but because of love. We carry on the tradition because of love. Hopefully, gradually we realize a life characterized by love, characterized by our faith in God, and faith gradually transforms us into more Christ-like people. The two men beg Jesus to stay with them and eat. As they commune with Jesus, their eyes are opened and they recognize him. Jesus then disappears. The two continue by faith.

Not everyone has face-to-face encounters with the visible, risen Christ. Some must question, struggle, read Scripture and then commune with Christ. The two followers on the road to Emmaus have grown from believing, to questions, to rehearing and reorganizing understanding, to communing and then they rush back to Jerusalem to share the news, “We have seen and Jesus became known in the breaking of the bread.”

So how does this Easter story impact my life today? How does it apply? Perhaps aspects of my life are being thrown into confusion by “the virus,” by health challenges, by economic challenges, by fears about loved ones, by reorganizing how we do church, or by some other factor. Reflecting on the events is a healthy coping strategy. We need to discuss what the “new normal” might look like. Talking it through with a friend is good practice. We call it the community of faith or believers. Searching Scripture to ponder how God has spoken in the past is excellent spiritual discipline. Our eyes will be opened as we commune with Jesus, at the communion table, in His word, and with his people. May we become known more and more as a “community that looks like Jesus.”

John 20:30, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Hymn of the Day: ELW 389, Christ is Alive! Let Christians Sing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL9ey1TM6No (Here are the words for those who are not that familiar) 

  1. Christ is alive! Let Christians sing. His cross stands empty to the sky. Let streets and homes with praises ring. His love in death shall never die.

    2. Christ is alive! No longer bound to distant years in Palestine, he comes to claim the here and now, and conquer every place and time.

    3. Not throned above, remotely high, untouched, unmoved by human pains
    but daily, in the midst of life, our Saviour, with the Father reigns.

    4. In every insult, rift and war, where color, scorn or wealth divide, he suffers still, yet loves the more, and lives, though ever crucified.

    5. Christ is alive! His Spirit burns through this and every future age, till all creation lives and learns his joy, his justice, love and praise.

The Creed

Let us join our voices virtually by sharing the Maasai (a tribe in Kenya) Version of the Apostles’ Creed.

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the bible, that he would save the world and all the nations and tribes.
We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.
We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

Or you can llsten to the Creed in vocal form: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuDI-sk2nJU

Prayers of Intercession

Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

For those whose hearts are fervent with love for your gospel, that they are empowered to tell the story of your love in their lives and to show hospitality in response to this love. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the diverse natural world: for jungles, prairies, forests, valleys, mountains, and for all the wild and endangered animals who call these spaces home, that they are nurtured and protected. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For broken systems we have inherited and that we continue to perpetuate, forgive us. Restrain the nations from fighting over limited resources. Redeem us from the cycles of scarcity and violence. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For all who call upon your healing name, give rest. Stay with us, and walk with all those who are hungry, friendless, despairing, and desiring healing in body and spirit (especially). Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the faith forming ministries of this church. For those preparing for baptism, first communion, confirmation, and membership (especially). For those who participate in Sunday school and adult education; guide and inspire learners of every age and ability. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

.Create in our hearts a yearning to rest in your promise of eternal and resurrected life. Give us thankful hearts for those who have died, even as we look forward to the hope of new life with you. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Peace If you are worship with someone else, turn and share, “The peace of Christ be with you always.” Response, “And also with you.” You might use your finger to mark you children or loved one with a cross on their forehead. If you are practicing social distancing, put your palms together in-front of your chest and open them outward to the other to show your blessing of them. Peace!

Offering Prayer

Merciful God, our ordinary gifts seem small in light of your actions for us, but you make of them an abundance, just as you do with our lives. Feed us again for service in your name, in the strength of the risen Christ. Amen.

Communion: I invite you to talk a little piece of bread and eat it. Christ is as close to you as the bread in your mouth and stomach. Always remember. Now take a sip of your drink. Christ is as close to you as the blood in your body, strengthening you. Always remember.

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Life-giving God, you have fed us with your word, and our hearts burn within us. Through this service you have opened us to your presence. Now send us forth to share the gifts of Easter with all in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing

May the One who brought forth Jesus from the dead raise you to new life, fill you with hope, and turn your mourning into dancing. Almighty God, Father, ☩ Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you now and forever. Amen.

 

Sending Hymn

Christ the Lord is Risen Today, ELW 389 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFjnlBn0K10

Dismissal

Christ is risen, just as he said. Go in peace. Share the good news. Alleluia!

Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

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