April 26, 2020 – 3rd Sunday of Easter
We need your presence on the long road, Lord. The road between fear and hope, the road between the place where all is lost and the place of resurrection. Like the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, we are in need of your company! Jesus, stand among us, in your risen power, let this time of worship, be a hallowed hour.
Christ Is Alive (Brian Wren)
Meet us, Lord, on the road to Emmaus. Guide us on the path toward our destination, and renew our strength as we continue to walk and commune with you. Risen Christ, as you journeyed with the two who travelled the Emmaus Road, travel with us on our journey of faith. In our encounters on the way give us compassion to listen to the other’s story, patience to explain what may seem obvious to ourselves, and courage to make ourselves vulnerable, so that others may encounter you through us and we may rediscover you through them. Amen.
Hallelujah to the Lamb (Don Moen)
Acts 2:14a, 36-41 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them,
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.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter 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. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
1 I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”
12 What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, 14 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. 16 O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. 17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord. 18 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!
1 Peter 1:17-23 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
17 If 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. 18 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21 Through 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.
22 Now 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. 23 You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
Luke 24:13-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 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?” 19 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, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 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. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 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. 24 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.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 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?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee (attr. to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, John Dykes)
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Risen Lord, hear our cry for help –
for those surrounded by the shroud of death
for those covered by the mantle of dying
for those hemmed-in by illness, visible or veiled
hear our cry for help…
for those weighed down with worries
for those carrying the burden of distress
for those overwhelmed by isolation
hear our cry for help…
for those who are weary
for those who are tattered and worn
for those who collapse from exhaustion
hear our cry for help…
Risen Lord, hear our cry of thanksgiving –
for the graciousness with which you hear
for the patience with which you listen
for the grace with which you care
hear our cry of thanksgiving…
for the ways you accompany us through deep valleys
for the ways you lead us to still meadows
for the ways you provide all we need
hear our cry of thanksgiving…
for transforming death in resurrection life
for blessing and breaking ordinary bread
for opening our eyes to recognize you
hear our cry of thanksgiving…
Risen Lord, hear our cry for communities of faith –
that we retain memory of being together
that we embrace unity in the reality of distance
that we foresee a future side-by-side, hand-in-hand
hear our cry for communities of faith…
that we sense purpose beyond ourselves
that we perceive the needs of creation
that we stretch ourselves to respond
hear our cry for communities of faith…
that our ways be formed by Your Way
that our lives be shaped by Your Life
that our love be Your Love
hear our cry for communities our faith…
And hear us as we pray together,
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
O Jesus Christ, sometimes we are so busy talking with each other that we fail to find you beside us. We walk on, so focused on our questions that we do not create the silent spaces which would allow you to speak with us and enlighten our journeying.
Stay with us, Jesus Christ. Reach out towards us and invite us to pause and meet with you, we pray. As we look at our lives and that of the world around us, we are sometimes too anxious to share our real questions or our doubts and fears. We keep them within us in troubled silence.
Stay with us, Jesus Christ.
Reach out towards us and invite us to pause and meet with you, we pray.
We call your name, O Christ, and hope to discover you here in our community of vulnerable faith. Amen.
Words of Assurance
Whether we believe it, or not, Jesus Christ never leaves us nor forsakes us. Let us open our hearts to receive the grace which Christ brings to us in faithfulness. We are forgiven! Thanks be to God.
The Risen Christ (Keith Getty, Phil Madeira)
Have you ever bumped into someone and struck up a conversation while thinking to yourself – “I know this person; who is this person; I should know this person”? I don’t know how many times I’ve chatted with former students, could tell you their whole story, and still not remember their name. That’s kind of what two of Jesus’ followers on their way to Emmaus must have been thinking as they walked along with this “stranger.” They thought they must have known him or had run into him somewhere; something about this stranger seemed too familiar to dismiss. As we read at the end of the story from Luke 24, they remarked to each other (after Jesus revealed himself), “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” They knew him, just as we know the people we meet, but they couldn’t place him – until their “eyes” were opened, their spiritual haze was lifted. Jesus’ action of breaking the bread for the meal opened them up to who this really was seated before them at the table.
You see, when Jesus was crucified and buried, that was it. All that time he had spent with the disciples and followers meant very little anymore. Jesus was dead. All that talk of “rebuilding the temple” and “I’m going to prepare a place for you,” and don’t forget “I and the Father are one” – all that meant nothing – Jesus was dead! Dead, gone, buried. All the disciples and followers had fled, except for a few women, Joseph and Nicodemus. They hid out of fear of the Roman soldiers; they hid out of fear of the Jewish religious leaders. They had all seen Jesus die and their hopes and wishes had died with him. Just when you start putting your trust and hope in someone, they’re gone. Not only were they hiding in fear, but I can imagine the disciples and the other loyal followers were dismayed, discouraged, disillusioned, full of questions with no answers, perhaps even angry. How could Jesus do this? How could he just die and leave them there alone – after all he had promised? Physically – they were in mourning; their friend and teacher had died. Mentally – they were perplexed and bewildered; how could this happen? Spiritually – they were downcast, praying with the writer of Psalms 42 and 43, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?” Their hopes and dreams, their lives, their everything was in this great rabbi, spiritual leader, and friend. And now he was gone.
So, now, these two followers of Jesus were on their way to Emmaus, about a couple hours walk to the west of Jerusalem. They were physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted from what they had just witnessed in the days before. All these emotions were flooding their minds and souls and they were having a hard time making sense out of any of it, so much so that they sarcastically answer the stranger, “Are you the only one who doesn’t know that our friend and rabbi was just killed by the Romans and buried in such a hurry that we couldn’t even prepare his body properly or say goodbye?!?! What the heck, dude? Where have you been?” Although they had heard reports from the women about Jesus’ body not being in the tomb and how the gardener was really Jesus, these two travelers could not, were not, open to the possibility that Jesus was not dead. They hadn’t yet gotten to the point where Jesus’ teachings and what was currently happening overlapped and became one. As they walked, Jesus prepared them and helped them start linking all those things together. It wasn’t until the breaking of the bread that it all made sense – the “Aha!” moment; they were now ready and understood: Jesus was truly alive and was seated there before them!
As we read the passages from Acts 2 and 1 Peter 1, we see that both writers are also talking about the revelation of Jesus, the moment we are able to see him. In Acts, Peter is speaking to the crowd that had gathered around the disciples at Pentecost, helping them to understand who this Jesus person was and is that was crucified a few weeks before. He traced Jesus’ story all the way back through the prophets and prophecies, sharing with them God’s mighty and wonderful acts, and describing the crucifixion of Jesus and what it meant. As Jesus prepared the two travelers, so Peter here was preparing the crowd: “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (v. 36). The crowd, about 3000 people, experienced their “Aha” moment and immediately asked how to accept this crucified and risen Messiah; they were then baptized on the spot.
In 1 Peter, the author is writing to believers who had, for various reasons, been spread around Asia Minor, the areas that make up modern-day Turkey. He reminds them of Jesus’ story, again tracing it back through the prophets and prophecies similar to the unfolding in Acts 2. Jesus’ identity or the timing of his arrival was not revealed to the prophets; they only knew he was coming. Now, however, Peter is asking them to look forward, to the time when Jesus will be revealed again at the end of time. “You know he’s coming, you believe even though you don’t see him, so live like it.” In the previous verses to our reading, Peter writes, “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, ‘I am holy; you be holy’” (1 Pet. 1:13-16, The Message). Peter here is trying to help his readers be prepared for their “Aha” moment when Jesus does return, and in order to do that, they have to live lives that are holy and full of love, as we see in verse 22 – “love one another deeply from the heart.”
When we meet “old friends,” sometimes it takes us a while before we have an “Aha” moment and realize who we were talking to. But do we have any “Aha” moments with Jesus? How many times do we go about our daily lives not really paying attention to what God is showing us – the beauty of nature, the love of our family and friends, those “coincidences” we take for granted. As we look around us today in our isolation, do we see Jesus? Or are our spiritual eyes unable and unwilling to be open to possibilities? The two travelers on the road to Emmaus were not able to see Jesus even though he was physically right there walking and talking with them. They were not prepared; they couldn’t connect the dots of everything they’d heard and experienced. What about us? Although Jesus isn’t physically walking with us, do we see and hear him in the store clerk, the fast-food worker, the nurse, the utility repairman, the news reporter, the child who has no idea what’s going on? Or do we have a spiritual haze that is blinding us and not allowing us to be open to what might be? For many of us, this last month has been one of dismay, discouragement, despair: we lament with the psalmist, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” With all the things we see and hear on the news, in the papers, on the computer, we are stuck in fear and worry, unable to see Jesus beside us. As this time of isolation and social distancing continues, may we be reminded of the rest of that verse from Psalm 42 and 43: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” Jesus is here, walking and talking with us as we make our way through this uncertain time; are we prepared for “Aha” moments? I pray that as we go about our day-to-day lives, we will be open and focused on Jesus Christ and the hope that he brings. May we sing with the author of Psalm 116 (our reading), “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications…Praise the Lord!” Amen.
Open Our Eyes/Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus/Open My Eyes, that I May See (medley)
Blessing and Benediction
Go now as those who have met with Christ
in the morning of this day.
Go now as those who hearts have burned within them,
as the Scriptures were explained.
Go now as those
who have been touched by resurrection.
And may the blessing of God
be upon you, body, mind and spirit.
Pictures from pinterest.com
Call to Worship: by Carol Penner, http://carolpenner.typepad.com/ , as found on https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2013/03/call-to-worship-emmaus-road.html
Opening Prayer: by Rev. Frank Schaefer, http://www.desperatepreacher.com/ , as found on https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2012/04/emmaus-road-prayer.html and Lindsey Sanderson, as found on https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2012/01/opening-prayer-luke-2413-32.html
Prayer: Katherine Kussmaul,
https://www.liturgylink.net/2020/04/22/prayers-of-the-people-risen-lord-hear-our-cry/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ liturgylink+%28LiturgyLink%29 , as found on https://re-worship.blogspot.com/search/label/Easter%203%20Year%20A
Prayer of Confession and Words of Assurance: from Words for Worship, http://pilgrimwr.unitingchurch.org.au/ , as found on
Blessing and Benediction: by Ann Siddall, http://www.stillpointsa.org.au/ , as found on https://re-worship.blogspot.com/search/label/Easter%203%20Year%20A
Blessings and peace.