04-26-2020 Sermom

SUNDAY, APRIL 26, 2020 THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

Introduction

Today’s gospel begins with two disciples walking to Emmaus, overcome with sadness, loss, and disappointment. They had hoped Jesus, who was crucified, would be the one to redeem Israel! Yet the risen Christ walks with them and then opens their eyes in the breaking of the bread. Each Sunday our hearts burn within us as the scriptures are proclaimed and Christ appears to us as bread is broken and wine is poured. The story of Emmaus becomes the pattern of our worship each Lord’s day.

GREETING

P: Alleluia! Christ is risen.

C:Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

C:And also with you.

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.

P: Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God, who gives us a new birth into a living hope, who raises us with Christ from death, who fills us with the Holy Spirit.

C:Amen.

P: Let us repent of our sin and claim the promise of God.

Silence is kept for reflection.

P: Living God,

C:we confess before you and one another our futile ways, our pursuit of perishable things, our own part in crucifying the Lord Jesus. Forgive us, O God; renew the face of the earth; and give us the assurance that you have rescued us from the power of sin and made us alive in the Spirit forever. Amen.

P: Christ suffered for sins once for all in order to bring you to God. Now you are God’s people; now you have received mercy. In the name of the risen + Lord Jesus, I declare to you that your sins are forgiven. Lay aside guilt, put away shame, for you are chosen and precious in God’s sight. Live in the marvelous light of Christ.

C:Amen.

Prayer of the Day

P: O God,

C: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.

First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Today’s reading is the conclusion of Peter’s sermon preached following the giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. The center of his preaching is the bold declaration that God has made the crucified Jesus both Lord and Christ.

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: 116:14-17
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 thanksgivingand call upon the name of the Lord.

Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-23

The imagery of exile is used to help the readers of this letter understand that they are strangers in a strange land. Christians no longer belong to this age. Through the death of Christ we belong to God, so that our focus, faith, and hope are no longer on such things as silver or gold.

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

The colorful story of Jesus’ appearance to two disciples on the road to Emmaus answers the question of how Jesus is to be recognized among us. Here, he is revealed through the scriptures and in the breaking of bread.

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

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried;  He descended to the dead.  On the third day he rose again; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

P: 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.

A brief silence.

P: 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,

C:hear our prayer.

P: 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,

C:hear our prayer.

P: 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,

C:hear our prayer.

P: 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,

C:hear our prayer.

P: 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,

C:hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

P: 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,

C:hear our prayer.

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

C:Amen.

Blessing

P:  As you go on your way may Christ go with you.  May he go before you to show you the way; May he go behind you to encourage you; Beside you to befriend you; Above you to watch over; Within you to give you peace.  In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit.  Amen.

Streams Theme Song

See the streams of living waters, 

springing from eternal love, 

well supply your sons and daughters, 

and all fear of want remove.  

Who can faint while such a river 

ever will their thirst assuage? 

Grace which, like the Lord, the giver, 

never fails from age to age.

PASTOR’S SERMON

3 EASTER—4-26-2020—LUKE 24:13-25

Early in 1761 two small earthquakes hit London, England. Soon afterwards, a rumor spread through the city that a well-known psychic had predicted a massive earthquake would occur on April 5 of that year. Gullible people were alarmed. Citizens of London began leaving the city, moving to other cities nearby or setting up camps in the outlying rural areas. And then they waited for the big one to hit. And, of course, it never did.

The cynical side of me wonders if the rumors were spread by a crew of robbers who emptied all of those deserted homes of their valuables.

Such rumors usually turn out to be fake news. Our gospel for today concerns two rumors. One was that Jesus body had been stolen by his followers. The other is that Jesus had risen from the dead just like he said he would and he was alive. The two followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus had heard both rumors. Those two disciples did not know which rumor to believe. It’s at that moment that Jesus comes to them

Here’s something you may not know: People in situations of extreme stress, such as mountain climbers, explorers, even survivors of the World Trade Center bombings, have reported experiencing what is today being called the “Third Man” syndrome. This is the sense that in your time of greatest danger and distress, an unseen presence or voice comes alongside you and guides you to safety or motivates you to keep going when you’re ready to give up. It happens so often that it is being taken seriously by some in the scientific community. 

Of course, we have an explanation for that. Sometimes that “third man” is real. “Just when I need him,” wrote the poet, “Jesus is near . . .”

These two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who were wrestling with questions and fears, experienced the ultimate “Third Man” event. What a reassuring statement: “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.”

Jesus knows the disappointment and pain and fear in our hearts. He knows that we wrestle with understanding God’s ways. So why didn’t Jesus just reveal himself as the risen Messiah and take away all their pain? Here’s the answer, please listen closely: It’s because the greatest blessing God can give us is not an easy life. The greatest blessing God can give us is the knowledge that He is with us in all our challenges and struggles, even in a pandemic

Russell Okung, an offensive tackle with the Los Angeles Chargers, lost his father at a young age. Russell became the man of the household, taking care of his mother and sister. He became accustomed to taking care of others and not asking for help.

When he was in college in Oklahoma, a hurricane swept through his home city of Houston, Texas. Russell felt such fear and helplessness knowing that he was 500 miles away from his family and he could not take care of them. He sat in the college chapel and prayed. He said that most of his prayers centered around the question, “Why?” 

Why was his family going through this crisis without him? Why had his father died young? Why couldn’t God stop the storms and the floods hitting his family’s home? And as he sat there feeling helpless, he sensed a voice inside of him saying, “You don’t have to do this alone. You’re not by yourself.”

At that moment, Okung reports that he realized he had never been alone. As he said about that night in the chapel, “I knew only God could be my present hope.” The peace he experienced that night convinced him to trust God with every aspect of his life. And his life has never been the same since.

We see this theme over and over again in the Bible. Let me say it again: The greatest blessing God can give us is not an easy life. The greatest blessing God can give us is the knowledge that He is with us in all our challenges and struggles, even in this pandemic.  

Jesus never gives a blessing without first giving us a lesson. Jesus often asked for others to participate in his miracles. And it’s not because he needed their help. It’s because he knew they needed to take a step of faith and become part of a miracle.

When you pray for patience, God does not just grant you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. He sends challenging people and situations into your path.

When you pray for wisdom, God sends you situations that require humility and discernment. We learn God’s greatest lessons through the challenges he sends us. I think that’s why Jesus asked the two on the road, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

A lot of people justify their disbelief in God by citing the miracles in the Bible. Impossible! Unrealistic! Unscientific! They say. But it’s amazing to me how often God could have used a miracle to get His point across, but He didn’t. He chose to work through average people and average circumstances instead. He chose to restrain His overwhelming and awesome power to walk alongside us and invite us into the mystery of faith. 

This story on the road to Emmaus perfectly illustrates God’s restraint. It is in God’s silence, in His seeming absence, in those moments when God’s work or God’s presence is obscure to us, that we sincerely search for Him. That’s when we walk by faith not by sight.  And in his Son, he walks beside us, even in a pandemic.

If God answered our every prayer in our manner and in our time, if God acted in ways that were perfectly reasonable and accommodating to our wants and wishes, we would never need to exercise faith. We would never need to quiet the noise within us and listen for His voice. We would seek His blessings and gifts, but never seek Him. It is when God hides Himself from us that we stop taking Him for granted. When we notice the lack, the absence, the void, that’s when we set aside minor, shallow pleasures and ache for God. It is then that we see Him.

And so, these two disciples on the road to Emmaus are discussing Jesus’ death and the rumors about empty tombs and angels and missing bodies. And a stranger comes alongside them and asks them what they’re talking about. And they think, “What a rube! How out of touch is this guy?”  Because everyone’s been talking about the huge Passover celebration, and the man who claimed to be king of the Jews, his gruesome death and the disappearance of his body. Everyone’s talking about it!

And that bringsme to our second point this morning:sometimes it is in our time of loss that we become aware of God’s larger vision for His world. These disciples still saw Jesus as. a prophetic leader, not as the Messiah and King of Kings. They had hoped that Jesus would be the one to return the throne to Jerusalem. Now their hopes were destroyed. They were holding on to their vision of God’s plan for the world, when they needed to open themselves to Christ’s vision of that plan. 

Jesus would be leaving them soon so that the Holy Spirit would come upon them. That Spirit would lead them into all truth. That Holy Spirit would comfort them, guide them and give them strength until that day came when God’s plan would be realized in all its fullness.

Country singer Johnny Cash lost his big brother, Jack, in an accident when Johnny was twelve. The grief and loneliness drove Johnny to alcohol and drugs and throwing himself into his work. At age thirty-five, he drove himself to Nickajack Cave on the Tennessee River with the intent of ending his life. Instead, as he walked farther into the cave, he had his own “third man” experience. Johnny Cash experienced the presence and comfort and peace of God. He walked back out of the cave with a renewed faith in God.

Johnny was not healed of all his grief. He did not receive some supernatural answer about his brother’s death. Instead, he received the presence and comfort of God, and it allowed him to go on living with renewed hope and determination. This is not just a rumor. This is fantastic good news. 

God has placed us in a world where we sometimes must struggle mightily against forces we do not understand, but God does not leave us alone. God is with us and, if we will let Him, God will use those times of struggle to grow us into persons who are fit to share eternity with Him. Let him use this pandemic as your opportunity to grow.

But here’s thefinal thing to be said: when you meet Jesus in your struggles and understand the hope he offers, you find the motivation to share the Good News with others.No one knows for sure where Emmaus was. It appears that the town itself does not exist anymore. But Emmaus does not need a physical location. Where is your Emmaus? Could it be in the midst of a pandemic?

Where is the place in your life when you were grieving and hopeless, and the presence of Jesus became real to you, and you turned around and went back to share your joy with others? That’s what the disciples did. They went through times of terrible struggle and persecution after Christ left them, but, through the power of his Spirit they found a joy so great that they were motivated to share it with everyone they met.

There is an old Celtic prayer that reminds us that Jesus knows our hearts. He knows our disappointments and our heartaches. And that may be why he chose to return to his disciples in such an ordinary state. In the upper room, he showed the disciples his wounds. On the road to Emmaus, he appeared as an average traveler. 

But each of the disciples experienced overwhelming joy and peace in his presence. And he still promises his presence to us today, wherever our journey takes us. So I’d like to close with this prayer as a reminder that as Jesus sends us out to do his work, he is always with us, equipping us for the work.

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet walk with you on the road.

May the Christ who serves with wounded hands stretch out your hands to serve.

May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart open your hearts to love.

May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet, and may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you. AMEN.

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

The Book of Common Prayer reminds us that if one is unable to actually consume the consecrated bread and wine due to extreme sickness or disability, the desire is enough for God to grant all the benefits of communion (BCP, p. 457). When being present at a celebration of the Eucharist is absolutely impossible, this act of prayer and meditation can provide the means by which you can associate yourself with the Eucharistic Action and open yourself to God’s grace and blessing.

Blessed be God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.

Let the power of the Holy Spirit come upon me, O Lord, to mercifully cleanse my heart and defend me from all adversities; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle: Revelation 3:20

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.

The Psalm: Psalm 23:5-6

You prepare a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over. Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The Gospel: John 15:5

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do nothing.

If time and circumstances permit, confess your faith with the words of the Apostles’ Creed.

In your own words, pray for your own needs, for those on your heart, for the peace of the world, and for the Church. 

After offering these intercessions, continue with the

Act of Contrition

O God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you and for all the wrongs I have done and the good I have not done. Especially I confess….Forgive me for Jesus’ sake, and grant me strength and wisdom to amend my life. Amen.

Act of Reception

In union, blessed Jesus, with the faithful gathered at every altar of your Church where your blessed Body and Blood are offered this day, (and remembering particularly my own parish and those worshiping there) I long to offer you praise and thanksgiving, for creation and all the blessings of this life, for the redemption won for us by your life, death, and resurrection, for the means of grace and the hope of glory.

And particularly for the blessings given me…. I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament, and, since I cannot at this time receive communion, I pray you to come into my heart. I unite myself with you and embrace you with all my heart, my soul, and my mind. Let nothing separate me from you; let me serve you in this life until, by your grace, I come to your glorious kingdom and unending peace. Amen.

Our Father…

Come Lord Jesus, and dwell in my heart in the fullness of your strength; be my wisdom and guide me in right pathways; conform my life and actions to the image of your holiness; and, in the power of your gracious might, rule over every hostile power that threatens or disturbs the growth of your kingdom, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep my heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ my Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, + the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with me now and always. Amen.