Order of Service
|Prelude||Chris Tou, piano|
|Confession & Forgiveness||Pastor Linda|
|Gathering Song||Signs and Wonders|
Chris Tou, piano
Prayer of the Day
|Scripture||Luke 24: 13-35||Barb Kass|
|Hymn||Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia|
Chris Tou, piano
|Statement of Faith||Pastor Linda|
|Prayers of Intercession||Nikki Strandskov|
|Closing Hymn||Alleluia, Jesus is Risen|
Chris Tou, piano
|Postlude||Chris Tou, piano|
Confession & Forgiveness
P: In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
P: By our baptism we are united to Christ and raised to new life. Let us confess to God all that awaits resurrection in our lives.
Silence for reflection and self-examination.
Lord of love,
C: we find it hard to believe the witness of the resurrection: we resist your unfailing love for us and for others, and we turn our backs on the gift of new life, choosing instead the way that takes us away from you and leads us back toward death. Free us from this power of sin, guide us by your Spirit, and help us in our weakness, that we may live as your children, restored to new and everlasting life. Amen
P: By God’s grace you are forgiven and born anew. May you be strengthened daily with the power to walk in God’s light and love. Amen.
Gathering Song – Signs and Wonders
Signs and wonders lead the dancing from the heart God frees from fear:
wings of angels greet the maiden, and God finds a dwelling here:
boldly may we lift our hands, bow the head, and voice Amen;
thus does glory shine at midnight: open hearts invite the starlight.
Hope and freedom join the circle: Mary to the garden came,
saw the radiance of the marvel, heard the Risen call her name;
boldly may we heed Christ’s call, step beyond the garden wall:
beautiful the feet proceeding with good news of death’s defeating.
Cast aside all fear and hiding; hand in hand we dance the round.
God is with us, Christ abiding, and the Spirit’s gifts abound.
Called by God to holiness, let us boldly serve and bless;
and to hearts that sigh and hunger may our lives dance signs and wonders.
Text: Susan Palo Cherwien
Music: Trente quatre pseaumes de David
P: God is here to bless you. And blessed are you, beyond telling.
Christ be with you in this day and every day, in every need, in every way.
C: And also with you.
Prayer of the Day
God of life, You are the peace of all things calm.
You are the place to hide from harm. You are the light that shines in dark.
You are the heart’s eternal spark. You are the door that’s open wide.
You are the guest who waits inside. You are the stranger at the door.
You are the calling of the poor. You are my Lord and with me still.
You are my love, keep me from ill. You are the light, the truth, the way.
You are my Savior this very day. Amen
1 Answer me when I call, O God, defender | of my cause;
you set me free when I was in distress; have mercy on me and | hear my prayer.
2 “You mortals, how long will you dishon-|or my glory;
how long will you love illusions and seek | after lies?”
3 Know that the Lord does wonders | for the faithful;
the Lord will hear me | when I call.
4 Tremble, then and | do not sin;
speak to your heart in silence up-|on your bed.
5 Offer the appointed | sacrifices,
and put your trust | in the Lord.
6 Many are saying, “Who will show us | any good?”
Let the light of your face shine upon | us, O Lord.
7 You have put gladness | in my heart,
more than when grain and | wine abound.
8 In peace, I will lie | down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me | rest secure.
Intro to Sermon
In the prologue to his gospel, Luke says that he set out to make an orderly account of the information regarding Jesus that was circulating at his time – which was at least 50 years after the first Easter Day. There were many stories – some written, some still in verbal form; many of the letters of Paul had been copied and were being carried and shared from town to town; the gospel of Mark was written by this time. Another source that we call Q contained stories and information which are not included in Mark but are evident in Matthew and Luke’s gospel accounts – so that was in circulation …
50 years after the death of Jesus on a cross on the hill of Golgotha there was still a hubbub – still a confusing assortment of ideas, beliefs, parables, misinformation, conspiracy theories, rumors and doubts. Luke wanted to sort it all out and provide an orderly account. So, not a scientific account or a reporter on the scene account, not a dictated from angelic messenger account and not even an historically accurate account, but an orderly, gathered, thoughtful, faithful account of God’s good news for us through Jesus.
The Christian faith is born and nurtured where people share in the life of God through word and action, in expressions of mutual care, in fellowship with Jesus and others, in a sacramental approach to our lived lives and the world around us, in the willingness to gather, to share it all with others. That is what it means to be the church as an encounter space for Christ.
In the gathering and expression, Jesus is present, though not seen. It is not by our will or command or learning, but by God’s grace that he comes among us. First Mary and the women, then Peter, then Cleopas and his unnamed companion, then the rest of the disciples in groups and on occasions were given an experience with the risen one and were transformed by it, unaccountably emboldened and changed. Theirs is the witness, the faith, through which we are given the story.
Though the tomb was empty, the space was filled with God. “And the word lived among us,” to borrow from the prolog to John’s gospel, “the word lived among us full of truth and light.”
Scripture Reading – Luke 24: 13-35
The Gospel according to Luke, the 24th chapter.
Now on that same day two of those who had followed Jesus 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 Jesus 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.
The Gospel of our Lord……Thanks be to God
The disciples’ walk to Emmaus is one of my favorite post-resurrection stories – and there are some helpful details to notice:
- One is that information alone doesn’t create faith. This is an important point. Like a virus, faith is infectious; it’s shared and caught and spread, not learned. “Where two or three are gathered,” Jesus said, “there I will infect you.” As the three were walking along, Jesus explained the scriptures to Cleopas and his companion. He gave them bullet point instruction highlighting scripture that foretold his coming, that explained his suffering, that promised his rising – but even with this first-hand tutoring, they didn’t understand. They didn’t know this ‘walking man’ until the bread was broken and handed on and their eyes opened and Jesus left them. I think this is important because it points to the necessity of relationship – to the intertwining of scripture and life and others and God’s spirit. Memorizing the Bible won’t create faith. Living the gospel might.
- There’s also our perennial curiosity about Jesus’ resurrected body. The interesting witness from each of the gospels is that no one who saw Jesus after his death recognized him by sight, but only in deed, only through action. Whether it’s here in Luke’s telling of Jesus blessing and breaking bread, or in Matthew’s gospel where the two Marys take hold of his feet, or in John’s gospel when Mary mistook him for the gardener until he spoke her name, or when Thomas was able to poke his finger around in Jesus’ wounded side, or when Peter’s empty nets filled with fish – in all of these recollections and traditions there seems to be a necessity for some physical element, some earthly, human connection in order to complete the transaction from encounter to recognition to belief. As shown again in these examples, information isn’t enough. Our eyes might blind us. Our rational minds might mislead us or block the possibilities. In all of the gospel stories, faith (mind and life altering trust in the presence of God in Jesus) requires minds, bodies, and spirits – whole selves – experiencing in order to know. This points to the necessity of a church community, of gathering, of being together the body of Christ, of enlightened, interpreted experience in order for faith to thrive.
The most engaging feature of this story for me is its mysterious, ephemeral sense. The unknowing, almost-but-not-quite theme functions like an invitation. I’m interested in the riddle of a story that makes a shift from dark things to light in the presence of absence, in the medium of things that are seen and then not seen.
These two disciples, friends of Jesus, were walking away from it all, leaving town discouraged, scared, heartbroken – Jesus was dead and his tomb empty – robbed? Maybe, but why? The women told a crazy tale about seeing someone who told them Jesus was still living… raised? How could he be… it was just the women, but still it’s unsettling. His closest companions had withdrawn to their upper rooms to grieve and worry. Probably, they’d say their goodbyes and go back to whatever life was left for them, whatever pieces they could pick up again. These two were on their way back home. Their forlorn disappointment is palpable. A stranger catches up to them and entrances them with the interpretation of scripture he offers. It stirs their broken hearts. They urge him to stay for supper and the night. They don’t make the connection though until it all changes in a flash of recognition – and then they are left alone again. The ah-ha moment lit up Christ’s disappearance. I can see them grasping for the trailing wisps as he disappeared. And then it’s dark again.
I like it when scripture matches my experience. Mostly, I feel that true, mind-altering, life-changing faith is a bit beyond me, that I’m just on the verge of understanding or loving or accepting God’s will in my life, but I can’t ever quite get there. I like the words. I’m drawn to the imagery and stories and poetry of scripture. I like being spiritual and religious. But real belief? Real commitment to this cause of God? All-out giving away of my whole self – heart, body, mind, soul, life – to follow in the Way of Christ – wherever that might lead me?
I don’t think I can do that. I can kind of see what it might ask of me, where it could lead, and I don’t want to let go and go. I’m not one of the medieval mystics I admire so much and keep quoting to you. I’m just me – mostly afraid of big changes and settled and hopeful and skeptical and happy to keep my faith on a poetic flight path – giving what encouragement I can to those who live it far better and far truer than do I. There is a gap in the transference from what I know to what I do. If transcendence is living out of myself and into God, then I am rather earth bound, suspended somewhere between Easter Day and Earth Day. Fascinated but cautious.
I love the woods and creeks and bogs and fields around me. I have a theology strongly leaning toward an earth-centered redemption for all of creation in God’s ‘presence and will’ here, now, among the people we know and have opportunity to love, among those who are strangers to us and whom we have opportunity to serve. But I do also recognize that this is a position – a prerogative, a luxury – of privilege. I’ve been born into a pleasant, peaceful place with possibilities – not torture or political oppression or crushing poverty. I recognize the danger of my white privilege, even while I’m not quite sure what to do about it, how to lessen the gap between my comfort and the crumpling needs of the poor, of the afflicted, and of the earth.
In the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chauvin trial, continual gun violence, domestic violence, political posturing, big business, big egos – we see the power of empire. We see it in false divisions that defy the common good. Why is defending the environment, or the value of science, racial justice, excellent education, compassionate health care and funding for those who provide these essential skills a political stumbling block? The earth’s habitat and her creatures are, for the majority of the people of this country and in our world, irrelevant. They are costly. Their concerns are luxuries for those privileged to care, while the rest of the earth’s population concerns themselves with survival… or greed – either end of the extreme of human need. To be alive and aware is to be swept up in the overwhelming issues of the day. It is hard to see what role, what transformative power faith might have in the conflicted values of life inside the empire.
And so, a week after Easter, we’ve eaten all the chocolate, picked through the jelly beans for our favorites and we’re back to this strange version of Covid life, waiting for a time when we can say we’re past it. Chances are your life doesn’t feel particularly Easter-ified. True, things are greening, the trees are budding, the green blade rising, but chances are you don’t expect anything spiritually transformative to happen to you. You aren’t looking for it with the same anticipation you might have for the return of orioles and hummingbirds. We are used to Easter. We’ve heard this biblical word. Christ is arisen…and then we go on to Monday, sink back into the dullness of things hoped for but as yet unseen, of promises made, of God’s love seen and unseen.
But there is this weird bit about the presence of Christ’s absence.
The thing that kept Cleopas and his companion from recognizing Jesus when he was with them might have been that they thought he was dead and gone; they were so lost in their sad and tangled thoughts that they did not recognize him any more than you and I would recognize him as we walk through the world – because – like them – our eyes are conditioned to not see what we don’t expect to see. Our minds filter out the improbable. Yet the freeing, joyful, hopeful improbable is just as real as what we expect to see.
Did you know that Cleopas and the unnamed companion are only mentioned here in this story? Nowhere else in the Bible or other gospels. Did you know that Emmaus is not mentioned anywhere else biblically, historically, nor is it confirmed by archaeological evidence? I read that the word Emmaus means ‘warm spring’. Their hearts burned within them and they sprang back into life and action after Jesus vanished from their sight. I don’t know that either of these details are significant in their absence of corroborated reality, but they lend themselves to the mystery of Jesus appearing and disappearing, as if Emmaus and Jesus were merely a mirage in the purple gloaming of evening. I’m grateful that it’s only when he vanished from sight that these two unknowns came to believe. It’s only in their shared amazement that they were compelled to action to share their experience. The absence of Jesus caused them to recognize his presence just like the empty tomb was filled with God.
I believe that, even though Cleopas and his companion did not recognize Jesus on the road, Jesus did recognize them – and knew them for who they really were. And I suspect that the reason the resurrection is more than just an old, odd, isolated, poorly explained, extraordinary event that took place a long, long time ago in a land far away but now is over and done with, is that, in spite of it all, God continues to see us, to see you, and know you for who you really are. God continues to be present even in the absence of Jesus’ presence. We need that knowing, and long for it. I believe that whether we recognize him or not, believe in him or not, again and again Jesus comes and walks a little way with us along whatever road we’re following. And I believe that through something that happens, something we experience or participate in, through someone we know Jesus offers us, the way he did at Emmaus, the bread of life, a new hope, a new vision of light that even the darkness of sorrow and death and daily life cannot quench.
The new life of Easter doesn’t erase or cancel or minimize our disappointment, or render our experiences irrelevant. This is the life we have, the life we live. Christ among us calls us to retell the bad times, and then to look again, perhaps to see something different that we missed the first time – how God is present in it, with us, along the way – revealed – if not in a trumpet blast, then perhaps in a whisper, a touch, a saving, holy word. Though the tomb was empty, the space was filled with God. Christ’s true presence is revealed in his absence. Just like at a super table in Emmaus when the bread is broken.
Christ has arisen, for you, for the world, for all the seen and unseen. Peace be in you.
Hymn – Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia
Christ has arisen, alleluia,
Rejoice and praise Him, alleluia.
For our Redeemer burst from the tomb,
Even from death, dispelling its gloom.
Let us sing praise to Him with endless joy;
Death’s fearful sting He has come to destroy
Our sin forgiving, alleluia!
Jesus is living, alleluia!
For three long days the grave did its worst
Until its strength by God was dispersed.
He who gives life did death undergo;
And it its conquest His might did show.
The angel said to them, “Do not fear!
You look for Jesus who is not here.
See for yourselves the tomb is all bare;
Only the grave clothes are lying there.”
“Go spread the news: He’s not in the grave;
He has arisen this world to save.
Jesus’ redeeming labors are done;
Even the battle with sin is won.”
Christ has arisen; He sets us free;
Alleluia, to Him praises be.
Jesus is living! Let us all sing;
He reigns triumphant, heavenly King.
Text: Bernard Kyamanywa; tr. Howard S. Olson
Music: Tanzanian traditional
Statement of Faith
In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother, and Savior.
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen
~ Julian of Norwich
Prayers of Intercession
United in spirit, though physically separated, let us pray for the church, for all people, and for all of creation. Each petition will end with Hear us, O Lord, and your response is, Your mercy is great.
God of Creation, after the joy and sunshine of Easter came grey skies and rain. We thank you for the rain, for the small birds who are singing each morning, for the farmers who are starting seeds. After the hope brought by vaccinations, came surges in new infections. Nevertheless we thank you for science and for the medical workers who guard our health. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, it is too easy for us to see only the sadness around us, until you open our eyes and hearts to the truth of resurrection. Help us to live in hope. Hear us, O Lord, your mercy is great.
God of Justice, guide our judges and juries, attorneys and investigators. Help them to search impartially, to prosecute and defend ethically, and to decide wisely and justly. Care for those whose mission it is to serve and protect us, especially our members in the police force and military, and keep them safe. Hear us, O Lord, your mercy is great.
God of Love, keep in our hearts love for all your people, not only for the people who are like us. Help everyone on earth to know they are your beloved children, in whatever way they understand you. Hear us, O Lord, your mercy is great.
God of Strength and Comfort, we ask your help and healing for all who are ill, frail, or injured in body, mind, or spirit, especially those known to us whom we name silently or aloud. [Pause for names.] Comfort all those who mourn, especially the family and friends of Jim Christiansen, whose memory is a blessing. Hear us, O Lord, your mercy is great.
We ask all this, and the inward petitions of our hearts, in the strong name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen
Hymn – Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen!
Alleluia! Jesus is risen!
Trumpets resounding in glorious light!
Splendor, the Lamb, heaven forever!
Oh, what a miracle God has in sight!
Jesus is risen and we shall arise.
Give God the glory! Alleluia!
Walking the way, Christ in the center
telling the story to open our eyes;
breaking our bread, giving us glory:
Jesus our blessing, our constant surprise.
Jesus the vine, we are the branches;
life in the Spirit the fruit of the tree;
heaven to earth, Christ to the people,
gift of the future now flowing to me.
Weeping, be gone; sorrow, be silent:
death put asunder, and Easter is bright.
Cherubim sing: O grave, be open!
Clothe us in wonder, adorn us in light.
City of God, Easter forever,
golden Jerusalem, Jesus the Lamb,
river of life, saints and archangels,
sing with creation to God the I Am!
Text: Herbert F. Brokering
Music: David N. Johnson
Go into this week with the strength you have.
Go simply, lightly, gently
Go in search of Love.
And trust that the Spirit of God goes with you. Amen