Welcome and Opening Prayer
L: He is Risen! P: He is Risen Indeed!
Good Morning and welcome to our Easter Worship Celebration. I am glad you want to honor what God did in Christ so many years ago, and because he did (raise Christ from the dead), what he continues to do in his world today.
Lord of life, by submitting to death, you conquered the grave. By being lifted on a cross you draw all peoples to you. By being raised from the dead, you offer to restore to humanity what has been lost through sin and open the way to everlasting life. Grant that our hearts be opened to see and grasp the renewing resurrection power of your Spirit with us, that we too may rise from the death of sin to abundant life now and forever. Amen.
Bible Reading Ephesians 1:18-20, Colossians 1:29
And I pray that the eyes of your heart, [the very center and core of your being], may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit] so that you will know and cherish the hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] -- to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in his holy people, (God’s people), and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and sur-passing and incomparably great [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. That power is the same mighty strength he exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated him at His own right hand in the heavenly realms. (AMP & NIV blended) For this (reason) I labor [unto weariness], striving with all the superhuman energy which He so mightily enkindles and works within me. (AMPC)
Message “Prepare for Resurrection Power” Luke 24:13-36
This year’s Passover was more exciting than most because of the raising of Lazarus brought the boiling conflict between Jesus and his opponents to a tipping point. Cleopas (Klee-oh-pus) and his unnamed wife or friend have been following Jesus for a while. For the festival, they had traveled to Jerusalem – the traditional center of God’s promise, purpose and presence. Like all the others, they had come with high hopes and expectations, and now it was late afternoon/early evening Easter and they were retreating from their religious center back to their obscure, insignificant home town. We aren’t even sure where it was.
This story is important because what they were feeling were what many of the perplexed Jesus hopefuls were feeling that day, and what many struggling faithful feels today. Moving from high hopes and expectations to the known events of trial and crucifixion; they were devastated and didn’t know what to make of the already buzzing rumors about an empty tomb and angels and a risen Lord.
When we don’t recognize Jesus
That risen Lord, Jesus comes up alongside and walks with the two on the Emmaus road. They were kept from recognizing him. Many explanations are offered – God prevented them from knowing. A resurrected body is different enough from our earthly body that the connection was not clear. Some say it was because they were walking into the sunset and the glare made it difficult to get a good look. It is not likely, but it makes for a nice metaphor – believers are not to walk to the sunset, to the darkness; but to the Son (s-o-n) rise, to the new dawn that breaks in our lives. Others quote the next verse where their faces were downcast, which could be taken to mean literally that they simply never made eye contact with him, or a reflection of their mood -- their eyes were swollen with tears and dust and it just made it hard to see. But even more as metaphoric life lesson, it often is hardest to recognize Jesus’ presence with us when we are overly caught up in our own problems and challenges. And yet, it is in our problems and
challenges that Jesus loves to come out of his way to join and journey with us.
The two assumed a stranger had interloped in their private conversation, approaching and asking what they were talking about. As if there were any other topics in the world beside the events of the past week in Jerusalem. Cleopas blurts it out, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about the events and rumors of these days?”
Importance of listening, talking it out
Of course, Jesus did know everything that was hap-pening. His question was not to catch up on any news that happened while he was in the tomb; it was to draw out what was on their hearts, because he knows that listening gives people an opportunity to speak out loud their deepest joys and disappointments - is a first step to catharsis, to clarity, to healing; and to finding our way back to the promise, purpose and presence of God.
And what they felt about Jesus is revealed in several key phrases in the text. They knew by his teaching and by his actions that Jesus was a powerful prophet of God. They hoped that he was going to be the Messiah who would redeem his people. Redeem is something you do when you pay the price of something. God owns all, so he doesn’t have to buy anything – so when the word is used in connection with God, it speaks of what effort God would exert to miraculously care for and deliver his people. Until people understood what happened on Good Friday, no one fathomed how much he loved and to what lengths and cost he would go for his people…
Cleopas continued, “We had hoped (past tense) the Jesus was thē One, but instead our religious leaders (who you would think would be on board with a Messiah) handed him over to Rome be killed. And this was all three days ago – but now there were rumors of an empty tomb and angels declaring he was alive, and some friends (disciples) had gone and found the empty tomb, but they did not see Jesus HIMSELF. The original grammar emphasizes “himself”, showing that they had not yet heard (or at least believed) any actual Jesus sightings; so were skeptical of the “risen” rumors. The reports were not causing hope or joy, only adding to
The danger of errant expectations
Their doubt was probably grounded in misunderstood expectations. Many relationships are damaged and even broken because expectations are not clear. It is well taught in the New Testament, but in the Scripture available then, the scholars and people had focused on passages that predicted the glory and victory of the Messiah. They ignored and/or explained away the darker side of the Messiah’s mission. The idea of syncing the victorious Redeemer with a suffering, God-smitten and dying king was preposterous, even monstrous thinking – even to most of the Lord’s disciples.
In our heads we know better, but in our application of our God thinking, I fear many of us still want to see only the bright and happy side. We hope Jesus will save us from our bad decisions and actions and lead us into a promised life of ease. When he doesn’t deal with our troubles the way we want him to deal with them, we can get frustrated and angry, or confused and filled with grief and doubts and Jesus may even become a past tense in our life -- I have an old friend who at one point blogged, “I tried the Jesus thing…” past tense and filled with skeptical doubts…
Importance of God’s Word
It seems understandable for the pair on the road to believe as they did, given the well accepted religious thinking of the day. Nevertheless, Jesus gently admonishes them for not knowing all the prophecy concerning himself, and from Moses on he begins to open up the Scripture – not by proof texting here and there but by demonstrating a consistent divine purpose throughout the Old Testament. He shows them that there is a dark side, that the Messiah’s suffering they had just lived through was not only a possibility, but a necessity. The combination of the terribleness of sin and the deep love of God made the cross inevitable. God is not defeated by, but triumphs through the suffering of his Son.
And as these two on the road realized that the Messiah’s suffering and death should not have demolished their expectations, but was part and parcel of the predicted path of their Redeemer, hope again began to burn in their hearts…
They have arrived in town, and it is getting late. It was time to stop traveling – roads were rough back then (well they still are now 😊) but they were not well lit with street lamp and headlights, not to mention nocturnal predators (animals) and robbers. It is clear Jesus wants to stay, but he never forces himself on us. He always waits the invitation to come in.
You’ve got to hand it to this pair on the road. This hasn’t exactly been their week. They’ve been away to Jerusalem for a week in what must have been a crowded, loud, exhausting festival – and then to have it end the way it did – most people would probably want to get in the door, throw their luggage in the hall, kick off their shoes and plop down to quiet, long undisturbed sleep. The temptation, as good as the talk may have been, would be to let this stranger go on and find his own accommodations. One modern host joked to one guest – “you’ll know it is time to go if we ever serve you cold lamb.” Then he explained that in olden days, welcome visitors were given a hot meal, but those who weren’t were offered only the “cold shoulder of mutton.” And it is where we the phrase “giving someone the cold shoulder”. It means it is time to go. (You hosts might want to try that sometime! No don’t do that 😊).
Philoxenia: love of the stranger
The rules of hospitality were quite strong in the days of Jesus (and really throughout history) in that part of the world. Whenever a meal was prepared, others were welcomed. An eastern proverb says, “The guest in the house is its lord.”
One of the first greetings a Palestinian host will give to his guest is “This is your house” and it is repeated often, and if the guest requests something the host will grant the favor and say, “you do me honor” [to let me serve you]. One of the New Testament Greek words used for what we translate “hospitality” is philoxenia which literally means “love of the stranger”. Therefore, not only friends, strangers were also welcome, and in fact, (at least in some traditions), even enemies were to be welcomed, and while the enemy was in the home (or tent), it would be treated as a place of peace – and if necessary, the host would be expected to fight for the enemy while he was in there.
One of the major reasons the world is filled with enemies is because we don’t understand each other / because we don’t know each other, / and we tend to be afraid of what we don’t know, / and so we miss out on the potential great value that strangers may have to offer.
There is a legend of a king who decided to set aside a special day to honor his greatest citizen. When the big day arrived, there was a large gathering in the palace courtyard. Four finalists were brought forward. The king would select the winner.
The first was a wealthy philanthropist whose great humanitarian effort had given much to the poor. The second was a celebrated physician who had rendered faithful and dedicated service to the sick for many years. The third was a distinguished judge who was noted for his wisdom and just decisions. The fourth person was an elderly woman. Her manner and dress were humble. There was a look of love in her face, understanding in her eyes, and quiet confidence. Even so, she hardly looked the part of someone who would be honored as the greatest citizen in the kingdom.
The king asked who this strange woman was. The answer came: "You see the philanthropist, the doctor, and the judge? Well, she was their teacher!" This woman had no wealth, no fortune, and no title, but she had unselfishly given her life to produce great people.
It could be a great adventure to understand how to safely practice philoxenia, (love of the stranger). Who knows how we might broaden our horizons, what we might learn to appreciate and love about others and about life.
Jesus was welcomed in, and I’m not sure in what tradition the guest suddenly becomes the host – I couldn’t find that one -- but Jesus takes the role of host and begins the meal in the typical Jewish way.
Look for Jesus in the routine of your life
He took the food / bread, looked to heaven and said a prayer of thanksgiving, such as “Blessed are you O Lord, for the provision of this food” and the bread was often broken during this opening prayer of grace. Perhaps there was something familiar about how Jesus said the words and handled the bread, (remember these people had been with Jesus for a while) or perhaps God just decided it was time to open the eyes of their heart – but whatever the reason – as one person put it – “when they welcomed the stranger, they welcomed the Lord”, and now they suddenly realized it was the risen Jesus -- and then he disappeared. He had accomplished his purpose for them.
It seems they lost their appetite, or maybe they ate quickly, but in their excitement, they ignored the normal concerns about evening travel and they made their way back to Jerusalem and to the 11 disciples along with others who had gathered and told them that they had seen the risen Lord. The testimony of angels, women, Peter, and now even these two from the road were not sufficient to completely reassure the perplexed followers that Jesus had arisen. They were discussing this when Jesus suddenly appeared with them and offered another traditional Middle Eastern greeting of hospitality where the host says, “Peace be on you”. and the guest replies, “And on you, peace”. It isn’t until Jesus comes personally to us and we invite them in that we can even begin to wrap our head around the actuality of the resurrection.
Find his resurrection power within
But because he lives, Paul declares his hope for us – you heard it read before the sermon – that the eyes of our hearts are opened to see the certain hope we have in him, in each other, in our future; and made aware of the indescribable mighty resurrection power that God that can still work in each one of us.
Our two travelers stopped their journey into insignificance and confusion and discouragement and darkness and worry and despair and started back towards the purpose, promise, and presence of God where we find clarity, hope, light and worship. Their journey changed from shattered hopes to endless possibilities. All because Jesus Christ was risen from the dead, He lives and gives real life, and wants to walk with you on whatever road you are on, speaking to you through the Word, and through the words and lives of those who know him. He is waiting to break bread with you, eager for you to see him as he is…
And if we open our eyes, we find that is often on the ordinary road, the ordinary meal, the routine and mundane times of life – he can also, if we are open to it, be experienced in the formal family and faith traditions, such as the Communion table that we are going to offer now.
L: Brothers and Sisters in Christ, whoever believes that Jesus is born of God and loves him is made children of God. We know we are children of God if we love God and keep his commands.
P: Our faith in Christ is the victory that overcomes the world.
L: There is no trial, no distress, no persecution, no famine, no poverty, no peril, no violence that can separate us from the love and life of Christ.
P: In all these things and more, we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us.
L: All who desire this victory -- the love of the death-defying risen Christ residing within them -- are welcome to participate in the Communion table.
Let’s prepare our hearts by a time of confession.
God of power and majesty: With the rising of the sun you have raised Jesus Christ and delivered him and us from death's destruction. We praise you on this bright day for all your gifts of new life. For all that you have pointed out to us today and during this Lenten season, for all of that with which we continue to struggle in the wilderness, for all the victories over sin and evil you have won in our lives -- and for those future victories that you will win in us as we continue to confess, seek your forgiveness, lean on and grow in you; for all this we give you thanks.
By your cross you destroyed the curse of the tree, by your burial you slayed the dominion of death, by your rising you enlightened the human race. By your living you are present with us and persist in lifting up all who follow the risen Christ to new life.
L: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
P: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
ALL: Glory to God, Amen.
Prayers and Meditation
L: The risen Christ is with us. P: Hallelujah!
L: Death is conquered! Sin’s power is broken.
P: Praise to our victorious God!
L: We have seen his glory. P: We are his!
L: Blessed Almighty God, we are yours, all our lives, our thanks, our praise, we give it all to you -- all our bodies, and minds, and voices.
P: We lift our lives to you!
L: Yours the blessing, yours the praise, from the unimaginable silence before creation, beyond the farthest reaches of time and space our instruments may ever find, from infinity to infinity, everlasting to everlasting, you are God, boundless in love and power.
P: We are awed by the light of your glory!
L: Who are we that you should notice us? Who are we that you should love us? Who are we that you should call us into covenant with you, a covenant we continually broke, and break; but you continually sustain.
P: You are all mercy!
L: How can we not praise you, joining our voices with the song of angels and saints, strangers and family in every generation:
P: Jesus Christ comes in our God's name. You are worthy! To the Lamb of God who died and rose again, we sing “Hosanna!”
L: You are holy, O God! You are worthy, O Christ! Worthy in your birth! Worthy in your living!
P: Worthy in your loving! Worthy in your serving!
L: Worthy when you preached good news that God's kingdom has drawn near, and you gathered disciples, then and now; to learn and show the world what life in God's reign means: Healing for the sick. New life for the dead, cleansing for the lepers, freedom for the possessed, new birth, new hope, new creation breaking in for all. Once we were no people, but now we are your people, declaring your wonderful deeds in Christ, who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. When the Lord Jesus ascended, he promised to be with us always, in the power of your Word and Holy Spirit. Now pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and cup. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed an enlivened by his blood; proclaiming with one voice the mystery of faith:
P: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
L: And then with one heart, one mind, one in you, Holy Spirit, you move us to pray for the church and the world: That we with Mary, Peter, Cleopas and others, we may live and proclaim the gospel boldly:
P: Hear us, O God.
L: That we may offer your healing for all who are sick, or torn, or weary:
P: Hear us, O God.
L: That all who are unclean may receive your cleansing grace:
P: Hear us, O God.
L: That all who are possessed, oppressed, distressed, depressed and downcast may be set free at last. P: Hear us, O God.
L: That all that are on our list in the bulletin, on our lips earlier in the service, or in our hearts, P: Hear us, O God.
L: And hear us, O Lord, as we pray as you taught us to pray.
L: So, now Lord come and fill us through this feast, this day, and every day so that we will remember your sacrificial love right up to that day we eat it anew at the marriage supper of the Lamb and our Easter rejoicing shall know no end.
P: We remember, and we praise you with our lives.
L: We remember the night we betrayed you, when you took the bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to your disciples, saying "This is my body broken for you. Remember me." P: We will remember.
L: We remember when you took the cup, praised God and shared it, and worthy when you said, "This is my blood shed for you for the new covenant. Remember me." P: We will remember.
L: And on this day of days, we mostly remember that the angels rolled away the stone, and you came forth from the tomb, trampling down death by your death -- and restoring life.
P: All blessing, honor, glory and power be yours, Almighty God, now and forever. Amen!
Now the Father having fed us with the body and blood – the life of Christ, uniting us with him, and filling us with the power that raised Jesus from the dead. We are sent rejoicing to declare in our hearts, hands, and voices, that a new day has dawned, and we have seen the Risen Lord, and we know it is true because he continues to live in our hearts. Amen.
Hymn # 310 He Lives with Three Amens