April 26, 2020

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. (ELW p. 33)

Acts 2:14a, 36-41

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

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

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

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

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.

Supper at Emmaus by artist He Qi https://www.heqiart.com/

Sermon – Meggan Manlove

On every other Third Sunday in Easter when I have opened up this text, I have used multiple illustrations of loss and despair and sadness to portray the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We do not need such illustrations this spring. We have a deeper understanding of what it is to have made plans and have them altered drastically. The COVID-19 death count climbs daily and people suffering from many illnesses are dying alone. Almost all of us are physically separated from some people we love. I hear, in a new way, the disciples’ words of longing, “But we had hoped…” There is so much I had hoped for this spring and summer.

At the heart of this beloved post-resurrection appearance of Jesus is the moment of recognition for the disciples. But first, Jesus opens up the scripture to them, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets.” This is not the first time Jesus has referred to scripture in his ministry. He has showed his followers again and again that what God is doing through him is new but completely in God’s character. He is the fulfillment of the scripture. Immanuel, God coming in human form, was original, but the abundant love and mercy that led God to such a new venture is as ancient as creation itself.

Then Jesus does something else that is completely true to his character—he breaks bread. We might think of the Lord’s Supper, the meal he shared with his followers before his death on the cross. But Jesus’ bread-breaking in Emmaus should remind us of many other meals in his ministry, starting with the one where he fed 5,000. Breaking bread is a way that Jesus has both taught and ministered. Sometimes when he ate with people, he showed that God is a god of abundant life, a God who wants everyone to have enough physical bread, to no longer be hungry. God cares about actual physical bodies.

Other times, when Jesus ate with people it was about emotional well-being; he was expanding the dining room table so that everyone was welcomed. God cares about our emotional well-being as well as our physical selves.

After Jesus breaks the bread, the passage reads, “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?” Recognition of Jesus is one of the ways we become faithful followers.

Right now, in a time when we may be feeling more isolated or afraid or simply unsure about the future, it is a real gift to recognize Jesus in your midst. That is how we begin to receive the love he gives. Next Sunday we will be reminded through scripture that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Is there a more comforting metaphor for God? I don’t think so. But if you do not recognize the Good Shepherd when he comes searching, there is not much comfort. Recognition becomes everything.

Recognition becomes everything when we continue following Jesus into our daily lives. Whenever we serve our neighbor, we serve Jesus. But not much serving happens if we do not know how to recognize Jesus or if there are other barriers.

There are so many things that get in our way of our eyes being opened to Jesus in our midst. Our hearts might be burning, but barriers to recognition are abundant. And barriers are as personal as each one of us. We have our own conceptions of what Jesus will look like. Sometimes I assume he can only look like me. Sometimes we assume he will not be in a certain part of town or certain country in the world or he would never speak a certain language.

Recognition is also hindered by distractions. We get busy trying to keep up with the advertising that hits us every time we turn on a device, open a magazine, check our email. We convince ourselves that we will never be enough until we have X, Y, and Z. And all of that trying to keep up simply does not leave much time or space for recognizing Jesus in our midst.

Everything I have been taught about preaching cautions me not to do what I am about to do—to lift up a member of our particular congregation. But today we are saying goodbye to Sheila Anderson. So I’m breaking my rules.

So many of us have talked recently of the many hats Sheila wore in the congregation—Trinity Community Garden, Church in Community, Church Council, she served on the Search Committee for my call over ten years ago, voting member at Synod Assembly, and she has been an adult forum participant.

So yes, Sheila has contributed a lot by what she has done. But what everyone really wants to talk about and what several members wrote about is who Sheila is. We have been trying to capture Sheila’s essence. People have been celebrating the part of Sheila that motivates her to say yes to those various ministry and, more importantly, what we each experience when we are with her.

People have written and spoken about her kind spirit, her big heart, her willingness to share her pain and her joy. Sheila has learned to see Jesus in each one of us. That’s why we love her so much. We know, when we are with her, that she actually, genuinely cares about us.

Sheila recognizes Jesus not only in fellow and sister church members. Sheila recognizes Jesus in the Sheriff Inmate Labor Detail crews that volunteer in the garden. She sees Jesus in the children of our congregation. She sees Jesus in people she easily understands and those who puzzle her. She sees Jesus in the people she delivers food boxes to. She recognizes Jesus in the stranger.

What is hopeful to me is that even though I know Sheila was born with some of this essence, a lot of was developed throughout her life. One of the things I will personally miss about Sheila is her curiosity. Even though she is a full-grown disciple with a mature faith, she is eager for continued growth and transformation.

That transformation and growth are open to all of us. Every single one of us can continue to grow in our recognition of Jesus. In fact, as the world changes, this transformation and growth are necessary. Our predecessors in the faith, whether pillars like Martin Luther and Mother Theresa or family relations like our grandparents, could never have anticipated the world we live in today. Every generation has to learn anew how to recognize Jesus in their midst, taking the best wisdom from the past and having open hearts and minds in the present.

What is beautiful about today’s Emmaus Road story is that the gifts given to the disciples are for us too. Though I have not had the blessing of opening up sacred texts in-person with people for over a month, I have been amazed at the rich Bible Study discussions I have had with colleagues, parishioners, and even new acquaintances through video conferencing.

One evening it was a passage from Corinthians with our church leadership. Another time it is was a chapter from Isaiah with a new group formed through the Treasure Valley Cluster. Our morning study group embarked on a journey through the Book of Acts this past Wednesday. Personally, I continue to find nourishment and a voice for my own prayers in the Psalms. Whatever this time of COVID-19 is, it is certainly a time to continue encountering God in scripture or a time maybe to begin encountering God in scripture.

Knowing this old, old story of God’s love is the foundation for recognizing Jesus. We do not need to have passages memorized. We do not need to know the context for each book. We do not need to understand it all completely, as if that was possible. We simply need to engage scripture often enough, so we remember that God’s intent all along, including this current era, is to mend the entire universe.

If scripture can continue to be opened for us, as it was for those sad and despairing disciples on the Emmaus Road, that what can we say about the bread that was broken? Ultimately, Jesus was building relationships every time he fed and ate with people.

That is possible today as well, even as we continue to practice physical distancing. I have been astounded with how videoconferencing and the telephone have introduced me to knew people in the last month, people telling their stories from Seattle and New York City to the amazing bankers in Nampa who helped us apply for the Paycheck Protection Program. Have I always been my best self, ready to recognize Jesus in the stranger? I can’t guarantee, but I am trying.

And members of our congregation have been calling one another, checking in on one another. Are we not experiencing our members in new ways, getting to know each other all over again? There is always more to discover. I am reminded of something Sheila Anderson said in adult forum when I returned from sabbatical in October. I asked everyone to share an experience they had during the time of congregational renewal. “I have worshiped with some of these people for twenty years” Sheila said. “and during the storytelling workshop I learned things about them that I had never known.”

To be listened to, to be known, to be truly seen and fully accepted, not with eyes, but with our hearts, that is what we all desire. That is how well Jesus knows us. Jesus also know that we, like Cleopas and his companion, need first to take time for our sadness and grief. Jesus does not rush them. He literally walks alongside them first, before revealing himself to them. As we continue through this chapter of life together, might we, like the disciples, experience Jesus there alongside us. Only then will we move from saying, “We had hoped,” to “were not our hearts burning within us”? We are loved and known, accepted fully by the risen Lord Jesus. Thanks be to God.

Prayers of Intercession (adapted from Sundays and Seasons by Juvi Masumbuko)

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.

Come to our aid  O God, as the coronavirus spreads globally, heal those who are sick, support and protect their families and friends from being infected. May you give us Hope and Peace. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Strengthen and encourage those in public health services and in the medical profession: care-givers, nurses, attendants, doctors, all who commit themselves to caring for the sick and their families. 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.

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