April 23, 2023

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.


Acts 2:14a, 36-41

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 116:1-4, 12-19

I will call on the name of the Lord. (Ps. 116:13)

1I love the Lord, who has | heard my voice,
  and listened to my | supplication,
2for the Lord has given | ear to me
  whenev- | er I called.
3The cords of death entangled me; the anguish of the grave | came upon me;
  I came to | grief and sorrow.
4Then I called upon the name | of the Lord:
  “O Lord, I pray you, | save my life.” 
12How shall I re- | pay the Lord
  for all the good things God has | done for me?
13I will lift the cup | of salvation
  and call on the name | of the Lord.
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 thanksgiving
  and call upon the name | of the Lord. 
18I will fulfill my vows | to the Lord
  in the presence of | all God’s people,
19in the courts of | the Lord’s house,
  in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. | Hallelujah! 

1 Peter 1:17-23

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.

Luke 24:13-35

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.

Road to Emmaus  —  Carolingian, 9th c., Cloisters Museum, New York

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

There are enough rich images and beautiful moments in this morning’s passage from Luke to fill a hundred sermons. Rather than walk us through the entire text, I am going to focus on one kernel. Perhaps because I believe the church, the larger Christian church, is in this curious liminal space, a space and time between what we have been and what God is transforming us into, the verse that stook out to me this spring is v. 32, “They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’”

We all know that one of the intriguing elements of the story is the report that as soon as the two disciples recognized the risen Lord he disappeared from their sight. God’s presence is always elusive, fleeting, dancing at the edge of our awareness and perception. If we are honest, we must confess that it is never constant, steady, or predictable. The nuns in The Sound of Music sing “How can you catch a moonbeam in your hand, how do you hold a wave upon the sand?” The mystery of transcendence is always, well, transitory. God’s faithful people perceive God’s presence in fleeting moments, and then the mundane closes in again.

For this reason, we learn to treasure religious experiences in retrospect. The two in Emmaus exclaim, “Did not our hearts burn within us?” Like Moses, we usually see only the back side of God as God passes by us. With Job, another famous character in the Old Testament, we confess, “Look, he passes by me, and I do not see him; he moves on, but I do not perceive.” 

One of the secrets of a vigorous spirituality and a confident faith is learning to appreciate the importance of meeting God in the past as well as in the present. Today’s story guides us in this spiritual discipline. The men in white robes at the empty tomb told the women on Easter morning, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee…. Then they remembered his words.”

So much of what we do together in worship are acts of remembering. Sometimes remembering gets a bad reputation, and for good reasons. Think of an instance when you have romanticized someone or some event, instead of simply remembering. We see the past only with rose-colored glasses. In a similar vein, we can break the first the commandment and make an idol of the past. Then a friend or historian or stranger comes along and reminds us that the good old days were not all good.

But to remember God’s faithfulness is at the center of worship and actually at the center of the life of faith. The words I speak in the proper preface before we feast on the bread of life and cup of salvation are words of deep and long memory—from creation to the Exodus, through the lives of the prophets to Jesus’ own life, death, and resurrection, and finally God’s activity through the church empowered by the Holy Spirit. God’s faithfulness is sure.

In weekly worship, we move straight from the Words of Institution to the Lord’s Prayer. That prayer also helps us remember so very much. We remember how we ought to pray and for what. We again remember God’s gifts to us of daily bread, forgiveness, new life, healing. And sometimes we might remember the company of saints, all the people who have prayed that prayer down through history and pray it each day around the entire globe. 

What is all of this remembering good for? It helps us treasure religious experiences in retrospect. Further, remembering God’s activity throughout all of history helps us recognize God’s presence, elusive or fleeting as it might be, in our own lives. We get better at distinguishing between happy coincidences and God’s presence. We begin to live with more gratitude. And then, in worship and prayer, we give thanks for God’s real presence in our lives.

The practice of remembering God’s presence throughout history also reminds us that the experience of the presence of God is not a private gift. It is never for us alone. It is not something to be horded. Neither in the discovery of the empty tomb nor in the discovery of the fellow traveler to Emmaus is there the familiar command to go and tell, that is typical of other resurrection appearance scenes. Nevertheless, in both instances the recipients of the revelation immediately and spontaneously return from the liminal tomb to share their experience joyfully with others.

Finally, remembering God’s presence in history and in our own stories, prepares us to perceive God’s fleeting presence in real time. There is so much that can keep us from this activity. Our lives are filled with distractions, information, data, competing stories, shouting, advertising, promises of what will fulfill us. We are programmed now to skim and scan and breathe shallowly rather than to drink deeply from the water of life—Jesus Christ.

Worship, prayer, meeting our neighbors, serving those on the margins, we do all of this to remember the God of history and to prepare to perceive God’s fleeting presence in real time.

We do this, as Jesus did with those two disciples, most often around the meal of Holy Communion. The meal redefines the disciples’ understanding of Jesus. Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives the bread to them (Luke 24:30), the same sequence of actions we recall from his final meal (22:19). 

The pattern also recalls Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand (9:16). Meals so characterize Jesus’ ministry that one writer concluded, “In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.” Meals will shape Christian gatherings in Acts and on to today precisely because believers recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread (24:35). It is no wonder that in the breaking of the bread, those two disciples remembered. 

It is no surprise that we enjoy breaking bread together in spaces that are not the altar. Perceiving God in this space helps us perceive God in other meal times. But there is so much more to the Holy Communion meal. It is more than bread and wine. It is a means of God’s grace. It is an event in which we receive forgiveness and new life. As we return to this table again and again, I really do believe we build our capacity to perceive God in our other places, to perceive forgiveness, grace, and new life in daily encounters. Most often we will name it later, that was a grace moment, that was God’s love, that was God’s mercy, that was life given from God. And we give thanks.

I had such an encounter a few Thursdays ago. I have been on the board for Leap Housing for about 18 months with three men. I have enjoyed all of our meetings, but I did not know them. When the COO of the organization asked what we would like to get out of a board retreat, I said I just wanted to get to know these individuals.

So, after a two-hour meeting we headed to dinner in the Linen District—the entrepreneur Bart, COO Brian, me and two other board members. All I did was ask one man, “how did you meet Bart?” After 40 minutes, as he finished his remarkable story, I turned to the other board member and asked about his time in Idaho newspapers and politics. It was a very different story, but remarkable all the same. I was giddy and committed to living in the moment. As I walked to my car at the evening’s conclusion, I could feel my heart had been burning, as the disciples described, not from rich food, but with grace, love, hope. Like the meal of bread and wine, it was sustenance for my soul, more than enough to get me through the next week.

Prayers of Intercession

United in the hope and joy of the resurrection, let us pray for the church, the world, and all in need.

A brief silence.

Ever-present God, you make yourself known in the breaking of the bread and in the bonds of community. Reveal yourself to us in the faces of all we meet. Strengthened by your body and blood, let us boldly live out your good news. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

As we know you in the breaking of the bread, we know you in the grains of the field and the flowing waters. Care for the earth you lovingly create. Strengthen those who safeguard threatened land and water. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

You are the authority to whom we dedicate our lives (like Toyohiko Kagawa, whom we commemorate today). Help us keep the needs of those most vulnerable at the forefront of our community. Move us to care for any who are disregarded or oppressed. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Mothering God, you feed and comfort those who hunger. Open the hearts of those who horde resources and lead them to share your abundance. We pray for anyone hungering for your comforting presence this day (especially). Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

You pour out your love on those who are oppressed. Support and comfort anyone who is marginalized by gender or sexuality and those whose stories are not believed. Form this community to listen faithfully and speak honestly in our ministry together. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

We remember with thanksgiving all your beloved saints (especially). As you have raised them to eternal life, abide with us in your promise of resurrection. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Rejoicing in the victory of Christ’s resurrection, we lift our prayers and praise to you, almighty and eternal God; through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.


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