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Meditation By Pastor Neil

 The apostles didn’t recognize Jesus. How could that be? They had walked with him over a span of three years or so. They had heard him teach and preach, tell parables, cast out demons, and heal the sick. They’d scrounged food, no doubt; and accepted the hospitality of strangers if it were offered. Still, Jesus was unrecognizable to them as they made the journey Easter Sunday afternoon between Jerusalem and Emmaus.

I wonder if the apostles’ profound sadness blocked everything except their breaking hearts. The Jesus story, as far as they knew, wasn’t supposed to end up on Calvary. Also, just like Thomas in the gospel, we considered last week, they knew with absolute certainty that people didn’t walk from their tombs. Or perhaps Jesus physically was different after his resurrection. Scripture tells us that Mary Magdalene had trouble recognizing Jesus, too.

Jesus opened their hearts and minds to Scripture and to ancient teachings that pointed the way to Jesus’ ministry, death, new and everlasting life. We’ve all had our Emmaus moments when everything we knew finally comes into focus and for the first time, we understand. The apostles also recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. And just as they for the first time really saw Jesus with them at the table, he disappeared.

But the other unsaid part of the story is that while Jesus was no longer there in front of them, the bread still was. The apostles recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. The bread was tangible: taste, feel, sight, smell, heft. There, still sitting on the table—that half-eaten loaf of bread. I’ve always hoped that after they got over their surprise, the apostles had the presence to finish eating the bread—all of it.

Pastor Neil

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia.

Opening Collects

Almighty and everlasting God, the Paschal mystery establishes a new covenant of reconciliation to all that is broken. Grant that we all may show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith, as did Thomas. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

O God, your blessed Son made himself known to his disciples—and us— in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold Jesus in all his redeeming work. Who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

A reading from First Peter, at the 1st Chapter: Encouraging Our Deep Love of Each Other from the Heart

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. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 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. 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. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

From Psalm 116

I love the Lord because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.

Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.

O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.

I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!

 

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke, at the 24th chapter: Jesus Reveals Everything to Mystified Apostles

Now on that same day {Easter evening], two [apostles] 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?” Jesus 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 in 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.

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

A Confession of Our Sins to God

 God of all mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you, opposing your will in our lives. We have denied your goodness in each other, in ourselves, and in the world, you have created. We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf. Forgive, restore, and strengthen us through our Savior Jesus Christ, that we may abide in your love and serve only your will. Amen.

Almighty God have mercy on us ☩, forgive us all our sins, and

through the grace of Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.

Prayers of the People

O God of compassion, the giver of life and health, we pray your healing mercies upon all who are in any way affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Comfort and sustain those who have been stricken; relieve their pain and restore to them your gifts of gladness and strength. Grant to all in authority the courage to make wise decisions that are essential for the common good and strengthen them to lead institutions that care for those whom they serve. Watch over all first responders and those in the medical professions whose duty it is to care for the sick; guard them against all danger, and keep them safe in the knowledge that is through their sacrifice and service that the health of the whole community is promoted. Mercifully accept these our prayers, O God of all comfort, and our only help in time of need.

 In peace, we pray to you, Lord God—

For all people in our daily life and work; for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for those who are alone and in danger.

For this community, the nation, and the world; for all who work for justice, freedom, and peace; health and wellbeing.

For the just and proper use of your creation; For the victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression.

For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble; for those who minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy, particularly during this worldwide pandemic.

For the peace and unity of the Church of God; for all who proclaim the Gospel, and all who seek the Truth; for all who serve God in his Church.

For the special needs and concerns of our families and friends, loved ones, and for our congregation. Hear us, Lord; for your mercy is great.

We thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this life. We will exalt you, O God our King; And praise your Name forever and ever.

We pray for all who have died, that they may have a place in your eternal kingdom. Lord, let your loving-kindness be upon them, who put their trust in you.

Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

 The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom comes, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

A Thanksgiving        

Loving God, we give you thanks for restoring us in your image and nourishing us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. Now send us forth a people forgiven, healed, renewed; that we may proclaim your love to the world and continue in the risen life of Christ our Savior. Amen.

The Blessing

Sisters and brothers, when we go out into the world in peace, we live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, hold on to what is good, return to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice and hope, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Amen.

THE PAINTING ON THE COVER OF THIS BULLETIN IS BY THE YOUNG REMBRANDT. As such, it does not show the stateliness and formality of his later works. Rather it depicts Jesus and the apostles on Easter Sunday evening at dinner in Emmaus. Jesus has just been revealed to them. The two apostles realize they have spent the afternoon in a long walk with someone they thought to be a stranger. An unidentified person is heading toward the door. One apostle looks like he wants to pay reverence to Jesus as they sit at the table. However, the apostle needs to get over his shock first. The other apostle, hard to see in this reproduction, has dived under the table, almost invisible in shadow. Christ sits back in his chair, dramatically silhouetted against a blinding light as he makes himself known in the breaking of bread; in the next instant he will vanish out of their sight. The painter is not only depicting Luke’s gospel story, but just as important, Rembrandt also reflects—even accentuates—the absurdity of what has transpired. As we contemplate this scriptural passage, we shouldn’t let go of this absurdity too soon, because the absurdity and the theology of Jesus’ resurrection are inextricably linked.