Third Sunday of Easter: Called to Live
PRELUDE: Centering in Life. Rev. Alejandra Zareth
OPENING SENTENCES (Psalm 116)
We love the Lord because God listens to our voice. That is why we will call on the Lord all our life. The cords of death can entangle us, and we can be overcome by the anguish of the grave, but we can call upon God and God will save our lives. Alleluia! Praised be the Lord!
HYMN: Listen to "I Love You Lord " GtG 627
Lord, you talk to us, through sermons and prayers, through music and conversations, through flowers and advise; however, we find it difficult to recognize you. We ask what we are supposed to do, without wanting to know the answer, because we know it leads to repentance and commitment.
Forgive our lack of vision, O God. Forgive our lack in hearing. Open our ears and our eyes to your call, which speaks of promise and forgiveness, and fill us with the Holy Spirit so that we can follow the ways of your salvation. Through Christ, our companion on the way, Amen.
PARDON AND PEACE
This promise is for you and for all who come after you: through repentance and baptism into Christ, your sins will be forgiven, and the gift of the Holy Spirit will be yours. You can be at peace.
PASSING THE FEELINGS
Think about words using your senses to describe them.
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION (Prayers for Easter Season. Office of Theology and Worship)
Living God, we are so slow to recognize your presence, even when you stand among us, even in your living Word. Still, stay with us, we pray; make yourself known to us, and let our hearts burn within us to share the good news that Jesus Christ our Savior is risen indeed. Amen.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV)
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[f] 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.
REFLECTION: Once Upon A Time, A Rude Stranger (Marissa Galván-Valle)
I’ve wanted to watch the movie “Up” again for some time now. One of the things that I love about the movie is the montage of the love story between Carl and Ellie.
These two people could not be more different. Carl is very shy. Ellie is very outgoing. Carl is very traditional, but with an adventurous side. Ellie is a tomboy and does not seem to be afraid of anything. Carl at first seems intimidated by her… she is a stranger after all. But he sees something in her… and most importantly, she reveals and opens something in him that he is not aware of… and they have a beautiful life together.
In this third Sunday of Easter, The Matthew 25 emphasis in this passage is that we are called to live in a way that recognizes the presence and action of Christ among strangers. I had read this passage many times, but I had never noticed the conversation between Jesus and the disciples, as a conversation between strangers. When Jesus appears to the disciples, they did not recognize him. Margaret Aymer says that “Luke says that the Emmaus disciples’ eyes were seized”, meaning that God in some way does not allow them to see Jesus. To them, he is a stranger, someone unknown to them. Therefore, they, ignoring every mother’s advice not to talk to strangers, decide to respond: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
This person is a stranger to them. They do not recognize their teacher. But still, when the stranger asks what has happened, they decide to continue de conversation. Then this stranger says something kind of rude: “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!”
Have you had any experience of having a conversation with someone you don’t know well, and all of a sudden, they say something that makes you think: “Why did I start this conversation?” What would have been your reaction to a complete stranger saying that you are foolish?
Still, these disciples with seized eyes kept on listening. And again, there is no judgment for them here. They were afraid. They were mourning. They had all the reasons in the world to be on edge, to be suspicious, to be anxious. But the wonder of the story is that they stay with this stranger. They keep on talking to him. They invite him to break bread with them. And in the breaking of the bread, something amazing happens: “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him”. They recognize that their hearts were burning when they heard the stranger speak… and the witness of this person that was no longer a stranger, filled them with words and courage to give witness: they told the other disciples what had happened on the road, and how Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Witness is a part of the vitality of the Christian faith. Being able to recognize Christ is a part of that vitality as well. But I think an important part of that vitality is the ability to recognize the presence and action of Christ, not among strangers, but through strangers… through people that are different from us. Through people that challenge us. Through people that can see when we are being foolish and can tell us the truth in love. Through people that bring new perspectives and that can push us to be more adventurous and courageous than we ever thought we could be.
I think we all need a “stranger” that can do that for us. In Carl’s life, it was Ellie… and then it was Russell, the little “boy scout”, a stranger in his life that wants to help and that is persistent enough to stick around and to show Carl the life that he could not see anymore. This little boy opens his seized eyes so that he could see that honoring his wife’s life was not in holding unto the past, but in living his future.
Christ was that stranger that God placed on the disciples’ journey. He was a stranger, a sojourner, a wanderer, and unknown … and they, even though they were blinded by grief, fear, and uncertainty… they listened, they welcomed, they stayed present. Could we live in the same way?
HYMN: Listen to the song "Become the Stranger".
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION: Take some time to present your joys and concerns and those of others to God.
May the God of life open our eyes to recognize the presence and action of Christ among strangers. May the God of salvation open your hearts to always be on the lookout for revelation. May the God of breaking bread, open your arms so that we can give the blessing of hospitality to all. Amen.