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~Service for the Lord’s Day~
Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
July 18, 2021
Rev. Christine Caton, Worship Leader
Paul Mortilla , Ministry of Music
Elder Jeff Snider , Liturgist
Elder Jeff Snider, Recording Operations
Usher/Greeter Joe Jackson
GATHERING WE PREPARE OURSELVES FOR WORSHIP BY PASSING THE PEACE OF CHRIST, ACKNOWLEDGING WHO WE ARE,
AND RECEIVING THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S GRACE.GREETING & ANNOUNCEMENTS
PASSING OF THE PEACE (USING ASL))
CALL TO WORSHIP One: Come, all that are weary, all that are carrying burdens so heavyAll: Jesus will give us restOne: Come, take what Jesus has to offer: love, forgiveness, and graceAll: Christ will give us peaceOne: Come, find rest, and learn from JesusAll: For our Savior will give us rest in our soulsOne: Come, let us worship our GodAll: Let us follow our Savior, who leads us into life.
OPENING PRAYER *OPENING HYMN: #401 Here In This Place
PRAYER OF CONFESSION Holy God,
we confess that we do not always love our neighbor.
We confess that we have despised others,
even to the point of hatred.
We confess that we have been hurt by others.
We confess that forgiveness and reconciliation at times
are just impossible for us.
We know that nothing is impossible in You.
We come to You, seeking healing and wholeness for us.
Help us, whenever possible, to live in peace with others,
to seek reconciliation and healing and forgiveness.
For Your Son came and lived among us,
was betrayed and denied,
abused and put to death.
He rose again,
and came with the message of peace to those
who had denied him and abandoned him.
May we walk in his ways. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF GRACE
*GLORIA PATRI # 581 GLORIA PATRIGlory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD, WRITTEN & PROCLAIMED. GOD’S WORD IS CENTRAL TO OUR FAITH;
HENCE WE PUT IT AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORSHIP.FIRST READING Daniel 3:8-28 The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God. Prayer for Illumination SECOND READING Luke 24:13-35
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God. SERMON Burning Hearts
This story of the appearance of the Risen Christ to two disciples on the road to Emmaus is one which has captured the imagination of Christians for generations. But why is it that this story is so powerful? Why does it grip our hearts and engage our minds in such a profound way? How does this story speak to us as Christians in today’s world?
Let’s first take a look at exactly what is happening in this narrative of Luke’s. Try to put yourself in the shoes of these two disciples. One is named Cleopas and the other is an unnamed disciple, thought by some Biblical scholars to be Peter or Nathaniel, although this is not likely, since these two disciples later report back to the eleven ‘inner cirlce’ disciples, or which Peter and Nathaniel were members.
The unnamed disciple is thought by other scholars to be Cleopas’s wife. This makes sense to me, since they were traveling together, and reference is made to Jesus being asked to stay with THEM in their house.
But whoever they are, the events of the past few days have totally overwhelmed these two people. They are utterly exhausted and dejected. Their friend Jesus was the one in whom they had put all their trust. They had given over their lives into his hands. He was the one who would redeem Israel. And it is this same Jesus who has been cruelly executed for subversive activities just three days earlier.
Things were seemingly our of control. Not only was Jesus dead, but their own lives were now in jeopardy as well. So they walked dejectedly (and probably quickly) back to their home in Emmaus from Jerusalem, a place they’d probably just as soon never see again. And as they walked they talked of how Jesus had has that last meal with all of his closest followers and disciples, and had humbled them all by washing their feet; how Jesus had been arrested, and how Peter had gone crazy at the arrest and had cut of the ear of a Roman soldier.
They wept as they talked of seeing Jesus on the cross, and Jesus had cried out in utter agony that God had forsaken him, and how he died, broken and alone. And now they, too, were alone.
The disciples remembered the kindness of Joseph of Arimathea, who took the body of Jesus and laid it in his own tomb. And most of all, they marveled at the story which some of the women in their group had told them earlier that day, about how the tomb was empty, and they wondered deep in their heart of hearts, they wondered, was Jesus actually alive again?
As the disciples pondered and marveled and mourned a stranger joined them on their journey, a stranger which we all know to be the Risen Christ, they very Jesus whom they are discussing. But these disciples don’t recognize Jesus. Luke says their eyes were kept from recognizing him. They are blinded by their own doubts and their fears and their pain.
But then something wonderful happens. This stranger astounds them with wisdom and foresight and amazing knowledge of the scriptures. They arrive at their home in
Emmaus before they know it, and the stranger begins to go on. But the disciples are so taken with this person, so intrigued by what has been told to them, that they bid him to stay the night with them. They open their home to this fascinating stranger.
And in their act of hospitality things finally fall together for these two disciples. Jesus is once again with them. Jesus breaks the bread, and the scales all from their eyes. Their doubt, their fear, and their pain are washed away in the breaking of the bread.
And then suddenly, Jesus is gone again. But the disciples are not the same. They have been transformed. It happens for them in that moment when they understand Jesus is risen. It happens for them in the breaking of the bread.
I would venture to say that probably none of us have had the privilege of seeing the Risen Christ face to face as Cleopas and the other disciple had. So, then, how is the Risen Christ made known to us today?
Luke tells us this in verse 32: “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while Jesus talked to us on the road, and opened to us the scriptures?'” Think about the last time your hearts burned within you as Jesus talked to you about the scriptures. Now you might be thinking, well, Jesus isn’t here with us face to face, so how can he talk to us about the scriptures?
But as Christians we know that Jesus IS here with us. Jesus, the Risen One of God, is just alive today as when he walked with those disciples on the road to Emmaus. Every time the scriptures are read, or the Word is proclaimed, Jesus is there. Jesus is here with us right now! Jesus is here through our reading of the scriptures, through the proclamation of the
Word as interpreted from those scriptures. Jesus Christ IS the
Word made flesh known to us. He is the Word made flesh.
The Confession of 1967, which is contained in our Presbyterian Church’s Book of Confessions, says this about scripture. It says, “The one sufficient revelation of God is Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, to whom the Holy Spirit bears unique and authoritative witness through the Holy Scriptures…” So Jesus is not separated from the scriptures, but is the One in whom all interpretation rests. Whenever we read scripture, Jesus is there, through the Holy Spirit, opening our hearts and our minds to God’s Word as revealed in those scriptures.
Think now about the last time your heart burned within you as God’s Word was revealed to you. Maybe it was when a certain Psalm was read in church and it really seemed as if it was written just for you and your specific situation in life, or perhaps you heard a parable from one of the Gospels and it moved you to compassion, or to action, or to tears. When was the last time scripture really came to life for you?
Each of our answers will be unique. One of the passages in scripture that moves me and touches me deeply is the story of the Great Judgement in Matthew 25, where the Ruler says to the sheep, ‘truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’ This scripture has moved me to compassion for those who are ‘the least’ in our world, for those who powerless, the poor, the sick, those who are in prison, those who have no voice in the world. It has shaped my heart and my ministry.
I’m the difficulties and pain I’ve experienced in my life, I have found great comfort through the words of Matthew 11, and Isaiah 43, as well as the comforting words of many of the Psalms, sometimes at points when I didn’t think I could have gone on. These words of scripture lifted me up in my sorrow and frustration and pain, and held me close to the love and grace of God.
Matthew 11 has Jesus saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” And Isaiah tells us in chapter 43, “But now thus says The Lord, the One who created you, O Jacob, the One who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am The Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
I remember a little girl who was very afraid of fire, but whose favorite Bible story was the one read this morning from the Book of Daniel, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and how a heavenly being appeared in the fiery furnace with them, and how they were saved from that fire. And I KNEW that if God was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in that terrible fire, then God would always be with me, wherever I was.
Those examples from scripture have caused my heart to burn within me. God speaks to me in those verses of scripture in a way that transcends the ordinary, that transcends the customary way in which we want to order our lives, and my life is changed through those words of scripture.
Presbyterian minister and theologian Frederick Buechner says this about the Bible, “If you look AT a window, you see fly specks, dust, the crack where Junior’s Frisbee hit it. If you look THROUGH a window, you see the world beyond. Something like this is the difference between those who see the Bible as a Holy Bore and those who see it as the Word of God which speaks out of the depths of an almost unimaginable past into the depths of ourselves.”
As soon as Jesus vanished from their sight, Cleopas and his fellow disciple ran all the way back to Jerusalem to tell the others all that had happened to them. “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Perhaps those last words sound familiar to you. Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Jesus is known to us today in the breaking of the bread. The words of Luke ring familiar to us in the liturgy of our sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Like says, “While at table with them, Jesus took the bread, blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus.”
The Christian community to whom Luke was writing would have been aware of the significance of the Eucharistic language used in this passage. These words would have burned in their hearts, just as they do for us each time we are privileged to partake in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The sacrament is a way for us to come together as a community of faith, touched by God’s Word, and responding to that Word in the sacrament.
Jesus is known to us in the breaking of the bread.
What does it mean for us when our hearts burn within us as we are touched by Word and Sacrament? It means for us responsibility, and it implies for us a commitment. Responsibility and commitment to share this Jesus with others. To go forth from this place renewed, burning within with the power of the Holy Spirit. We are to be like Jesus, to do as Jesus did.
The way in which we respond to this commitment will be different for each one of us. God calls us all to different ministries, according to the gifts which we are given by God. For one person it may mean volunteering to visit at a prison, or working at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, or building houses with Habitat for Humanity. You may be called to ministries of compassion or reconciliation. For some of you it may mean lobbying your Senator or Congress person about an issue which is pressing upon your heart. And it might mean telling your friends, your family, your next door neighbor, about they way Jesus Christ has changed your life, and then inviting them to come to church with you.
Being faithful to our commitment to Jesus Christ means, above all, staying open to the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives; sometimes wrestling with God as God pokes us and prods us and leads us in ever new directions.
So if your hearts have not burned within you lately, don’t be discouraged. I encourage you to look again at the scriptures, seeking Jesus as you go. And I promise you, you WILL find Jesus in the interpretation of scripture, and you WILL find Jesus in the breaking of the bread, maybe in a whole new way. You may see scripture in a totally new light this time around, and it may mean something different to you than it did the last time you read it. That is one of the most exciting things about scripture! The power of scripture is its ability to speak to each one of us in a way that can reach us and touch us where we are.
As you seek God in Word and Sacrament, you will encounter the very same Jesus who met the two disciples on that road to
Emmaus. You will find the Risen Christ walking right beside you. And you will be able to say with joy and with confidence, “Did not our hearts burn within us while Jesus talked to us on the road and opened to us the scriptures?” And you will be changed. Friends, your life will never be the same. Amen.
RESPONDING GOD HAS SPOKEN, AND WE RESPOND. WE AFFIRM OUR FAITH, PRAY FOR THE WORLD, RE-COMMIT OURSELVES TO MISSION,
PRESENT OUR TITHES & GIFTS, AND OFFER THANKS THAT GOD CONTINUES TO SPEAK TODAY. * HYMN:#475 Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing Come, thou Fount of every blessing;
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above;
praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of God’s unchanging love! Here I raise my Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood. O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart; O take and seal it;
seal it for thy courts above. PRESENTING OUR TITHES & OFFERINGS (If you’re joining us via Zoom,
we invite you to make your offering online.
Thank you to everyone for your generous support!)
*Doxology #606 OLD HUNDREDTH
Praise God, From whom All blessings Flow
Praise God, All Creatures Here below
Praise God, above ye heavenly host
Creator, Christ and Holy Ghost. Amen.
*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Like the disciples at Emmaus,
we offer what we have.
They offered their company,
their table, their bread.
We invite you to be with us
as we offer you our love,
our devotion, these gifts.
May our eyes be opened
to your holy presence, now and always.
SHARING OUR JOYS & CONCERNS
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER *CLOSING HYMN:#543 God, Be The Love To Search And Keep MeSENDING WE HEAR THE CHARGE, RECEIVE THE BENEDICTION, AND ARE SENT TO CARRY GOD’S WORD INTO THE WORLD.*CHARGE & BENEDICTION
* Please rise in body or in spirit.