Sunday, April 26, 2020


Announcements

  • Zoom Bible Study- Thursdays at 2pm- Send the church an e-mail at mtneboupc@gmail.com if you'd like an e-mail invitation.

Sharing of Joys and Concerns

Call to Worship

We need your presence on the long road, Lord. The road between fear and hope, the road between the place where all is lost and the place of resurrection. Like the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, we are in need of your company! Jesus, stand among us, in your risen power, let this time of worship, be a hallowed hour.

Opening Hymn

"Laudate Omnes Gentes"

Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum

Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum.

Sing praises all you peoples, sing praises to the Lord.

Sing praises all you peoples, sing praises to the Lord.

Prayer of Confession

Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo. Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgement. Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image; through Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Words of Assurance:

In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

Almighty God, in Jesus Christ you taught us to pray, and to offer our petitions to you in his name. Guide us by your Holy Spirit, that our prayers for others may serve your will and show your steadfast love; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord:

  • Let us pray for the world.

  • Let us pray for the church.

  • Let us pray for those who govern us.

  • Let us pray for world leaders.

  • Let us pray for the sick.

God of compassion, bless us and those we love, our friends and families that, drawing close to you, though we are apart, we may be drawn closer to each other, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Offertory (spend 3-5 minutes journaling)

For what are you hoping for during this season of Easter?

For what are you lamenting during this season of Easter?

Scripture Reading

Luke 24:13-35

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“That things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 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?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Sermon “Stay With Me”

Let us pray,

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be pleasing and acceptable to you, our rock and our redeemer…

Our Scripture reading for this morning extols the importance of Christian community for the life of faith. Jesus appears to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and reminds them that they need him, and they need each other now that he is about to ascend to the Father. It can feel like a cruel joke that this story appears in the lectionary during Pandemic Easter. Where we are forced to stay apart from one another. Where we are forced to re-think how we do Christian community.

The road to Emmaus is a story of living in transition. For Jesus this time marks the transition between his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven. It is one of his final opportunities to be with his disciples and to teach them. For his disciples it marks the transition being Jesus’ disciples to being Jesus’ apostles. From learning from Jesus, to sharing the good news of Jesus with others. The road to Emmaus teaches us that Easter faith holds space for both hope and lament. As we journey with Jesus’ disciples we learn of the interconnectedness of resurrection hope, and the lament that necessitates it.

Today’s reading tells us that on Easter (resurrection day), two of the disciples left Jerusalem to travel to Emmaus. Luke doesn’t tell us why they’re going to Emmaus. But it’s likely they’re going because they’re worried that they will be persecuted in Jerusalem. Jesus walked alongside them, but they did not recognize him. Jesus asks the disciples what they are discussing. I imagine the disciples starting at him incredulously. How can you not know what is happening?! They ask the stranger. Jesus’ death is all anyone is talking about. Jesus has been killed and our whole world has been turned upside down. Worse still, they tell Jesus, ‘we had hoped that [Jesus] was the one who was going to redeem Israel.’

“We had hoped.” This is the most important phrase in our Scripture passage for today. This is an imperfect tense of the verb “to hope.” In English, the imperfect tense is used to describe an unfinished action. When the disciples say ‘we had hoped’ it means that for which they hoped for hasn’t yet happened, and that they do not expect that it will happen. Usually when we talk about hope, we talk about it in the future tense. We use the future tense to talk about something that hasn’t yet happened, but that we believe will happen in the future. We hope to go to Florida for vacation this year. We hope that we will survive our cancer diagnosis. We hope that everything will return to normal soon.

But very often, often when it matters most, we find ourselves speaking of matters of hope in the imperfect tense. As something that hasn’t happened yet and may never happen still. As we gather in the midst of a global pandemic, all of us can think of ways we’ve seen, or heard, or even spoken of hope in the imperfect tense.

We had hoped that we’d be able to gather together in public by now.

We had hoped that our children would be able to return to school and we had hoped that we’d be able to return to work by now.

We had hoped we’d be able to get a haircut by now.

Yet as we navigate this unsettling moment in our history, we encounter Jesus who teaches us how to speak of hope in the future tense. All of the daily disappointments we face- from things as small as a haircut to as big as unemployment- make us question our hope. Just as the disciples faced the disappointment of life without Jesus. To this disappointment, Jesus tells the disciples, ‘Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’

What Jesus is saying here is that the road to hope must pass through lament. There is no way around it. The only way out of it is through it. Just as Jesus cannot ascend to the Father without first being betrayed by his disciples, and killed by the state. We cannot have hope for a future without COVID-19 without lamenting the damage this virus is doing to our world, our communities, our very bodies.

One of the things I’m learning during this pandemic is that lament takes time. It doesn’t all happen at once. Some days it is easier to sit with the grief of what was better than other days. Sometimes the grief comes out sideways. I was in the middle of a Zoom meeting this week where we were talking about preparing students for ordained ministry and it occurred to me that it’s been six weeks since I’ve seen my friends at the gym. And that it may be months until I can see them in person again. I had to turn off my video for a second because the grief of that moment felt like someone was punching me in the gut.

On those days where lament feels like a gut punch, Jesus invites us to walk with him to Emmaus. Where he reminds us that the only way out of lament is through community. While staying with the disciples, Jesus gathers them together for a meal. It is in the ordinary act of breaking bread that the disciples recognize him. Delighted, their faith restored, they go and tell others, It is true, the Lord has Risen, and he has appeared to Simon.

Friends, in the midst of this uncertain season of life and ministry, I still believe that Christian community is an essential, lifesaving service. It absolutely looks different than it did before COVID-19 shut all of our face to face interactions down. But I think being forced to be apart reminds all of us how lucky we are to have each other. I see God at work in our midst every time the choir gathers together for a virtual check-in. Every time we gather together for virtual worship. I see it in the countless phone calls, texts, and e-mails you’ve shared with me in our time apart.

Even though the journey to Emmaus feels particularly long and difficult this year, I have faith that we will find renewed hope on the other side of it. I have this faith because every day I marvel at the creative ways you all are staying connected with one another during this time apart. I want you to know that I am with you in your lament. I am holding space for all of the feelings this virus is stirring inside each one of us. And I am looking forward to the day when we will be able to safely gather together again.

Thanks be to God,

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Closing Hymn

"I Am Sure I Shall See"

I am sure I shall see the goodness of our God, in the land of the living.

Yes I shall see the goodness of our God, stand firm, trust in the Lord.

Blessing

You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go God is sending you. Wherever you are God has a purpose to you being there. Christ who dwells in you has something he wants to do, through you, wherever you are. Believe this and go in his grace, and love, and power, Amen.

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