Good morning and welcome to a Home Street Mennonite Church format, that none of us would have asked for or imagined.
While we hold title to the land on which we gather, we do so aware that it is not ours, but Gods. And in such an awareness we wish to acknowledge all the peoples, histories, and stories that have passed through this place. From the Anishinaabe, Anishiniwak, Iniwak, Dakota, and Denes people who make up Treaty 1 territory and to the Metis Nation, all who have helped make our collective present and future possible. And finally to our Mennonite ancestors who arrived in this place from the 1870s onward, thus setting up the possibility for our being here in this place. We stand on a storied land, and wish to worship aware and attentive to God’s movements throughout these histories.
Call to Worship
An opportunity for curiosity and wonder exists.
The tomb is empty, two men standby in dazzling apparel and ask us, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Grief stricken, terrified and confused,
do we remember what the Teacher said?
“I will be delivered into the hands of corruption, be murdered and be delivered from death to life.”
Do we catch ourselves, like the apostles, unbelieving and accusing others of spinning “an idle tale?”
As we walk down Emmaus Road what might we see, discover, find comfort in and behold?
Divine Creator, open our hearts to see the majesty of your presence among us this morning. Amen.
Gathering song He come to us as one unknown HWB #498
Scripture reading ~ Luke 24:13-35
This is God’s word to the people.
Thanks be to God.
We are grateful to Bryan Moyer Suderman (a former Home Street’er!) for sharing this song. Though it’s was a few years ago, Bryan wrote the song especially for today’s bible story.
Affirmation of Faith
We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.
We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Please accept our humble offerings.
As you listen to this hymn medley shared by Dan Dyck, you are invited to prepare a cheque or send an e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org. We understand that many of us are experiencing reduced income during this pandemic time, and only ask that you give as you are able.
Meditation Phil Campbell-Enns
On Easter Sunday I was the one who prepared the worship leader parts for our service. I don’t know how many of you noticed, but at the end of that service I got way ahead of myself. I was so taken by the words of poet Malcolm Guite that I shared his poem called “Ascension” as the benediction. It is a beautiful poem that resonates with the enthusiasm of Easter. But technically, as far as the church calendar is concerned, I was 40 days ahead of where I should have been.
In my own defense, it’s not just me that messes with the order of things in our worship life. Because this morning the lectionary reading from the Gospel of Luke takes us in the opposite direction, and has us backtracking three whole weeks, right back to Easter day. Luke 24 starts on “the first day of the week, at early dawn.” We didn’t read that part of the chapter this morning. But it’s the account of the faithful women arriving at the tomb, finding it empty, then reporting back to the disciples, who treat their news with total disregard. Peter does eventually decide to visit the tomb and confirm the women’s report. But then he goes home without a word to anyone. That’s as far as Luke’s first Easter story gets. It’s kind of weird, and kind of a let-down.
It’s like the disciples are still in shock, and all that registers are the facts.
Jesus was awesome. Then he died.
And even though his body can’t be found in the tomb, they don’t have the capacity to figure out where it is. Their grief is deep, and they simply don’t have it in them to see if there is more to the story. With the hopefulness of faith, the women even try to link the empty tomb to words they remember Jesus speaking. But their wisdom and intuition strike the male disciples as “an idle tale.” So deep is their discouragement that even hopeful words only fall on deaf ears.
As Luke shares this first Easter vignette, there are no trumpets blasting, and certainly no congregation singing “up from the grave He arose.” According to Luke, it’s kind of like Easter begins with a question mark.
That’s where today’s scripture picks it up, as Luke continues with a second Easter story from just a few hours later . . . “Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened . . .” Different from the 11 apostles who dismissed the news of an empty tomb, Cleopas and his friend seem to have the wherewithal to at least mull over the report from the women. Where the 11 who were closest to Jesus were totally immersed in their grief, Luke tells us these two disciples from Jesus’ wider circle were in a headspace that allowed them to consider the “things that had happened.”
So that’s what they were up to when the incognito Jesus joined them on their two hour walk home from Jerusalem.
Apparently . . . that’s also where the lectionary assumes many of us are at about 3 weeks after Easter – mostly dazed, a little bit confused, still recovering from the shock and grief of Good Friday, but possessing just enough capacity to try and make sense “of the things that had happened.”
While it would be a stretch to compare the circumstances of the first Easter with the circumstances we find ourselves in right now, it is not a stretch to compare the fog, or confusion, or our limited capacity to make sense of what’s going on. In that way, the timing of this story in our worship life is a pure gift as it moves us from grief and despair to eternal optimism. And that’s where this meditation is going to end up.
But if we try to get there too soon, we’ll miss some of the lessons in the story. As one commentator warned, we can’t be in too much of a rush. We can’t be an Easter people unless we’re first willing to be a Good Friday people. We can’t celebrate and live in the power of the resurrection without first acknowledging that suffering, and pain, and even the loss of hope are also part of life.
It was two other commentators who drew my attention to that loss of hope as it shows up in verse 21 of today’s story. As Cleopas and friend are telling the unrecognizable Jesus of the death of their Messiah, they utter the heavy words, “but we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” We had hoped. When hope is spoken of in the past tense, as a thing of the past, you know the hole is deep.
The story takes place around supper time on Easter day, but the emotions and the questions and the disillusionment of Good Friday are still fresh. Those things didn’t disappear in three days. Not on that first Easter. Not on this Easter. Between the strangeness and disorientation of the pandemic, and then this week’s tragedy in Nova Scotia, we are in many ways on the road to Emmaus. Like the first disciples, even though there is evidence that Christ is risen, we need extra encouragement to look for, and extra help to recognize the risen Christ.
It’s at this point in the meditation that I get to tell you about the gift that I stumbled onto this week while prepping. On the website “Journey with Jesus” I read a brilliant meditation by Debie Thomas. I highly recommend it to you, and give her all the credit for the rest of this meditation. Like other commentators she keys in on how painful that loss of hope must have been, and still can be. But as a person of faith, she isn’t stuck in hopelessness.
As she reflects on the Emmaus story Thomas says, “I am reminded that Jesus is not who I think he is, and not who I necessarily want him to be. Who is the would-be stranger on the broken road? How does he respond when all appears lost? What does he do for the weary and the defeated?”
In response to those difficult questions, Thomas lifts out 4 things about the story that I think help to restore our hope in Jesus. For sake of time I’ve abbreviated her comments.
The first thing Thomas notices is how quiet the resurrection is.
“One would think that a God who suffers a torturous and wholly unjust death would come back with a vengeance, determined to shout his triumph from the rooftops, and prove his accusers and killers wrong. But Jesus does no such thing. Instead, on the evening of his greatest victory, the risen Christ . . . takes a leisurely walk on a quiet, out-of-the-way road. When he notices two of his followers walking ahead of him, he approaches them in a guise so gentle, so understated, and so mundane, they don’t recognize him.”
“This is not,” Thomas admits, “what I always want from the resurrected Christ. We had hoped he’d be more dramatic. More convincing. More unmistakably divine. We had hoped he’d make post-Easter faith easier. Part of the disappointment we face on the Emmaus road is the disappointment of the quiet resurrection. The disappointment of God’s maddening subtlety and hiddenness. The disappointment of a Jesus who prefers the quiet, hidden encounter to the theatrics we expect and crave.”
Thomas notes the disappointment. But I think it actually raises our hope of bumping into Jesus at some point.
The second thing Thomas notices is how story heals.
She says, “As soon as Jesus falls into step with the companions on the road, he invites them to tell their story . . . [so] they describe their devastation at his death. Their confusion, their loss, their uncertainty. They tell Jesus the whole story . . . and Jesus listens. He hears them out, allowing them the balm of articulation. And then — when they’re done — he tells the story back to them, and as he does so, the story changes . . .
When Jesus tells the story, he restores both its context and its glory. He grounds the story in memory, in tradition, in history, in Scripture. He helps the travelers comprehend their place in a [story] that long precedes them, a [story] big enough to hold their disappointment without being defeated by it. When Jesus tells the story, the death of the Messiah finds its place in a sweeping, cosmic arc of redemption, hope, and divine love that spans the centuries. When Jesus tells the story, the hearts of his listeners burn.”
The third thing Thomas notices in the Emmaus Road story is the freedom to leave.
She says, “when the travelers reach Emmaus, Jesus gives them the option to continue on without him. In fact, he makes as if he’s leaving, placing them in a position where they have to be absolutely intentional and definitive about their desire regarding him.”
Thomas continues . . . “I’m always surprised— and, I’ll admit, frustrated — by Jesus’s unwavering commitment to my freedom. He will not impose. He will not overpower. He will not coerce. He’ll make as if he’s moving on, giving me space, time, and freedom to decide what I really want. Do I desire to go deeper? Am I ready to get off the road of my failures and defeats? Am I willing to let the guest become my host? Do I really want to know who the stranger is? Do I dare to say ‘please stay.’
The last thing Thomas notices that restores hope is the smallness of things. “Once Jesus and his companions are seated around the table, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives bread. So small a thing, [but it] changes everything. It’s difficult to trust in the transformative power of small things. But the Emmaus story speaks to the power of the small and the commonplace to reveal the divine. God is present in the rhythms and rituals of our seemingly ordinary days.
What does this mean for us right now?
Thomas says, “It means God is in the text you send to the lonely neighbor you can’t visit during quarantine. God appears in the Zoom gathering, the online worship service, the phone call, the greeting card. It means Jesus is the stranger you see in the grocery aisle — both of you smiling beneath your masks. The sacred is in the conversation you have with your stir-crazy child, the technology you attempt to master so you can meet with loved ones. And the sacred is in the friends who challenge you to reframe the story of these days in light of God's inexplicable provision and love.
If the Emmaus story tells us anything, it tells us that the risen Christ is not confined by the seeming smallness of our lives. Wherever and whenever we make room, Jesus comes.
So very many things are different right now than we had hoped they’d be. And yet . . . the stranger who is the Savior still meets us, and our hope is revived. So keep walking. Keep telling the story. Attend to your burning heart. Honor the stranger, and invite them to stay. AMEN.
Closing song Will you come and follow me
Now that we know what we have - Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God – let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all - all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. Go In Peace
Participants in this morning’s service:
Worship leader: Denise Pauls
Meditation: Phil Campbell-Enns
Photos: Phil Campbell-Enns
Children's Story: Bryan Moyer Suderman