Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and risen Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Happy Easter! I hope that greeting doesn’t sound too strange. After all, it is still Easter, right? Even though the sales on Easter candy and Easter bunny decorations are long gone from store shelves, we are actually in the heart of the Easter season now. Easter is in fact not the days that lead up to Easter Sunday. For followers of Jesus, the season of Easter is the days that come after Easter Sunday. It’s the same way with Christmas. Christmas is not the time before December 25th, but the 12 days after December 25th. We are confronted by a culture that wants us to see the focus of these holidays around consumerism. As followers of the risen savior Jesus we see it differently. Actually, we are invited to see everything differently. That’s part of what it means to be a Christian. So often, I’m afraid we miss seeing that gift.
The two who are walking along the road in today’s gospel reading encounter much the same. They are talking about Jesus. The even talked to Jesus as he walked with them for miles. They were too focused on the culture’s understanding of the coming messiah. And they thought that human death had the final say in everything. They didn’t take time to look at who was with them all along. They weren’t able to see that maybe God had a different plan.
Dan Clendenin, who contributes to a wonderful blog called “Journey with Jesus”, reflected that today’s gospel story “is a disturbing reminder of how we remain oblivious to God’s presence even when he’s right beside us.” Dan goes on to say that, “The Emmaus disciples were blinded by their mistaken expectations about what God was doing in Jesus. The relentless and powerful lies of culture blind us to God’s presence.”
And by this point you might be saying, “That’s fine Pastor Craig, but I’ve never had Jesus magically show up in my office at work or living room at home. The Emmaus road is just a story in the Bible, it’s not something that actually happens to me.”
So rather than just talking about Jesus or even talking to Jesus in our worship today, I think we should take time in worship to see Jesus. It’s an opportunity that is given to us ever time we gather. ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was speaking in Bismarck recently, she said that, “at the center of what we do is worship. And at the center of our worship as Lutheran Christians is the crucified and risen Christ.”
The central part of our life together as brothers and sisters in Christ, as the church – the embodiment of the crucified and risen Christ – is worship. Worship. If this is true, and I believe strongly that it is, why do we think we can’t see Jesus in our worship and the world today? Regularly I hear people say, “worship is boring. Or worship is not relevant. I’ll get there if I can, but I probably won’t like it and I am sure not going to sing.” How is it possible for those of us who claim to believe in the resurrection and the risen savior Jesus the Christ, that the most significant part of our life together along the road of faith, worship, has become boring or is longer relevant?
Maybe we have become so complacent as we walk along that we no longer believe that Jesus did rise from the dead or that God is inviting us to fully participate in this life of faith. To see Jesus.
Do you know what our gathering in this place is called? When you and I gather to worship? It’s called Liturgy. It’s a word that means “the work of the people.” It forms the shape of our worship and our entire life together as the body of Christ. Believe it or not, our worship each week is not just a collection of favorite scripture readings and music from the pastors. Our worship is a faithful and ancient pattern that embraces who we are as the church walking together along the road of faith. And our worship at Good Shepherd each week involves the work of hundreds of children of God who prayerfully plan, serve, or simply show up hoping to see Jesus. If you think about it, it’s actually a lot like what happened on the Emmaus road on that first Easter day.
In our worship today, you and I GATHER. As children of God the Holy Spirit calls us together as the people of God. And in that gathering, we see Jesus. On a road long ago between Jerusalem and Emmaus, two people who knew Jesus and had witnessed his death are once again gathered together by Jesus. They saw Jesus.
In our worship today, you and I receive God’s WORD. God speaks to us in scripture reading, preaching, and song. As we receive God’s word, we see Jesus. On a road long ago between Jerusalem and Emmaus, scripture was opened to two people as it had never been opened before. They saw Jesus.
In our worship today, you and I are invited to a MEAL. A meal at the Lord’s Table where God feeds us with the presence of Jesus the Christ. As we receive Christ’s body and blood in this meal, we see Jesus. On a road long ago between Jerusalem and Emmaus, the identity and presence of the risen Christ was revealed as a meal was shared. They saw Jesus.
In our worship today, you and I are SENT. God blesses us and sends us in mission to the world. As we bless and serve our neighbors, we see Jesus. On a road long ago, between Jerusalem and Emmaus, two people were sent to share their experience after seeing the risen One – to tell others what had happened as they walked along the road. They saw Jesus.
Bishop, author, pastor, Will Willimon uses Twitter frequently. This past Thursday he tweeted, “We believe that Jesus was not only raised from the dead but also, in an amazing act of love, reaches out and takes us along for the ride.” Along this road of life and faith, Jesus is reaching out. Brothers and sisters in Christ, take time to look around and see. The savior of the world is a lot closer to you than you probably think. And he’s been there all along.