The Third Sunday of Easter (May 8, 2011)

Lessons:Acts  2:14a, 36-41 Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 1st Peter 1:17-23 St. Luke 24:13-35

Prayer of the Day: O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread. Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

24:13 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 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.

St. Luke 24:13-35, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America).

Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?

At our New Member class yesterday evening, we were talking about Martin Luther’s role in reforming the church of his day. I remain convinced that of all the insights Luther brings to the table, the most important one is his confidence that there is a power in God’s word. Luther saw that the church he loved, the Roman Catholic Church, had gone astray from the Gospel of Jesus Christ in some significant ways. But he was convinced that if only believers had direct access to the word of God, the Holy Spirit would move through them to reform the church.

An Old Testament scholar, and one intimately familiar with the prophets, perhaps Luther found himself reflecting on words of the Prophet Isaiah:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. [Isaiah 55:10-11]

On Sunday evening of the first Easter Day, two followers of Jesus are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a small village about seven miles down the road. Their world has just come crashing down around them. They are mourning the suffering and death of their lord and teacher, Jesus. They are sadly recalling, together, the events of the week, desperate to make sense of them. A stranger falls in step with them, and begins to explain what has taken place in an entirely new way. As they reflect on it later, they say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” They were bound by their sadness and despair, but his words open them up to an entirely new, life-filled way of understanding what had happened.

There are times when we turn to God’s word, and like them, find that our hearts are burning within us. Sometimes that burning is the warmth, comfort and reaffirmation of a long-held core belief. Sometimes that burning is the searing fire of the refiner, that purges us of preconceived notions which run counter to the word of Christ. Luther is right: there is a power in God’s word. It has the power to burn into our souls. It has the power to restore us and renew us. It has the power to reform us and redirect us. It has the power to make us God’s children, even when (especially when?) we can’t summon the strength from within ourselves to do it on our own.

I am grateful to be part of a church that honors God’s word. I am grateful to be part of a tradition that seeks to be Christ-centered in all that we say and all that we do. And I pray that as we worship together this Easter season, and as we break open the word of God as a people, that our hearts will burn within us, and Christ will be made known to us anew all over again. He is risen indeed! And he lives among us in power and strength. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What caused Cleopas and his traveling companion to be so sad?
  2. How did the words of Jesus turn him in a completely new direction?
  3. How is Jesus present in word and meal through the church today?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When has my heart burned within me, as I have considered God’s word?
  2. When has God’s presence been “made known to me in the breaking of the bread?”
  3. How has Christ made a difference in my life?