Easter 3 (26-04-2020)

This service was streamed live via Zoom on April 26th at 10am

Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use while the ban on public worship is in place.  Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate may use this material at any time for their private devotions.  If “two or three” are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church. 

There  are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for the text, including the sermon .  [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip]   When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the back button of  your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

A NOTE FOR NEWCOMERS:  Common churchy words like “God” are used freely, but those who have not been exposed to Rev. Bob’s use of such words may misunderstand.  Though he is an old man, his theology is not.  Traditional usage of those familiar churchy words in popular Christianity is often wide of the mark of a good theological understanding.  To acquaint yourself with more up-to-date definitions (i.e. ones that actually make sense in our modern world), see “Words of the Word” on this website.  (You might start with words such as “Prayer” and  “G-O-D”.)

PRELUDE   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fn4n3WOGmY (Click here to listen)

OPENING SENTENCES

L: As we gather together on this Autumn morning, may we weave here a patchwork of peace: 

R: The soft deep blue of sensitivity and understanding;

L: The red energy of creativity;

R: The white heat of convictions;

L: The risky, fragile green of new growth;

R: The golden flashes of gratitude;

L: The warm rose of love.

R: Together, in our gathered diversity, we form the whole.  So be it. 

PRAYER OF AWARENESS

God of light and colour, we offer our gratitude for the glories of red and yellow, brown and green: all the shades of this autumn season. May our lives be lived in appreciation of all that life offers us. Amen.

HYMN 445   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6ytM9DwOWs (click here to listen)

JOURNEY INTO SILENCE

    Meditation:  “God is Conceived in Good Will” by Michael Benedikt. 

God is conceived in good will. God is nurtured by understandings of virtue, but God is brought to life and flourishes only in actual good doings. These are God’s body, God’s life. His hands guide the good surgeon’s hands; His voice sounds as the good teacher’s voice. God arrives just on time, and every time a person has a choice and sees that it is good, makes it good, and can rest because it remains so.

       Silence

Let us again listen to the silence of this sacred space; a space made ready for us by willing hands. (Pause) 

 May we give thanks for all the silences in our lives: the silence of sunrise, the silence of midst on the lake, the silence at the end of a story, the silence between notes of music, the silence between us here. (30 seconds silence)

REPENTING

L: God our most holy Friend, although we have tried to serve Christ well, and on occasions have accomplished some loving and beautiful things, much remains undone Around us in the world we see gross evil that appals us,

R: and within our mind and heart we recognise the incipient seeds of it all.

L: We cannot atone for our sins and those of our fellow human beings,

R: the debt it is far to great and the cause too deep for us.

L: We are unable to redress our personal follies and correct all our mistakes,

R: the consequences have permeated far away from us.

L: We are incapable of properly recognising, cleansing and forgiving ourselves,

R: for our own hands are too soiled and our store of grace is too mean.

L: But you, God, through your universal Presence, can discern the cause and effect within the tangled skein of our existence, deal with it and move us toward  wholeness. With your priceless grace, forgive us our sins and deliver us from evil. Through Christ Jesus, our brother and our model. Amen!

TRUSTING

L: My friends, the good news is for the likes of you and me. Christ came to show us the path to God’s realm. Trust in him and you shall be free, more free than the wind and rain, the moon and stars, more free than anything else in all creation, for you are now the very children of God. And so I can declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.

R: Thanks be to God!

FROM THE GOSPELS – Luke 24:13-35    The Road to Emmaus

13-16 That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognise who he was.

17-18 He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

19-24 He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

25-27 Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

28-31 They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognised him. And then he disappeared.

32 Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

33-34 They didn’t waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, talking away: “It’s really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!”

35 Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognised him when he broke the bread.

HYMN 595   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFLOCoYaPI (click here to listen)

A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS – “On the Road”  

It was near the end of the day, i.e the time when most of us feel tired and it was near the end of a terrible weekend, a time when, if events have gone miserably wrong for us, we feel flat and discouraged. 

Two travellers (keeping the prescribed ‘social distance’ of course) plodded along the road exchanging disappointments and unanswerable questions.

They were joined by a third traveller who at first seemed just another ordinary person; another run-of-the-mill human being travelling the dusty road of life.  Important in this story is that they did not recognise this stranger, though as his followers, they should have been able to recognise him anywhere.

This is one of my favourite stories in the whole of the Bible because it suggests to us that this is the way it has been happening from the beginning; the way it still happens in our experience; the way the with-us love of God, the death-transcending love of God joins us on life’s journey. When the Christ talks with us in ordinary situations, through ordinary people, like the two on the road to Emmaus, we fail to recognise him.

We fail to recognise him because it’s not how we expect it to happen, nor is it how we would prefer it to happen.  We would like the Christ to show himself to us in a dramatic, unambiguous, undeniable way. Perhaps a dramatic evangelical experience at a revival rally? Maybe a dramatic mystical experience in meditation and prayer? How about in a profound aesthetic experience in a beautiful cathedral in the flow of beautiful liturgy or in a dramatic vision at the foot of our bed at midnight? But that is not how it usually is in this God business.

Sure there are the special times, and we can be grateful for them if they have happened to us.  But such dramatic moments are few.  For some, perhaps most, lovely Christian folk there are none. Rather, it’s a steady growing and walking humbly with a God who stays hidden, and all we have to keep us going is our faith.

Luke’s story of two people on the road to Emmaus depicts the most frequent way God approaches us: through ordinary people, in ordinary situations; those with whom we travel the common path, or whose way crosses ours on life’s journey.

This online service today is a pretty low-key event, not like a Billy Graham rally, not like the emotional experience some young people enjoy at Easter camps, not even the feeling that comes from gathering together in church on a Sunday morning. But if you think God is any the less present, you are in grave error.  Those who only identify God with the dramatic moments are dismally insensitive to the ways of God and abysmally ignorant of the Biblical revelation of God.

Today, remember those two travellers who did not recognise the stranger who walked with them for a while. But just another ordinary human being constituted the most extraordinary event.

Let’s review the way the Christ was revealed to the two on the road. The first thing we note was that as they plodded on, the stranger joined them and listened to them!  Listened to them! The Christ, represented by the stranger, actually listened to their fears, doubts and tentative hopes.

So often, even when we need it most, people do not listen to us. They speak with us and more often they talk at us. But this stranger, who had no obvious motive to care about them or their worries, listened to them at a critical moment in their lives. Those two travellers thought that life was a complete shamozzle! Everything that could go wrong had. Life was a bummer. No doubt we have had times in our lives when we felt like that. Evil people were the winners and good people were the losers. Jesus of Nazareth, the most grace-filled person they had ever met, had been brutally executed on a trumped up charge. Where was God? Why did God allow this to happen? “We had hoped that he was the one who would redeem Israel,” they pined.

The stranger said: “Tell me about it.” They did; unburdened themselves to him. He listened.

After they had poured their hearts out, the next stage in the work of God took place. Now they were ready to listen to the stranger, and as they listened, their soul resonated with the words he had to say.

There is no friendship, human or divine, which is not two way. A true friend is not just a mobile garbage bin into which you unload all your negativity. Friends listen to each other. Dialogue not monologue is what we hunger for.

This traveller took up what they had been saying and wove patterns of meaning into their puzzling experience. He reminded them of the God of their  Scriptures who worked deeds of liberation through times of suffering and defeat. Luke’s account says, “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets he interpreted to them from all the Scriptures the things concerning the Christ.” He led them into the understanding that in this evil world, what happened to their Master was bound to happen. But what is more, it would not happen in vain, for God would vindicate his Messiah.

As the stranger helped them make sense of all that had gone wrong, life did not seem so devastatingly pointless any more. Some light dawned in their minds; their hearts no longer felt desperately cold; hope started to resurrect within their own being.  Later they were to remember this and say: “And didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us while we walked?”

When we listen to God speaking out of ordinary situations and from ordinary people, and relating that to the Scriptures, we will find the Word that makes sense of situations that, on the surface, might seem a disaster. But this can only happen if we listen. Having poured out our hearts we then need to listen, rather than continuing to belly-ache about our hurts and fears and doubts.  That is true of contemporary discipleship just as much as it was on that road to Emmaus.

If this story is starting to sound like the work of the Church, we come now to the climax to this story that clinches it.

Most likely Luke’s account of the risen Jesus was treasured and shaped future gatherings of the Jesus People because of what happened at the dinner table that evening. In fact, Luke’s account probably arose from the experience of the Jesus People at their gatherings, which became the basis for the liturgy we have today.

Luke writes: “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed it, broke it and gave it   to them. Their eyes were open and they recognised him,…”

The divine Friend who is incognito with ordinary people as they travel this earthly road, has chosen a special meeting place where he is not incognito, but present in a strangely visible and recognisable way. In the act of eating together that was the usual practice of the first Christians, and which has become ritualised in the Eucharist, the Christ becomes visible to us.

It is a pity this story doesn’t come to us on a communion Sunday for it is a truly awesome, spine-tingling thing. Here the majestic Transcendence of the eternal world chooses to be present in simple gifts. Bread and wine were the food of the common people of the land. Nothing could be more ordinary, yet on the Lord’s Table nothing could be more full of wonder! Here the Supreme Love that became embodied in the son of Mary is present in a way that can be experienced.

When our hands cradle the bread, when our lips touch the cup, the most awesome thing possible can happen in our midst.  Do not allow familiarity to desensitise you to the realisation that Transcendence, the utter Otherness, the the absolute Love is present with us.

In his story of three people travelling on the road together, Luke gives us a summary of how the Christ is recognised, which not surprisingly mirrors the work of the Church.  It is captured in the every-day sharing between ordinary people who listen to one another and express concern for one another, who study the Scriptures together and talk of spiritual matters, and when hospitality is offered over a meal. But as with the story of the Transfiguration, the experience is transient.  Luke writes: “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed it, broke it and gave it to them. Their eyes were open and they recognised him, before he vanished from their view.”

May the fleeting glimpses of the Christ we find in our relationships with one another, carry us until, along the road, we meet another stranger.

HYMN 650   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eORyZ3iI1o8 (click here to listen)

A CELEBRATION OF FAITH

L: God is hearing what we hear; God is seeing what we see,

R: urging us, with others, to make fresh that which is in decay.

L: God is crying when we cry; God is laughing when we laugh.

R: We are known in community with believers, in ministry with the marginalised. 

L: Encouragement and support are the gifts we exchange

R: in our places of rest, work and play; in our speaking of dreams and visions; 

L: in our physical, emotional and spiritual relating.

R: Being loved empowers all women and men to, in turn, minister in love.

REMEMBERING ANZAC DAY  (This option is included for those who were not able experience an ANZAC commemoration on the 25th)

Christ is also met in others as we join with them in the struggles of life, even in the midst of war, as comrades.  Today we also remember the current struggle against a microscopic unseen foe, in which the Spirit of the ANZACs is called upon to unite us again as comrades in battle. As in war, so in life, we are all in this together.

ANZAC Requiem

Geoff Naylor playing “The Last Post” outside his Ocean Grove home early on ANZAC Day morning.

On this day above all days we recall those who served in war and who did not return to receive the grateful thanks of the Nation. We remember those who still sleep where they were left – amid the holly scrub in the valleys and on the ridges of Gallipoli, on the rocky and terraced hills of Palestine – and in the lovely cemeteries in France. We remember those who lie asleep in the ground beneath the shimmering haze of the Libyan Desert – at Bardia, Derna, Tobruk – and amid the mountain passes and olive groves of Greece and Crete, and the rugged, snow-capped hills of Lebanon and Syria. We remember those who lie buried in the rank jungle of Malaya and Burma – in New Guinea – and in the distant isles of the Pacific. We remember those who lie buried amid loving friends in our Motherland and in our own far north. We remember those who lie in unknown resting places in almost every land, and those gallant men whose grave is the unending sea. Especially do we remember those who died as prisoners of war, remote from their homeland, and from the comforting presence of their kith and kin. We think of those in our women’s services who gave their lives in foreign lands and at sea, and of those who proved to be, in much more than name, the sisters of our fighting men. We recall too, the staunch friends who served beside our men on the first ANZAC Day – men of New Zealand who helped to create the Legend of ANZAC.

We recall those who gave their lives serving with the other British Commonwealth and allied forces. We think of every man and woman who has died so that the lights of freedom and humanity might continue to shine. We think of those gallant men who died in Korea, in Malaya, and in Vietnam, assisting to defend the Commonwealth, and other countries of the free world, against a common enemy. May these all rest proudly in the knowledge of their achievement, and may we and our successors in that heritage prove worthy of their sacrifice.

Prayer of Remembrance

Almighty God, Sacred presence in our midst, we remember with thanksgiving those who made the supreme sacrifice for us in time or war. We pray that the offering of their lives may not have been in vain. May your grace enable us this day to dedicate ourselves to the cause of justice, freedom and peace; and give us the wisdom and strength to build a better world, for the honour and glory of your Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Ode

L: They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

All: We will remember them.

L: Lest we forget.

All: Lest we forget.

The Last Post (click here to listen)

TAKING OUR CONCERNS TO GOD

L: Loving God, Friend of the earth, you are forever immortal wisdom and compassion; we pray for a larger measure of these qualities among people of all races and beliefs. In your mercy, loving God,

R: use our prayers and deeds to your glory.

L: No matter what politics people hold, keep all leaders alert to injustices wherever they happen, and increase their wisdom so that governments may be able to redress wrongs without adding more injustice through impulsive reactions.  In your mercy, loving God.

R: use our prayers and deeds to your glory.

L: No matter how inept people may seem, or whatever their social status, may each person have a fair access to community compassion through the welfare agencies of government and charities, and may these agencies be wise stewards of their resources. In your mercy, loving God,

R: use our prayers and deeds to your glory.

L: No matter how elderly some are, or how handicapped in body or mind others might be, may every citizen be treated with respect and compassion, and given the same, wise medical and personal care as would be afforded the young and the beautiful and the rich. In your mercy, loving God,

R: use our prayers and deeds to your glory.

L: No matter what the cynics say, no matter how immense the needs of suffering humanity around the world, give us the wisdom to choose the most effective way of helping at least some others, and the compassion to keep at it no matter what the odds. In your mercy, loving God,

R: use our prayers and deeds to your glory.

L: No matter how peculiar the culture of recent immigrants may seem, or what their language or dress codes may be, give us the wisdom to learn from them, and grant them the grace to learn only from what is best in our Australian way of life.  In your mercy, loving God,

R: use our prayers and deeds to your glory.

L: No matter what faith our neighbours may belong to, or how odd some of their religious observances may appear to us, give us the wisdom to see beyond outward form to the inner reality and the compassion to overlook faults, just as you, loving God, overlook ours. In your mercy, loving God,

R: use our prayers and deeds to your glory.

L: No matter how ineffective ministers may sometimes seem to their congregations, or whatever weaknesses ministers think they discern in the lay leadership, give each the compassion and wisdom to affirm each others strengths and to make up for each others deficiencies. In your mercy, loving God,

R: use our prayers and deeds to your glory.

L: Most loving God, as we ask you to use each of us for your purposes, we pray for a renewal of our own resources. When some are sad, bring comfort; where there is illness, bring healing; if there are anxious souls, bring serenity; should there be hard decisions to made, bring guidance; where some may feel afraid, bring courage; and if any among us feel beset with doubts, strengthen the core of faith within them. Then may we, fortified by your love and guided by your wisdom, express something of your Spirit in all the interweaving activities of this new week. Through Christ Jesus our Lord, who taught us to pray, “Our Father…”

LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us in the time of trial, and deliver us from evil; for the kingdom and the power and glory are yours now and forever. Amen.

HYMN 613   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-D_aT8CXyc (click here to listen)

WORD OF MISSION

L: The God we worship is never confined to this holy place. So go and travel with the God who is found in ordinary and surprising places. If there is any sense to the seasons it is this: that time is timeless and time is life.

R: Not spring nor summer, not even autumn is gone. Each will be what it becomes, as winter will be spring.

L: The seasons play their walk-on parts,

R: and we can hardly hear the lines, much less know the plot, except the final line: “Life abides”.

BENEDICTION

In the love of God, may we be warmed and welcomed.
In the joy of Jesus, may we be strengthened and made whole.
In the breath of the Spirit, may we be challenged and blessed. Amen

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