SINCE YOU HAVE BEEN RAISED WITH CHRIST, SET YOUR HEARTS ON THINGS ABOVE, WHERE CHRIST IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD. (Colossians 3: 1)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WEB-WORSHIP.
OPENING HYMN (CH-374): – TO GOD BE THE GLORY! Great things He hath done! So loved he the world that he gave us His Son, who yielded His life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in.
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood! To every believer the promise of God; the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Great things He hath taught us, great things he hath done, and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son: but purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.
LET US PRAY:
MOST HOLY FATHER, as we gather in Your presence this morning, remind us that it is You who created us in love as Your children and who now sustains us in all walks of life, even when we do not acknowledge Your presence and power and love. Remind us again that it is from You that we receive every good and perfect gift that makes life bearable and lovely. Keep us aware that it is by Your grace that we are saved, and that it is not from ourselves but also Your gift. As we turn to You this Sunday morning, we pray that You will dwell in us as the power of love and peacefulness. Give us Your Word to read and listen to it, that we may glorify Your name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, One, Eternal God. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – PSALM 80: 18-19.
WE WILL NOT TURN AWAY FROM YOU; REVIVE US, AND WE WILL CALL ON YOUR NAME. RESTORE US , O LORD GOD ALMIGHTY; MAKE YOUR FACE SHINE UPON US, THAT WE MAY BE SAVED.
NEW TESTAMENT 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 ONLY A VISITOR TO JERUSALEM AND DO NOT KNOW THE THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED THERE IN THESE DAYS?” “WHAT 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; 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. IN ADDITION, SOME OF OUR WOMEN AMAZED US. THEY WENT TO THE TOMB EARLY THIS MORNING BUT DID NOT FIND HIS BODY. THEY CAME AND TOLD US THAT THEY HAD SEEN A VISION OF ANGELS, WHO SAID HE WAS ALIVE. THEN SOME OF OUR COMPANIONS WENT TO THE TOMB AND FOUND IT JUST AS THE WOMEN HAD SAID, BUT HIM THEY DID NOT SEE.” HE SAID TO THEM, “HOW FOOLISH YOU ARE, AND HOW SLOW OF HEART TO BELIEVE ALL THAT THE PROPHETS HAVE SPOKEN! DID NOT THE CHRIST HAVE TO SUFFER THESE THINGS AND THEN ENTER HIS GLORY?” AND BEGINNING WITH MOSES AND ALL THE PROPHETS, HE EXPLAINED TO THEM WHAT WAS SAID IN ALL THE SCRIPTURES CONCERNING HIMSELF. AS THEY APPROACHED THE VILLAGE TO WHICH THEY WERE GOING, JESUS ACTED AS IF HE WERE GOING FURTHER. 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. WHEN HE WAS AT THE TABLE WITH THEM, HE TOOK BREAD, GAVE THANKS, BROKE IT AND BEGAN TO GIVE IT TO THEM. THEN THEIR EYES WERE OPENED AND THEY RECOGNIZED HIM, AND HE DISAPPEARED FROM THEIR SIGHT. 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?” THEY GOT UP AND RETURNED AT ONCE TO JERUSALEM. THERE THEY FOUND THE ELEVEN AND THOSE WITH THEM, ASSEMBLED TOGETHER AND SAYING, “IT IS TRUE! THE LORD HAS RISEN AND HAS APPEARED TO SIMON.” THEN THE TWO TOLD WHAT HAD HAPPENED ON THE WAY, AND HOW JESUS WAS RECOGNIZED BY THEM WHEN HE BROKE THE BREAD.
Cleopas and Annas, two lesser-known people from the extended group of Jesus’ disciples, were taking a walk toward Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were still in grief over the death of their hope that this prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, was the one who would save them. So many have seen Him dying on the Cross, but there were even rumours of His resurrection. But was it simply a rumour too good to be true? (I just wonder why is it that we are so quick to believe rumours of scandal and tragedy, but struggle to believe good news when we hear it?!).
FAITH TAKES PEOPLE ON A JOURNEY. If we only had the eyes and ears and hearts to recognize it, we would often find Jesus walking with us on the journeys of our lives. Jesus joined as a stranger the two pilgrims on the road to Emmaus. He appeared in the middle of their conversation, but they were unaware of who He was. Incognito, Jesus joined the Emmaus conversation; He asked them what they were talking about. These two disciples could not recognize Jesus, and they believed that he was the only one who did not know what has happened a few days before on Golgotha. There is a reminder here for all of us, that just when we think Jesus is blind to our troubles, the truth is that He knows all about our problems. Jesus told them that if they had known the Scriptures, they would not be so saddened and without hope. The real test of faith in Resurrection is when we have to stand by the open grave of a loved one. We do not play games at the cemetery. – Is the gravesite the final resting place for a loved one , whose coffin is about to be lowered in the ground? – Is the grave just a historical location where we recall the person’s life, grieving that the person will no longer walk with us on earth? – Or do we believe that our loved one will now share in the promise of Christ’s Resurrection, according to our Christian faith? Resurrection is the transforming work of God by which believers enter the space and time of … Heaven. As Apostle Paul says: – Buried with Him … just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life through Him (Romans 6: 4).
DOUBT OFTEN BECOMES BELIEF. When they arrived at the village of Emmaus, the two disciples did not let Jesus leave them. They were not sure who He was, but they knew they wanted Him to stay. Something about the way He spoke, something about His presence with them on the road, made them urge Jesus to stay. And at the table, turning an ordinary meal into a Eucharistic moment, Jesus took the bread, broke, and blessed it, and gave it to them; their eyes were opened, and they recognized in their midst the one in whom they had placed their hopes. But as soon as they had recognized Him, Jesus vanished from their sight. Then, as they thought back on the day, they recalled how during their time with Him on the road, their hearts burned within them. It takes special eyes and ears to embrace Jesus’ presence. Scripture has to be heard as more than words on a page. The bread and the cup of the Lord’s Supper have to be experienced as more than just an occasional church ceremony. We need to read and study the Bible more rigorously than just as a lecture. Sometimes we even need these kinds of sermons to have our hearts burning again, and our doubts being turned into genuine faith. Later on Jesus had asked the two walking toward Emmaus, as He asked the Eleven, – Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? (verse 38) The Greek word for DOUBT should been translated more accurately as STRESSFUL REFLECTION. Jesus called out to their troubled hearts and minds to TRUST that He – the Risen Christ whom they loved – was truly with them. To help them move beyond their doubt, Jesus engaged each of them to witness the reality of His Resurrection. While the Eleven and other disciples were still talking about the Emmaus experience, Jesus entered their conversation, standing among them and saying,- Peace be with you! His words were more than a mere phrase. Throughout His whole ministry, Jesus spoke of the peace that believers could experience within themselves and in God. By being at peace with Christ, Christians are connected to the One who is able to give us peacefulness in all circumstances. Peace be with you, is His invitation to all who believe in Christ to be at peace with His Crucifixion and death, so all could then experience His Resurrected presence.
CHANGED LIVES SHOW THE POWER OF THE RISEN CHRIST. During the past centuries, the trustworthiness of the Bible has undergone serious review by believers and sceptics. No book has been placed under more scrutiny than the Bible. No witness from the Bible has been examined more than the birth, life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The written accounts by Luke, in particular, and the Bible as a whole, have proven to be historically true. Since it happened, Jesus’ Resurrection gives Christians the ultimate reference point to determine the direction our lives are heading. The truthful historical witness of Christ’s Resurrection began on the first day, not month or years after it was claimed to have happened, and as we can see it wasn’t hiding the doubts and controversies. It did not originate as a bit of wishful thinking, looking back to a supposed unbelievable event. The biblical witnesses gave account of what had already happened, and it dealt with unbelief straight from the beginning. The male disciples only believed when they saw the Risen Christ first-hand. Two of them on the day of Resurrection had already left Jerusalem and were walking to Emmaus – the wrong direction in fact, to ever meet the Risen Christ. They were not believing until Jesus showed up in their midst as a spiritual witness to their unbelief, and serving them with the SACRAMENT of the Holy Communion, enabling the Power of God, His Holy Spirit to install FAITH in the unbelievers. William Barclay says that the whole situation on the Emmaus road seemed to have no explanation. For these followers of Jesus all their hopes and dreams were shattered. There is all the poignant, wistful, bewildered regret in the world in their sorrowing words, “We were hoping that He was the one who was going to rescue Israel.” They are the words of people whose hopes are dead and buried. Then Jesus came and talked with them, and the meaning of life became clear, and the darkness became light (The Gospel of Luke, page 350).
Let me end this message with my confession based on three decades of ministry in the Transylvanian region of Western Romania. I believe in Easter because I have been with believers as they died. I have seen the look of Resurrection in their eyes. If they were able to speak, I heard it in their voices. I have seen the power of Resurrection in the eyes of people who were breathing one moment and in the next moment their bodies were declared dead. You don’t play games when you are dying. Believers do give witness of their faith as they pass on from this world into the arms of God. I believe in Easter because people like the Emmaus companions, became believers by conscientiously following Christ as their Lord and God. Changed lives always show the power of the Risen Christ. AMEN.
LET US PRAY:
ALMIGHTY AND EVERLASTING LORD, in this world where hopes are so often dashed and dreams so often broken, today we remember the faith in the future You brought to so many, both through Your coming and through Your resurrection from the dead. We remember how Your disciples and the crowds that flocked to hear You gave thanks, convinced that You were the Messiah, the One God had promised, the long-awaited deliverer come to set them free. We recall how that vision of the future was shattered by events to follow, and a tragic end to their dreams. We remember how the news spread that the tomb was empty, and finally how You appeared in all Your risen glory – in the garden, in the upper room, on the Emmaus road, by the Sea of Galilee – and the dream was born again, the smouldering embers of faith rekindled. Lord, where faith has died and dreams have faded, may hope flower again. Be with Your people in their worldwide struggle with the Coronavirus pandemic. Reach out to all for whom the future seems uncertain or fatal, and bring the assurance that even in the darkest moments, the most worrying times, You are there working out Your purpose; able to bring light out of darkness, hope out of despair, joy out of sorrow, and good out of evil. Bless Your Church here and everywhere; be with everyone of us, with our loved-ones, and all whom we now name quietly to You … Lord our God, through Jesus Christ. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH- 663): – O FOR A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD, a calm and heavenly frame, a light to shine upon the road that leads me to the Lamb!
Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view of Jesus and His Word?
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed! How sweet their memory still! But they have left an aching void the world can never fill.
Return, O Holy Dove! Return, sweet messenger of rest! I hate the sins that made Thee mourn, and drove Thee from my breast.
The dearest idol I have known, whate’er that idol be, help me to tear it from Thy throne, and worship only Thee.
So shall my walk be close with God, calm and serene my frame; so purer light shall mark the road that leads me to the Lamb.
MAY THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL. (2 Corinthians 13: 14) AMEN.