Welcome (Psalm 116:1-4)
I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
‘O Lord, I pray, save my life!’
Preparation: Blest are they the poor in spirit
Call to Worship (Psalm 116:16-19)
O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!
Praise, I will praise you Lord
O gracious Lord,
How we have remembered you and are now here to worship you! May your name be praised now and ever! May the blessing, honour, glory and power be yours always!
On this third Sunday of Easter, we come to worship, bringing all that we are. We offer ourselves in this worship through prayers and praises to glorify you. May your Spirit set our hearts on you firmly! May our hearts be filled with your Spirit displacing all other spirits we contain in them. Through this worship, cleanse our hearts, minds, spirits and all that we are. Recreate us as part of your new creation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 24:13-35
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. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 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?’ 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, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 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. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 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. 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.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 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. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Sermon: Our Road to Emmaus
Two disciples and a stranger are on the road. We are told by the Gospel writer that the disciples were unable to recognize the stranger as the risen Lord because their eyes were deliberately prohibited from seeing the resurrected Jesus. Yes, even if they wanted to see the risen Jesus, they could not. It is really hard to know why this was so. Everything regarding the resurrection in these Gospels remained a mystery. It was as if God was not wanting the world to recognize the risen Christ anytime soon. The exception to the rule, it seems, in all of the Gospel is that Jesus chooses to appear to whomever he chooses.
One thing that gives us hope in this story is that the disciples’ eyes were eventually opened and were able to see who had been with them all that time. Yet, as soon as they recognized him, he vanished. Actually it is hard to know which one is more difficult: seeing him or him vanishing in front of their eyes. The reality of something other worldly experience–a sudden appearance or disappearance–is not the focus of these resurrection stories, however. Rather the focus it seems is always about the fact that they were in the presence of the risen Lord.
In this passage, the most significant point is that at the table he blessed and broke the bread and gave those broken pieces to them. That was when their eyes were opened. As we ponder about this, what we need to fully appreciate is that he would not have been at the table if those two disciples did not bother to invite him to stay with them. It was not a simple one off invitation either. They were fairly insistent on Jesus staying with them because this stranger seemed to continue on his way. Yes, on their strong invitation, this person stayed.
It is important to know that in Gospel Luke, unlike Matthew and John, the risen Jesus appeared first to these two unknown disciples ever so briefly. Why did Luke’s Gospel go so far as to say that Jesus appeared not in Jerusalem, but away from Jerusalem and first to those two disciples who were not as important and as prominent as Peter, James and John? Was there a reason that we must know about Jesus’ resurrection that we are not getting?
At the same time, when these disciples returned to Jerusalem, they were told that Jesus was risen and that Jesus appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem also. Their stories of Jesus became a collaborating story showing that Jesus was indeed risen from the dead. In this case, the blessing, breaking of the bread and eating the bread become the focal point as if to tell us that our communion is the occasion in which we encounter the risen Christ.
It is not unusual for all of us to meet strangers. What is unusual in this case was that everything the stranger said made sense once they came face to face with the risen Jesus. This is the part we do not get. Indeed, many people today think that knowing is everything. However, the problem does not come with knowing. Rather, it comes from things we know little about and are not easily known or understood. When we cannot wrap our minds around certain things, we refuse to accept those things that are not clear to us as truths.
We live in an information age where we think that information I disagree with is either false information, misinformation, or disinformation. How are we to distinguish something that makes little sense from the truth? How are we to receive information that has little meaning to us? I wonder if these two disciples would have returned to the others and shared the news of the risen Jesus if their eyes were not opened? Even if they heard everything from the stranger, without seeing Jesus, they would not have returned to Jerusalem to tell their story.
The words alone do not have the same power as seeing with our own eyes. When those stranger’s words matched up with what their eyes saw, their lives were changed totally. This is not so different from how the world mission began in those strange countries for many Christian missionaries. Our ways of listening to the successful spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ centres on those who were able to speak well.
A stranger went to meet a group of people. This stranger told them about the good news of Jesus. The people’s hearts were moved by the good news and they became Christians. A more sophisticated version of this includes a bit more. A stranger preached the good news to people who were desperately seeking good news. They were given the Bible to read. As they read they came to understand. They attended the Bible studies and eventually they came to know Christ as their personal saviour from their sins. After all, not knowing God who sent Jesus, they were in the dark and were living the life of sin until they heard about Jesus from the missionaries.
I wish the story of sharing the good news was that simple and easy. It is a lot more complicated than these summaries of evangelism we hear. Let us briefly look at one of our own missionaries whom we do not know about or hear about much. George Leslie Mackay was a Presbyterian missionary who went to Taiwan in the late 19th century. He studied at Knox, Princeton as well as in Edinburgh before he went to be the missionary.
Unlike other missionaries, he did not simply preach the Gospel in the mission compound. He went out strolling. Most of the time he took a notepad and drew lots of local birds he found. Many locals came to know him as the black bearded barbarian who drew pictures of birds. For this was a way to meet people as he walked through villages while other missionaries were in a mission facility doing important mission work like teaching, Bible studies and other activities.
By learning about the people of Taiwan, he learned about how the indigenous people were being enslaved by the mainland Chinese. The migration of Chinese from the mainland into Taiwan in the 17th and 18th centuries was devastating to the indigenous people. He worked among the indigenous. His mission method was so unorthodox that many of his peer missionaries wanted nothing to do with him.
It should be noted that for the first ten years, nothing much came out of his mission work. After a decade of walking and meeting locals, with help of the locals whom he became very close to, his mission work became the start of a new movement in Taiwan that has not been seen since. He eventually married one of the indigenous people. For marrying an indigenous woman, he was ridiculed and dismissed by his colleagues both in Taiwan and in Canada. In Canada of that day, this marriage became a scandal because a white man married a savage woman. They accused him of demeaning and polluting the white race. If you go to Taiwan, however, among the indigenous Taiwanese, even today George Leslie Mackay is as big a legend and is better known as Christ’s servant than Apostles Peter and Paul.
Countless missionaries preached in Taiwan. Many people did indeed become Christians through their preachings. This way of becoming Christians, however, was not the same way Mackay brought the Gospel. They heard and believed, but whether they would have seen someone embodying the risen Christ was very unlikely. On seeing this black bearded barbarian named George Leslie Mackay, they were far more likely to have understood what God meant by loving the world to send God’s own Son to die. Yes, it is more likely that they would have met the risen Lord who came as one of them and seeing Mackay marry their own at high cost to show God’s grace of calling them. Through Mackay’s willingness to become one of those downtrodden indigenous Taiwanese people and share the gospel of Christ not as a knowledge to be shared, but life to be lived and shared together, they could experience the presence of the risen Lord in one another.
Eyes of these disciples who were not the twelve were opened when they shared the bread that was blessed and broken for them. This is the same way our eyes get opened to meet ever so briefly the risen Lord. Do you wonder why we keep inviting strangers to share our meals? In blessing of the bread, breaking of the bread and giving each of us to take and eat a piece of bread, we receive him and when we eat a piece of bread that represents his body, our eyes may be opened to see the risen Christ among us even for the briefest moment.
You are our joy and wonder. In you, we flourish sharing our hope in you and your love for us. Your grace liberates us from sins we have committed. Your mercy rescues us from daily burdens we endure. Your compassion lifts us from the depths of despair. Your acceptance recreates us your presence in this world.
Sharing all these blessings you have given us with those around us, we come lifting the voices of those who are struggling in this world. We remember before you those who are caught in wars, those who are in hunger and poverty, those who are sick and those who are in despair. We also remember before you our call to participate in your mission. O Lord, hear our prayer.
People are crying, O God. Their lives are in shambles as bombs drop all around them. Their loved ones are dying. Wars, those evil violence that have been unleashed by people of power, are devouring innocent lives everywhere. Yet, the people in power are oblivious to so many deaths as they gorge on wealth and power they gain. These heartless leaders sacrifice lives of their people without care in order to gain more power over their enemies. Be kind to those who live regular lives without privilege and power as they suffer the consequences of their leaders’ decisions. Guard and protect them. Hear the cries of all those who are in pain and in grief over the loss of lives in these wars.
People are crying, O God. They are struggling and doing all they can. Yet, they are always behind on rents, debt payments, and are often on the streets because they cannot climb out of poverty. As they tire themselves out trying to do everything they can, they wonder if they can ever stop worrying about being hungry. Yes, Lord, it is indeed true that some squandered their opportunities. Many of them have been their own worst enemies, but be gracious. Give them your presence and forgiveness. Help us to be compassionate to them. Make us share your love with them.
People are crying, O God. sicknesses are thriving in many of your people. As more and more people are afflicted with onset of Alzheimer disease, dementia, and incurable cancers, they live in fear of pain and anguish. In this disease filled world, we ask you to walk with all those who are ill. Guard and protect them. Help us to minister to them with your love.
There are so many concerns in this world. Our words are never enough to remember all the prayers your people have in their hearts. Hear them when we lift these prayers up in silence.
All these said and unsaid prayer, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Next Sunday, we will have our service of worship in the hall. It is an opportunity to worship differently. Rob Whitelock will bring his music group to help us worship. Please come. Invite your friends and family.
Remember that Sunday, May 7th is the first Sunday of the month. As is the case, we are celebrating birthdays in May. Please come and join us for these birthday celebrations.
If you would like to help with newcomers learning English, please let the minister know. We are in need of people who can help the newcomers speak English.
All the way my Saviour leads me