Monday Muse: Emmaus Questions

Some stories are so familiar that they are hard to hear afresh. Some stories are so familiar that we need to hear them afresh.

(My friend and colleague Casey FitzGerald at Faith and Wonder offers encouragement for telling scripture in such a way that our ears & souls are newly fascinated by familiar stories.)

Ideally, the whole of worship supports a fresh hearing of a familiar biblical story and — more importantly — a renewed understanding of God’s ongoing story! No matter how familiar certain verses may be, in and through worship we discover our stories within God’s story.

This coming Sunday (May 4th, the Third Sunday of Easter in the Revised Common Lectionary), we dare to recognize our own stories and questions in that too-familiar story of two disciples walking and talking together en route from Jerusalem to Emmaus following the resurrection.

As I hear them, these are the familiar questions of our daily lives, as told in Luke 24:13-35 —

What the heck just happened??! (“Two of them were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.” 24:14)

Doesn’t the whole world see life from my/our point of view? a.k.a. Isn’t it all about me? (“Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 24:18)

How can we make sense of what others have said? (“Some women of our group astounded us” and “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them…” 24:22 and 24:27)

How did we miss seeing what was in plain sight? #foreheadslap (“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” 24:32)

The familiar human story: We are full of doubt and worry over the unknown, skeptical of what we see and hear, suspicious of the perspectives of others. In fact, we can be so caught up in disbelief that Jesus himself cannot talk us into faith.

The good news of God’s story: Jesus is with us all the same.

The call (or lesson) of God’s continuing story: The ability to welcome a stranger precedes understanding. Our doubt, distraction and skepticism should not overwhelm our hospitality; even when we do not recognize God, we must not fail to welcome God. (“Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is nearly over.” 24:29)

Tell Me a Story

Tell me a story
of butterflies and daffodils
of thin places and reassuring angels.

Tell me a story
of miracles and love
of strolling through gardens with lions and lambs.

Tell me a story
of resurrection dawning
of rains refreshing, of tombs bursting with life.

Tell me these stories
when the clouds droop low
when grace is short-fused and fragile.

Tell me these stories
when lovingkindness seems absent
when kinship is withdrawn and understanding hindered.

Tell me these stories
when the world feels tired
when God’s patience grows weary.

Let the story continue
with stones still rolling away
with roses blooming where tears fall.

Let the story continue
with untold surprise endings
with dancing and singing and laughing.

Let the story continue
with joyous wonder repeating
with fellowship extending by every breath, every hand.

Monday Muse: Prepping Worship for April 27

The brightly-colored hard-boiled eggs gradually disappear, mixed into cobb salads or egg salads or eaten plain with a dash of salt & pepper. The chocolate bunnies and pastel candies disappear faster. Pastors and priests — who have been going full-steam since the start of Advent (yes, I said Advent) — now collapse into well-deserved vacations.

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But wait! There’s one detail that must be done before packing the car and getting out of town for a few days: the bulletin for the guest preacher on April 27th. For the liturgically exhausted pastor, today’s Monday Muse offers worship ideas and liturgies based on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the Second Sunday of Easter.

CALL TO WORSHIP (on 1 Peter 1:3-9)

One: Blessed be the God and Parent of us all!
Many: Blessed be the Holy One who gives birth to life!
One: Blessed be the Resurrected Christ whose glory is our hope!
Many: Blessed be the God of power who meets us with mercy!
One: Rejoice in the Great Gift that is indestructible, imperishable and unceasing!
Many: Rejoice in faith, for the love of Christ is forever!
One: Laugh to know it: God’s salvation has the final word!
Many: Laugh for this Good News: Christ’s resurrection is our inheritance!
One: Come and worship in the joy of Eastertide!

EASTER AFFIRMATION (on Psalm 16)

One: Let us bless the LORD and affirm our faith.
Many: The One God is our God. God is our help and our hope, our joy and our meaning. God knows the bounds of our lives, every length and width and intersection, therefore we keep God ever before us. The LORD of Life is our source of wisdom by day and by night; our hearts rest in peace. Our spirits are singing! Our feet are sure! With the God of Resurrection, we walk confidently in the path of life. Here we find fullness of joy! With the Living God, there is life evermore!

SERMON IDEAS

“All of Us Are Witnesses” on Acts 2:14a, 22-32. Lead a conversation with the congregation, asking “What is your witness to God’s power and faithfulness? How have you experienced joy in your faith journeys?”

“Body and Breath: The Grossness of Resurrection” on John 20:19-31. Easter Sunday is an occasion of high triumph, soaring music, and a miracle beyond imagination. On the Sunday after Easter, the miracle gets up close & personal — Jesus breathes on the disciples and lets Thomas touch his scars. The resurrection is not only glorious & spiritual: it’s also beautifully sweaty and smelly and life-changing.

Easter Sunday: Transformation

On this Easter Sunday, praying with Jesus in the last of his seven words … marking a beginning with words from the end: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

My life in your hands.
My life, I daresay, out of hand
in the wake of this crazy, joyful twist:
the release of the spirit
out of itself,
unlike itself,
committed to you;
Ready to be
wildly different
wholly exhilarant
delightfully inventive
by the slight of your hand
as it holds my spirit, my life
gently before the blinding power
of Easter resurrection.

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Part of the 2013 exhibit, “NE6: Kingdom Come,” at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas

 

Lent 40 (Holy Saturday): Death

In the final hours of Holy Week, we pray and reflect on the 6th of Jesus’ 7 last words: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

How late did they stay awake that night, counting the stars, recounting the stories? Were there long spaces of silence between them? Did they laugh, too, just once in a while, remembering the wedding wine … the outrageous catch of fish … the donkey? Surely they wondered what was next (although you can’t really think too far ahead when grief is here and now). The end of one life forces a pause upon surrounding lives: what is finished for one is finished for all. You can never go back.