United Church of Christ

Online Easter 3 - April 26

Telling the Story                    Luke 24:13-35                                                                             
    Two disciples are leaving Jerusalem,
         fleeing in sorrow, fearful, heartbroken,
         telling their tragic story to each other
         —you can imagine it—
         how did this happen, how did we get here,
         if only…, if only…?

    A Stranger approaches—
         it is Jesus, but they don’t recognize him.

    “What are you talking about?” the Stranger asks them.

    “What!  Can you be the only  one in Jerusalem
         who hasn’t heard about Jesus?”

    So they tell the Stranger their terrible story
    —of life ended, hopes dashed;
          but they add the odd new little tag to the story—

                The story of the women who go to the tomb to anoint Jesus
                   But find the tomb empty;
                instead they meet an angel there who claims he is alive—
                   and the others who follow, can’t find Jesus.

   “What can this mean, this new story?”

   To their surprise, the Stranger takes up their story:
                  “You haven’t understood; you don’t see the whole picture”

   And he begins to re-tell their story
   Opening up its context and its possibilities
   Going back to the scriptures and making new connections
   In light of this new experience: 

   Story on story on story
   That leads now to a new ending.

   They come to the place where they are headed
      And the Stranger looks to be going on.

   But they stop him, saying
                    “Stay with us
                    —you need shelter, a meal—
                     stay with us.”

    In this moment of Covid-19, sheltering in place,
    dealing with uncertainty and grief,
    and circumstances beyond our imagining only a couple of months ago,
    I imagine we are like those two disciples, Cleopas and his friend,
    In an in-between space between all we thought was certain, and an unknown future.
    For them, it was that road between Jerusalem and its sorrow and Emmaus,
and starting over without their beloved leader;
    For us it is “sheltering in place”: many disconnected from certainties of jobs and
school

            I see us in that moment of poise when the disciples are saying:  “Stay with us”. 
            They still don’t know who they are inviting in,
            but they see the possibilities.                                          

THE CELEBRATION OF COMMUNION

The Invitation to the Table/ Communion Prayer

            As we gather at the table today, I invite us to look at one another
             as if we’ve never seen each other before--
             to welcome the Stranger in each:
             to expect something new:  the insight, the humor, the question
             that contributes a new thing to this community of faith.

                 One:    Stay with us—you need shelter and a meal:
                 Stay with us!
                 All:     Stay with us!
                 One:    Share our meal, share our work!
                 All:     Stay with us!
                 One:    You tell a great story!
                 All:     Stay with us!
                 One:    You know our story better than we do!
                 All:     Stay with us!
                 One:    You challenge our despair!
                 All:     Stay with us!
                 One:    You surprise us with hope!
                 All:     Stay with us!
                 All:     Stay with us!
                 All:     Stay with us!

            And the Stranger came in, and stayed with them. 

            Let’s gather around the table with the Stranger, and the Emmaus folks.

               30When he was at the table with them,
            he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
           (distribute the bread around the table—take lots!)

               31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus;
            and he vanished from their sight.
               32They said to each other,
                       ‘Were not our hearts burning within us*
                        while he was with us on the road,
                        while he was opening the scriptures to us?’
            (pass the cups around the table for intinction)
            As you pass the cup around, look at your neighbors,
            and seek to find the Stranger, the Risen Christ, in them!

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