Sunday (Zoom) message: Strange roads and places

Third Sunday of Easter

Dayspring zoom worship April 26, 2020

Gathering

Music prelude: Be Thou my vision   
                                                   
Greeting: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you…”                                      

Welcome and announcements  (Bill Davis)   

Call to worship

One: We come from many places, following different roads.
All: We come hungering for greater understanding.
One: We come to hear the wisdom of Scripture.
All: We come seeking companions in the faith.
One: We come to discover the One revealed in the breaking of the bread.
All: We come to grow as disciples of Christ.
One: Come, let us worship God, made known in Christ Jesus.

Opening praise song: Here I am to worship        

Light of the world, You step down into darkness.
Opened my eyes let me see.
Beauty that made this heart adore you
hope of a life spent with you.

And here I am to worship,
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that you’re my God,
You’re altogether lovely, Altogether worthy,
Altogether wonderful to me.

King of all days,
Oh so highly exalted Glorious in heaven above.
Humbly you came to the earth you created.
All for love’s sake became poor.

Here I am to worship,
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that you’re my God,

You’re altogether lovely, Altogether worthy,
Altogether wonderful to me.

Prayers of approach and God’s help and confession  (Kimi M)

God of heaven and earth, we rejoice in the hope revealed with Easter’s light. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we see beyond all doubt that nothing exists beyond your saving power. You work within our brokenness, limitation and loss to bring new life.

You have overcome even death, promising us and all creation the power of your transforming love and the gift of new beginnings. God of resurrecting power, it is by Easter’s light that we worship this day. In that light, we dare to believe, to trust, to risk and to pray in the name of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

God of majesty and mercy, even as we offer you our praise, we confess we often seek darkness rather than Easter’s revealing light. We forget the new beginnings Christ offers us and cling to our old ways.

Forgive us for failing to recognize Christ’s presence with us in the midst of our sorrows. Hear us now as we confess in silence those times we have failed to live by Easter’s light.

(Silence for 10 seconds)

Assurance of God’s forgiveness  (Heinrich)

Friends, know that in Christ, we have been born anew through the power of the living God. You are forgiven and set free by God’s redeeming love.
Be at peace with God, with yourself and with one another.

Children’s time  (Lynn Vaughan)                                                                 

Music interlude  Be Thou my vision 

Scripture reading:  Luke 24:13-35 (Iris Routledge)

The Walk to Emmaus

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 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?” 19 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, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 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. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 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. 24 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.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 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?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Message: “Strange roads and places”

How would you describe the times we are experiencing? Weird, unpredictable, strange, or even dreadful? Regardless of our description, these times do have a way of unnerving us. Sometimes we even feel cheated out of so much of the niceness, fun and cheerfulness that life normally holds.

Cheated out of the niceness of Spring. Cheated out of the fun of visiting with friends over a barbecue. It even feels like we’ve been cheated out of so much cheerfulness that good company brings with it. Yes, we can still visit over FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or Facebook Messenger Video-chats. But this is not the real thing. Just like showing someone a picture of the awesomeness of Lake Louise. You show it to them, but the picture doesn’t really convey all of it. Our virtual times are good, but they aren’t the real thing.

We are indeed betwixt and between the life we had known and the life we don’t know.

Much of our passage about the Road to Emmaus seems to describe a similar type of walk. Not quite identical, but similar, it seems to me. The experience of these two walking to Emmaus, seven miles away from Jerusalem, was one of being betwixt and between.

We can’t really go back, and how we’ll be going forward, is unknown. Many of us show signs of anxiety, of frustration, disarray, even grief and confusion. Yes, and there may be those who say it’s overblown, unrealistic. Even “what’s the big deal?”

A Texan storyteller and researcher (that’s what she calls herself), Brené Brown, puts our current dilemma this way: “We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was never normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.” [i]

We are being challenged to adapt along this road between the now and the not-yet. Or perhaps we are even challenged to figure out a way from this strange place over here to that other new and very unknown place across an abyss. It looks impossible.

Perhaps all of us on this planet are experiencing this reality that is confronting us. The road is between Jerusalem and Emmaus — between pandemic and our future — we don’t know where we are or where we are going. We have no clue what the economics will turn out to be.

Author and theologian Richard Rohr describes this “liminal” space as: “where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor.” [ii]

As Ruth Haley Barton puts it, “It is like when Abraham was leaving his home country for a land he did not yet know. Or like Joseph in the pit, Jonah in the belly of the fish. It’s like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. Like Ruth on her way to Bethlehem with Naomi. Like Mary weeping at Jesus’ tomb. Like the disciples huddled in the upper room. Like these two disciples on the Emmaus Road betwixt and between the life they had known, their lost hopes and dreams and whatever was supposed to take them to their next steps.” [iii]

What are you about to do with this disruptive “liminal space” right in the middle of a pandemic?

As strange as this sounds, I wonder whether any of us needs to be in too much of a hurry to get out of this strange place. This is just something I’m wondering about.

A rapid departure out of this weird place might rob us of that which we are learning from this appointment with our divine doctor. What we miss sometimes, very much like the two on their way to Emmaus, is that Jesus is near. Pay close attention, something transformative is happening. That might be significant. [iii]

We get to discover how precious those beloved others are in our lives. We get to discover that we can’t just take them for granted.

Much like the two disciples. After the unrecognized Jesus had explained to them what all these events over Easter meant to us, He still remained unidentified. So, as they came near the village to which they were going, He walked ahead as if He were going on. Suddenly they could not let go of Him. They urged Him strongly, saying, “Stay with us…!” “Because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”

How often don’t we too discover the greatness of the moment when it’s almost over? We too might discover that there is a deep need to break bread, to be together and spend some quality time with two of three who are together in his Name.

When He was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes opened, and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.”

They said, and aren’t we learning to say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking to us on the road, while He was opening the scriptures to us?”

In this thin and awkward space that we are experiencing, when we are out of sorts to some extent, are we utilizing this strange place to allow Jesus to be present with us, teaching us and warming our hearts like never before?

The road is strange, but there is no better place, even though we would never wish it upon anybody!

Song:  Lord of the Dance   

I danced in the morning
When the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem
I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he

I danced for the scribe
And the pharisee,
But they would not dance
And they wouldn’t follow me.
I danced for the fishermen,
For James and John
They came with me
And the Dance went on.

I danced on the Sabbath
And I cured the lame;
The holy people
Said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped
And they hung me on high,
And they left me there
On a Cross to die.

I danced on a Friday
When the sky turned black
It’s hard to dance
With the devil on your back.
They buried my body
And they thought I’d gone,
But I am the Dance,
And I still go on.

They cut me down
And I leapt up high;
I am the life
That’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you
If you’ll live in me –
I am the Lord
Of the Dance, said he.

Prayer of gratitude

God our Maker, You have walked the Emmaus Road with your faithful people in many generations, people facing challenge and uncertainty, people seeking your purpose and promise. Thank you for your faithfulness to us in all situations. Walk with us and with those for whom we pray for this day, that your grace and mercy may sustain our faith and hope.
God in your mercy,
hear our prayers.

We pray for children and young people who must think about the future in uncertain times. Give them hope rooted in the knowledge that their lives matter to you. Show them how to make a difference in the world, whatever threats and challenges they face as they grow.
God in your mercy,
hear our prayers.

We pray for people for whom age or experience, illness or disability create barriers to full participation in your world. Give each one a sense of dignity and purpose. Show them where their gifts are needed and how much they matter to you.
God in your mercy,
hear our prayers.

We pray for communities challenged by forces beyond their control: the pandemic, the economic crisis it is creating, environmental collapse, natural disaster, political strife. Give courage to those facing these crises day by day and wisdom to those who lead us through them so that wellbeing may be restored and hope for the future prevail.
God in your mercy,
hear our prayers.

We pray for our congregation, for our life together and our future in mission. In a time when we cannot gather in person, sustain our fellowship and strengthen our prayers for one another so that you will find us faithful on our journey into that future. And we pray for the wellbeing of those lives linked to ours who bring us both joy and heartache because they matter so much to us and to you…

(Silence for 15 seconds)

God in your mercy,
hear our prayers.

God our Maker, hear our prayers, spoken and unspoken, and use us in ways we may not yet even imagine to respond to those around us with the love and mercy we see in Jesus Christ.

Reflection on giving

We give because we are the recipients of God’s overflowing love.
We give because our givings support our minister and the church staff who enable us to be a community of Faith and Care.
We give in order to take care our building – an inheritance from those who have gone before us and from the Presbyterian Church in Canada – and the means by which we offer care to our community.
We give in order to be able to meet together for worship via the internet.
We give to support the ministry and mission of the Presbyterian Church in Canada across our nation and throughout the world.
And in these days of COVID-19 distancing, we do our giving in the various ways described in the Dayspring Weekly News.

Closing prayer (The 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.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen

Blessing

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”


[i] Brené Brown, The Breathing Room: Envisioning a More Just Post-Pandemic World, on April 17, 2020 (at https://today.uic.edu/events/the-breathing-room-envisioning-a-more-just-post-pandemic-world)

[ii] A quote from Richard Rohr at https://inaliminalspace.org/about-us/what-is-a-liminal-space

[iii] Ruth Haley Barton, Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community (IVP, 2014), 25


Copyright 2020 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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