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Sermon and Liturgy for The Third Sunday of Easter - Year A
Acts 2:14a, 36-41 and Luke 24:13-35
"Encountering The Risen Christ"


READING:  Acts 2:14a,36-41 and Luke 24:13-35
SERMON :  "Encountering The Risen Christ"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ea03sm 666000
                  
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

	 
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME & SCRIPTURE SENTENCES
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Christ is Risen. 
P  He is risen indeed!


* INTROIT:  "This Is The Day!"   (VU 412 - verse one)


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
God of Wonder and of unexpected delight -- as we celebrate Christ's
risen presence among us today we pray that you would open to us the
scripture's message.  Talk to us as we journey along life's way, meet
us as we fellowship with one another, and so move in us that we may
claim all your promises as our own.  Open our eyes and quicken our
hearts, we ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen


* HYMN 


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING TIME


A READING FROM ACTS 2:14a,36-41
   (NRSV) But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice
   and addressed them, "Therefore, let the entire house of Israel
   know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and
   Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified." {37} Now when they
   heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to
   the other apostles, "Brothers, what should we do?" {38} Peter
   said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the
   name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you
   will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. {39} For the promise
   is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away,
   everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him." {40} And he
   testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying,
   "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." {41} So those
   who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about
   three thousand persons were added.

L  This the Word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.


CHILDREN'S TIME  "Making Sense of Things"
Object:   Eye Glasses and Bread
Theme:    Jesus helps us to see better.
Source:   Based on story from "The Whole People of God"  for this
          Lection in 1996

Good morning.  Today I want to tell you a story about a little girl
by the name of Anne.  Anne couldn't see very well - but the funny
part was that she didn't know it.  No one knew it -not her mother
or her father, her grandmother or grandfather - not even her
brother or her friends knew that Anne couldn't see very well.

Anne thought that everything in the world had fuzzy edges - because
that is the way things looked to her.  She didn't know that other
children could see further than her.  She thought that everyone saw
just what she saw.  But as she got older her mother began to wonder
why Anne always sat so close to the TV.  Her grandfather noticed
that when she held a book she held it really close to her face. 
When she began school her teacher noticed that Anne couldn't see
the words on the blackboard very easily.  Everyone finally began to
say - "Anne needs glasses".  

So her father took her to an eye doctor.  The doctor said, "Anne
needs glasses", and in a few short days she got a brand new pair of
glasses.  She was a bit scared that the other kids would tease her
because she had to wear glasses, but when she put them on -- WOW -
the world looked different.  Nothing had fuzzy edges.  She could
read a book even if she held it away from her face.  She could see
her mothers face clearly, even when she was way across the room. 
It was great.

When Jesus died, his friends that he was gone forever.  They didn't
know what to do.  They were very sad.  They couldn't see things
clearly because they were so mixed up and upset.  Two of Jesus'
friends were sadly walking back to their home in the village of
Emmaus when another traveller joined them.  They didn't recognize
who it was, but they told him all about what had happened to Jesus
and  how sad they were.  When it was evening they arrived at their
home and invited the stranger to stay with them and have supper. 
When the traveller broke bread and blessed it, something happened. 
It was if they had put on the little girl's glasses.  Suddenly they
saw something clearly that they hadn't seen before even though they
had been looking right at it most of the day.  They realized that
the stranger was really Jesus - alive and well, and with them. 
They ran back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.

Sometimes the same thing happens to us.  WE can feel really mixed
up and not see things clearly.  WE need help to understand our
lives more clearly.  Jesus helps us all to do that.  He helps us to
understand that God loves and that there is nothing to be afraid
of.  Jesus is with us at all times.  When we stop and pray with
each other - he helps us to make sense out of things.

   Let us Pray: "We praise you God -- for being with us as --
   as we journey through life. -- Help us to recognize your
   presence -- and  to rejoice at all times. -- We ask it in
   Jesus' name. -- Amen."


* HYMN: "One More Step Along The World I Go"             - VU 639
              

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 116 (Voices United page 836) and Refrain


CHOIR ANTHEM

   
A READING FROM LUKE 24:13-35
  (NRSV)  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.

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:  "How Great Thou Art"                            - VU 238

    
SERMON: "Encountering The Risen Christ"

           Sources as named within text - if any.

   Bless thou O Lord, the words of my lips and the meditations
   of our hearts that they be of profit to us and acceptable to
   thee, oh our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen

The tradition to which we belong
the Protestant tradition begun by Martin Luther
believes most strongly that we meet God - that we meet Christ -
in the word of scripture - in study - and in prayer.

The scripture reading that I read today speaks about these things.

It is the story of how two men, on Easter Sunday, set out on the
road from Jerusalem to Emmaus - a distance of about seven miles -
were met by a stranger going along the same road - and began to
speak to him about all that had occurred in the Holy City during
the previous week.

This man - this stranger - responded to their grief, their
dejection - their shock and horror - regarding what had happened -
how Jesus, a good man, a prophet, a man powerful before God and all
the people -  had been crucified and buried - and how his body had
disappeared from the tomb - by taking them on a journey through the
law and the prophets.

In that journey he showed them how the scriptures foretold all that
Jesus did, and all that he suffered, even how he would die - and
what purpose it served.

The scriptures are an amazing thing -
Moses and David
Isaiah and Malachi
Jeremiah and Ruth
all speak of God's anointed one - of God's suffering servant -
they speak too of God's purpose and plan for the world
how the world began - and how it will end.

The scriptures are a way to come to know God, to come to know
Christ, and it was through them, one night many years ago now - as
I was reading the gospel of Luke that I first invited him to be my
Lord and my Saviour.

I met Christ through the scriptures 
I came to know him by what they said about him,
and wanted for myself 
the forgiveness and the joy of which he spoke,
the strength and the hope which he offered,
the wholeness and the salvation for which he came 
- and for which he died and rose again.

The stranger who walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus
spoke of these things.

He taught them about the mind of God
and the purpose of God
and how Jesus fit in with it all.

In the record of that encounter we are told that their hearts
burned within them as this stranger talked to them about these
things, as he "opened the Scriptures to them"

Our tradition teaches us that the reading of scripture
and the study of scripture
and the proclamation of the message of the scriptures  
is the primary way in which we meet God
the primary way in which we meet Christ.

Prayer is equally important however.

While we get to know Christ, while we meet him, through the Word of
God, we commune with him, we conduct our relationship with him
through prayer.
 
I can't number the times that prayer to the God who I have met
through the scriptures has warmed my heart, calmed my fears, and
given me a basic assurance about the future.  In prayer I felt
God's  Spirit touch me - in prayer I have heard him tell me what I
should do - and what I should not do - in prayer I felt his
forgiveness and experienced a joy that words cannot express.

There are hundreds of prayers in the Bible.

For every mood, for every need, for every feeling that we
experience we can find a matching mood, a matching need, a matching
feeling described in the Holy Book.

In the Psalms - and in the prophet Isaiah, and in many other places
I have found my prayers to God echoed by those who have gone before
me - indeed often I have found the words that I want to pray
there...

   Lord  - you are my rock and my refuge, be swift to help me.
   You have assigned me my portion and my cup
   you have made my lot secure
   and so I praise you.
   Because you are at might hand I will not be shaken,
   though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death 
   I will fear no evil..
   
   Lord, lead me not into temptation
   but deliver me from the time evil.
   Forgive me - have mercy upon me 
      - for I have done what is wrong in your sight, my sin is ever
   before - have compassion according the abundance of your
   steadfast love.
   
   Father, I will praise you in the morning 
   and in the watches of the night
   I will exalt you, my God and my King,
   You are gracious and merciful
   slow to anger and rich in love.
   I thank you.

Prayer is so precious -
in it - the God we meet
the Christ we meet -
becomes ever more real to us
his presence ever more immediate.

Scripture, study, and prayer 
are ways in which we meet God and get to know him better
ways in which we meet Christ and come ever closer to him.

Without them we have very little,
Without them we cannot expect to know God,
to encounter God,
to commune with God.

But the story of the two disciples who walked on the road to Emmaus
that first Easter Day tells us something more about how to get to
know Christ - something more about how we might recognize him - how
we might encounter him.

It speaks to us of how Christ walks with us on our journey - 
and how, in the breaking of bread he comes to be known to us.

In the Mid-East at the time of Jesus, and even to this day,
to eat a meal with someone 
- to have a person into your house and to sit at table with them,
is the greatest compliment - the greatest kindness that one can
show.

It is an act of profound intimacy - an act of  trust - of honour -
of friendship.

It was in that act 
   - and specifically in the breaking of bread and in the prayer
   of thanks given over that bread
that the two men, 
   - whose minds were clouded by anxiety and grief as they walked
   from Jerusalem to Emmaus  
had their eyes opened,
that they recognized that the stranger who was with them,
      - the stranger who they had invited into their home 
was the risen Christ,
and having recognized Christ, 
they are filled with joy and excitement 
and return to Jerusalem to give witness to the disciples 
and to bring them the assurance that they needed.

The Church has long taught us that we come to know God
that we come to recognize God 
in the literal act of breaking bread and giving thanks.

That we recognize God, and that we commune with God, that we
fellowship with God, in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

I believe that is true 
- but I also believe that more is meant here 
in the story of the Road to Emmaus

I believe that this story is telling us 
   that we too come to recognize Christ
   that we commune with Christ whenever we gather together
whenever we meet with and share with another person our joy and our
grief and offer prayer over the bread we break together
or the cup that we lift up and share with each other

Jesus said - that where two or three gather in his name 
there he would be.

When we gather in moments of intimacy.  When we share the greatest
gifts that we can share with one another: our homes - our tables -
our bread and wine - our inner sanctums - Christ comes among us.

I have had great moments in reading scripture
I have had great moments in prayer
moments in which I have been very much aware of the presence of God
very much aware of his plan and his purpose for me
very much aware of the closeness that he has to me 
- the love he has for me.

But I have had some of my most profound moments of contact
most profound moments of recognition in the breaking of bread with
strangers and with brothers and sisters in the faith; in sharing my
innermost hopes and fears, my griefs and my joys with men and women
who were willing to walk with me for a time and talk with me for a
time and to share with me the few things that I could offer them.

I recall a lady by the name of Sheila who entered into my life -
and Charlene's life - when we were at very low point a few years
ago.

I met her at church, and recognizing her from a couple of meetings
that had been held several years earlier - and feeling down and
alone - Charlene was at work at a nursing home that day - I invited
her to have coffee at the Tim Horton's across the street from the
church.

Coffee at Tim Horton's is - in my personal world - somewhat
equivalent to inviting someone to dinner in the Mid-East.  A sign
of welcoming - a sign of honour.

There at Tim Horton's I unburdened my soul to this woman, much as
the two disciples unburdened their souls to the stranger on the
road to Emmaus, and there over the steaming hot cups of coffee that
we shared came words of assurance that I had not being expecting
and the very real sense that God was present - and ministering to
me, that Christ was in this woman - speaking to me.

There were many other meetings that I had with her - with Charlene
- at her home and our home, and about a year or two later this
woman was ordained as a minister of the United Church of Canada at
the age of 50.

It was a celebration that Charlene and I were at - and we knew that
the decision of the Maritime Conference to ordain her was the right
one - because Christ most definitely was within her - and working
through her.

I have told you before about the Ontario Provincial Police Officer
before who came to our home one night on business related to a
foster child we had:

How he spoke at length to Charlene at our door - until I came home
and saw him - and how we invited him in - and there - after almost
an hour of conversation about very deep and important things - we
prayed together and then he left.

Till that night the man was a almost a complete stranger to us,
but as he walked out the door - gun on his hip - cap on his head
we knew that Christ had visited us.

I tell, or retell these two stories to make a point -
and that point is this - 
we get to meet Christ, we get to know him better, 
we recognize him - and experience his healing presence
   his challenging presence
   his assuring presence
in those brothers and sisters who are around us -
   whether they be strangers - or they be friends -
as we share what is important with them
as we honour them with our hospitality, our trust, our hearts.

The bible - and the church - calls this meeting - this sharing -
this hospitality - this trust which we extend to friends and to
strangers alike - communion.

If you would meet God - if you would encounter Christ and recognize
him in that encounter
read the scriptures and study them 
listen to them being proclaimed where the saints gather - at Church
and in Bible classes
and pray over them with others  - and at home alone by your bedside 

And reach out to others 
Open your homes and your hearts to others
as did the men who travelled the road to Emmaus.

By doing so you may well be entertaining angels unaware
By doing so you may well encounter the Risen Christ,

Where two or three are gathered in his name -- he is there.


----  Check out George Hartwell's Creative Closings - Easter 3 - Year A 
for a different prayer or meditation with which to conclude the sermon 
and/or lead into the prayer time below.


* HYMN: 


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER: 
O God, we pray that we may never forsake the means of grace that
you have granted to us -- keep us true to the way of prayer - to
the reading of scripture - and to the practice of gathering in your
name and of welcoming both friends and strangers into our homes and
our hearts.   We pray that as Christ appeared on the road to Emmaus
- so he might appear to us - and through us to others -- as we
share the joys and concerns we have, as we hear and speak your
word, as we break bread and pray together.  Lord hear our
prayer....

Lord, today we pray for those in our church and our community who
are troubled and upset as were  the disciples on the first Easter
Day.  We hold before you those who experiencing the grief of losing 
that which is important to them - that which has helped shape their
lives - be it a job, a home, a way of life, or a loved one.  Grant
that they may encounter the Risen Christ and know that the future
is safe in his hands....  Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord, we pray for those who reach out in our church and our
community to minister to others your healing presence.  We pray for
those who listen  -- for those who counsel - for those who share
your word -- for all those who break bread with us and give you
thanks.   Bless them in their love that they  may ever more fully
experience the love that they share.  Lord, hear our prayer....

We ask all these things - and we give you our deepest and most
profound thanks for being with us and listening to us and granting
us peace - through  Jesus Christ, our Risen Saviour - he who taught
us to call upon you saying... OUR FATHER...


MINUTE FOR MISSION: OUR LIFE TOGETHER AND IN THE WORLD


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand
for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541)
and Prayer of Dedication

   Thank you, O God for taking care of us and for supplying our
   needs according to the abundance of your grace.  Receive, O
   God, our gifts, our love, and our service, and use them for
   the sake of your eternal glory and the advancement of your
   kingdom both here and now - and in the world to come.  Amen


* HYMN:  "Teach Me, God, To Wonder"                      - VU 299


* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now
   go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of
   God, the body of Christ.
                                 
                      
* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace
- and may the Word of God stir your hearts and your minds, 
- may the love of Christ Jesus light your path each day, 
- and may the power of the Holy Spirit uphold you and give to you
every spiritual blessing 
- both now and forevermore.  Amen


* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                    - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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