Summary: In our worship Jesus comes among us and tells us "Peace be with You." Our worship reflects the events of the resurrection.
3 Easter B Luke 24:36b-48 4 May 2003
Rev. Roger Haugen
A young pastor was fishing for comments at the door following one of his sermons that he felt was particularly profound. One older man responded, “Sometimes we come to church because of the pastor and sometimes we come in spite of the pastor. You figure it out.” Another young pastor was visiting a wise matriarch of the congregation. They about what worship meant to her and what made it worthwhile and fulfilling and the sort. After some conversation she said, ”You know, I really just come to hear the benediction at the end of the service. Anything else is a bonus, that is all I really need.”
We have gathered as the Christian Church for over two centuries. Sometimes the worship is good and sometimes it is a little short of uplifting, but still people gather. The older couple let us in on something important, there is something significant happening that is bigger than any of us. Sometimes the singing is less than inspiring and I know there are times when I want to ask if there is anyone as bored with my sermon as I am. There are such Sundays when I wonder about the worship, yet someone may tell me that today was just what they needed. Something is going on in worship that is far bigger than any of us. The Spirit is moving among us as we gather working wonders in lives, bringing peace to those in need of peace, healing to those who hurt.
In today’s Gospel lesson, Christians are meeting. We know that Luke was written some 50 or so years after the resurrection of Jesus and it is interesting that the author felt it was important to include this incident in his account of Jesus’ life. People were obviously meeting 50 years after the resurrection and here they are telling a story of one such gathering when something miraculous happened – Jesus appearing in their midst. Looking back with 20 / 20 vision, they see the events of those early, disturbing days to be reflected in what they were doing. The gathering was not always something amazing, but it fed them. Not always amazing, but sometimes “Yes!” Not always flashy but always carrying those words, “Peace be with You” and “May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and give you peace.”
That miraculous appearance of Jesus among them is reflected in the gathering of Christians for those first 50 years and on into our future. Let’s look at our worship in light of this text, and since hindsight is 20/20, let’s look at it backwards.
“You are witnesses of these things.” v.48
As we gather we rehearse the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We continually remind ourselves that these events give power and meaning to our lives. We place a cross in front of us and we celebrate his Supper with his death up front where we cannot ignore it. We baptize children with water, with the words “our gracious Heavenly Father liberates us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We repeat these words over and over again because we are witnesses. These are the events that gather us week after week. These are the events to which we bear witness.
“Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations”. V. 47
We repeat in our worship the words, “God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore let us be reconciled to God and to one another.” We confess our sins before God and hear the words of forgiveness, we share the peace with one another and pray that differences be mended. We look for ways to create peace with God, with one another and with the world around us, and we know peace as we make small steps through our efforts supported by God and one another.
“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day.” V. 46
We place a large empty cross at the front of our worship space so that it is the first thing we see when we enter. We confess in our Creed that “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. . . .On the third day he rose again.” In our celebration of the Lord’s Supper we repeat over and over again, “on the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took bread. .” and in those words and in those actions that centre around suffering and death we celebrate the resurrection of one who defeated fear and death for us. These words are not dull repetition because they are the words, the events that give our lives hope and meaning. It is empty because Jesus has risen. We gather in the weekly repetition and we know there is hope, we know there is life beyond that which seeks to destroy us.