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Faithlife

Recognizing Jesus

Easter Season 2017  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Today's reading gives the structure for our worship -- a structure that's been with us for thousands of years.

Notes & Transcripts

Structure of our liturgy

On Maundy Thursday, I used this quote from the Book of Concord:
The Book of Concord Article XXIV: Concerning the Mass

Our people have been unjustly accused of having abolished the Mass. But it is obvious, without boasting, that the Mass is celebrated among us with greater devotion and earnestness than among our opponents. [7] The people are instructed more regularly and with the greatest diligence concerning the holy sacrament, to what purpose it was instituted, and how it is to be used, namely, as a comfort to terrified consciences.

It is the “… instructed more regularly and with greatest diligence concerning the holy sacrament ...” part that is particularly appropriate.
The structure of our liturgy hasn’t changed in thousands of years. There’s an ancient Greek document called the Didache (found in 1833 and probably dated in the first or second century) that actually spells out how worship is to be done.

On the day which is the Day of the Lord gather together for the breaking of the loaf and giving thanks. However, you should first confess your sins so that your sacrifice may be a pure one; and do not let anyone who is having a dispute with a neighbour join until they are reconciled so that your sacrifice may not be impure.

Gathering

Kind of sounds like our Gathering Rite. In the season of Easter, we replace the Confession and Forgiveness with a Thanksgiving for Baptism, This morning we used this text:
We give you thanks for life in Christ through your Holy Spirit: for our entry into Jesus’ death through these waters, for our new birth, into a life of freedom and service, for our calling to be your people, sent out for the life of the world.
for our entry into Jesus’ death through these waters,
new birth, life of freedom — that sounds pretty much like forgiveness to me. While we might not have had a formal “Confession” part, recalling that we are forgiven through the waters of baptism, should also remind us of our need to confess our sins.
(water is poured into the font)

Word

for our new birth
So after the Gathering Rite, the next section is “The Word”. That’s the section of the service that we’re in now. We hear the scriptures, we learn from them through the sermon, we reflect on them through the songs and prayers, we confess our faith in the midst of all this.
into a life of freedom and service,

Meal

for our calling to be your people,
“The Meal” is what comes after the Peace. One commentary on the Didache has this to say:
sent out for the life of the world.

Nothing bonds us as human beings like sharing a meal: we are the only animals who cook our food—and this indicates that eating is always something more significant

This meal not only echoes with the new vision of God and his relationship to his people that Jesus preached, but it demonstrated in the intimacy of sharing a cup and loaf the new structures of humanity: poor eating with rich, slaves with slave owners, men with women, gentiles with Jews. The breaching of the boundaries of Graeco-Roman society at this Christian meal is one of the miracles of the early Church

The most striking feature is that the Eucharist is part of a real meal. This was a continuation of the meal practice of Jesus: the disciples become the assembly around the table and there bless the Father in the way that they believed Jesus did. We are given no details about who brought the food, where the meal took place, whether it was an evening meal or at some other time. We are given simply a set of sample prayers for blessing the Father, that offer thanks in the midst of celebrating his goodness, and we can assume, thereby, the fact that the new community gathered for this meal.

While our Eucharist/Thanksgiving/Meal doesn’t look like the ones it did for the first Christians, it certainly is as important. It is this meal that bonds us together, as God’s family, as God’s people.

Sending

The final part of our liturgy is the “Sending” rite. It has the blessing and dismissal. In our case it has the Children's Message and Announcements as well (which is due more to practicality on our part than theology.) It also has a final hymn which helps sum up the themes of the day, and carry us through the week.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what this lesson on the structure of the liturgy and an ancient document have to do with today’s reading.

Structure of today’s reading

I think these four elements are also presented in the same order in today’s reading.

Gathering

Luke 24:15 NRSV
While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,

Word

Luke 24:27 NRSV
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

Meal

Luke 24:30 NRSV
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.

Sending

Luke 24:33 NRSV
That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
Gathering
Word
Meal
Sending
While we (as Lutherans) put a heavy importance on “The Word”, I think it is important to remember the second half of the structure of the worship.
Jesus isn’t recognized when the gathering happens. He isn’t even recognized when the scriptures are discussed and explained. Jesus is only recognized when the meal is shared, when people are intimate with each other, when barriers of class and division are broken down and all are treated the same.
It is also important to remember that recognizing Jesus isn’t the end — there’s the sending, going out to the community and proclaiming what has been seen, and heard, and touched.
So, this reading from thousands of years ago, is our reading today. When the bread is broken and the cup is shared, may we too see Jesus, and then be willing to run out into the world and tell people what we’ve seen.
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