Finding the Lessons

I try to post well in advance of the upcoming Sunday.

You will want to scroll down to find the bible study for the lessons closest to the upcoming Sunday.

The blog will be labeled with proper, liturgical date, and calendar date.

You can open the monthly calendar to the left and find the readings in order.

You can also search below by entering the liturgical date, scripture, or proper. This will pull up all previous posts.

Enjoy.

Search This Blog by Proper and Year (ie: Proper 8B or Christmas C or Advent 1A)

Friday, May 27, 2011

6th Sunday After Easter, John 14:15-20

Well dear friends. I am writing this from the airport. My flights have been canceled and rescheduled throughout the day. I am unfortunately without my regular tools and am making do.  However, that means a much abbreviated text for our readings this weekend. Thank you for your patience.

We are coming to the end of our Easter readings, we are nearing the Ascension and Pentecost.  The text itself reflects the transition that is underway in the Gospel narrative of John and parallels our own liturgical season.  The words we receive from Jesus in this weeks lesson are words of comfort.  He is leaving them, the moment is near.  Just as the disciples have witnessed Jesus and therefore have experienced the Father's love and care; so as he departs he explains to them and to all those in the coming generations that they will always be close to God.

Jesus is fulfilling the final portion of the mission of God; he is explaining that he will pour upon them the very spirit of God the Advocate who will bind disciples of the living God together and to the divine being itself.  Those who follow will continue to experience Jesus, and the Father's love through the comfort and counsel of the Spirit.  In fact, the as the mission of God has always intended, those who follow and make community in Jesus' name will experience the closeness and presence of the Spirit as it is in this very community that the Spirit will dwell and make its home. (John v.23)

As I search the web for resources I think Chris Haslam does a very good job in describing the nature of the word used by Jesus to describe the Holy Spirit. For those interested in the word study his comments follow:

"Verse 16: “Advocate”: The Greek word is Parakletos, which BlkJn translates as Champion. The Greek word is derived from a verb meaning call to one’s side. The Latin word advocatus has the same meaning, but there is a distinction to be made between the Greek and Roman judicial systems. In a Roman court, an advocatus pleaded a person’s case for him, but a Greek parakletos did not: in the Greek system, a person had to plead his own case, but he brought along his friends as parakletoi to influence the court by their moral support and testimony to his value as a citizen. BlkJn argues that the sense in John is of giving help – as is usually the sense in the New Testament, e.g. encourage, comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:4 and exhort in Romans 12:1. A Champion is one who supports by his presence and his words."

It is clear that Jesus understands that the Holy Spirit is like Jesus himself. The Holy Spirit represents the Father, and living and dwelling in the community of the Spirit will allow others who did not experience Jesus directly to experience the fullness of the Trinitarian community of God.  The Holy Spirit is another representative, a member of the family which is called God.  The spirit is a direct representative not simply an envoy.  This Spirit will offer to all the world through the community of beloved disciples, and the continuing community of witness and the life of the disciple the truth of Jesus, his life, and the nature of unity all have in God.

From the very earliest created moment God has desired to walk in the garden with his people.  The Diocese of Connecticut has this very wonderful way of expressing this desire of God, this mission of God:

"God created all things in love – the universe, earth, humanity. It was diverse, and it was good. Human sin entered in and distorted our relationship with God, one another, and creation. God seeks continually to overcome this alienation. This is God’s mission. God chose and liberated a people, sent the law and the prophets. God came in Jesus, fully human and fully divine, to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.  God sent the Holy Spirit, empowering the Body of Christ.  God commissions us in baptism to participate in God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation." -- Collaboratively written, and offered, by the Mission Discernment Initiative working group   
As Episcopalians we cannot read our verses today without proclaiming the Holy Trinity.  We are a people who believe in the community of God and God's desire through mission and evangelism that we unite people into his community. We are people who proclaim the community of love divine.  

As you preach this Sunday I encourage you to speak of this key and essential understanding of God, how God desires us to be in community, celebrate the beauty and goodness of the communities in which you serve, and challenge all the people of God to undertake with God, the pleasure of being a missionary people inviting all the world into relationship bound by God's Holy Spirit.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The 5 Sunday of Easter, Year A

"The term for believe comes from the word peitho [GSN3982] which translates into have confidence and obey or be assured and follow. Do I turn my fear (my terror) into an attitude of confidence and discipleship?

"Have Confidence and Obey!" Jerry Goebel, One Family Outreach. "Focus on scripture from a justice perspective." Exegesis, study, and teen study and activities.

Rubens Painting of Philip
John 14:1-14

14“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.





Prayer

God, give us eyes to see
the beauty of the Spring,
And to behold Your majesty
in every living thing -
And may we see in lacy leaves
and every budding flower
The Hand that rules the universe
with gentleness and power -
And may this Easter grandeur
that Spring lavishly imparts
Awaken faded flowers of faith
lying dormant in our hearts,
And give us ears to hear, dear God,
the Springtime song of birds
With messages more meaningful
than man's often empty words
Telling harried human beings
who are lost in dark despair -
'Be like us and do not worry
for God has you in His care.

Helen Steiner Rice
Read more at: http://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Easter.htm#ixzz1MvRo6SBN
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution


Some Thoughts
This week we continue with Jesus' teaching of the interrelated life of the Apostolic community and the Holy Trinity. In my opinion this passage gives an understanding of the interrelated nature of God as Trinity and how that interrelated life is to be a part of the interrelated life of the community.
The very first verses are key to the creedal arguments of the second century and the statement that the Spirit proceeds from the Father became a chorus for the Greek or more Western argument.

Jesus says that the Spirit will bear witness to him. What is meant theologically is that the Holy Spirit will, in it's very person, bear witness to the unity and love between the Father and the Son, and bear witness to their love. The Spirit is the very perfect image of God's love.
It is also clear that the Spirit will provide the undergirding of the community and that those followers, the one's whom Jesus called to be with him, will be witnesses because of God's presence with them in and through the Spirit.

It is clear that the passage holds within itself and Jesus' words a sense of dread for the apostolic community that remains. Whether a forecast of things to come or reflecting the reality of the time in which the text was written, the message is clear throughout chapter 14 - as the Jesus movement continues to take shape and bear witness to a new community life they'll be segregated and separated from the religious roots from which their faith was birthed.

Religious zealots have always sought to purify religion (it is human nature it seems). I cannot help reflect on the major stories of religious upheaval, from Babel to Babylon to Pentecost to the Reformation, we see God building and rebuilding his faithful followers challenging them in ever new ways. Phyllis Tickle speaks of these moments as great shifts. The nature of the church as Family of God is deeply rooted in these emerging shifts over thousands of years. N. T. Wright's work also gives a clear understanding of the emerging deuteronomistic family of God and how it has shaped us.
The disciples are right in the midst of a great shift and Jesus tells them they will not be alone, and that the Spirit will help them to understand their witness of the Truth which is clearly meant to be the Living Word Jesus Christ. From Stephen to Polycarp the names of the earliest martyrs are eternally with us. Perpetua and her friends have been joined by a holy family of saints who have paid the cost of faith - a family of God martyred by Christians and non Christians alike. Even Thomas and Philip who ask Jesus these questions, will be a faithful healers and preachers and will die as a martyrs for thier faith.

There is martyrdom of the physical body and there is martyrdom of the conscience, too. Our zealotry has little room today for difference of opinion and conscience falls away as we wrestle with the cult of belonging. The heresies of the ancient world catch up with us once again, Donatism and its friend on the opposite sides of the spectrum Gnosticism; Nazarene to its partner Manichaeism. Each requires perfection of its followers, rather than mutual and communal discernment of the Holy Spirit's revelation, which begins not with our knowledge, but of unknowing our common search for truth and our common brokenness and sinfulness. Always beyond us and always our aim, the collect for Richard Hooker is therefore prayed in hope: help us seek unity not for the sake of compromise but for the sake of comprehension.
I guess all of this is to say that it is easier for humans to walk apart because of their zealotry than it is for us to walk together for the sake of truth. No wonder Jesus prayed for the comforter to come and for the unity of those who follow him!

The verses  which come towards the end of the passage, and yet are not included in our reading, confirm the reality of Jesus' own perfect revelation in that the Spirit's work will confirm what has been taught. There will not be a new or differing revelation as time wears on. Now some will say, but don't we believe that the Holy Spirit continues to work and reveal God in the world through the mission and ministry of those who follow Jesus?

I think sometimes we get confused about what is changing. As a person who loves to think systematically and theologically, how I understand this may in fact be different than most, but what I am about to say also fits with my understanding of the Episcopate as keeper of the church's faith, handing down a living tradition of apostolic belief. The revelation of God in the unique person of Jesus Christ and the community of the Godhead as Trinity is an unchanging reality and faith. However, I remember at this point, and always at this point (humbly I must admit), the prayer for the church from our prayer book, page 816: where [the Church] is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it... All this is to say that here are the areas where I believe the church is challenged, not with new revelation but with the challenge of seeing God and God's mission more clearly.
Raymond Brown confirms this reading in today's text when he writes:

"Verse 14 reinforces the impression that the Paraclete brings no new revelation because he receives from Jesus what he is to declare to the disciples..." The author records Jesus' concept that he, like the Paraclete, is an "emissary of the Father. In declaring or interpreting What belongs to Jesus, the Paraclete is really interpreting the Father to men; for the Father and Jesus possess all things in common...In Johannine thought it would have been unintelligible that the Paraclete have anything from Jesus that is not from the Father, but all that he has is from Jesus." (R.B., Anchor Bible, John, vol ii)
Perhaps in our time the Gospel -- the Good News-- is the promise that seeking the truth, come whence it may and cost what it will, intends to be nothing less than a pilgrimage into the heart and community of God. So I pray at the end of my life's journey, may I find I am closer to God and that such a closeness reveals and births in me a love for my real and ever expanding family of God.
The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.

Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question

 Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

 9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father..."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A

"Radical love. Loving the unlovely. Serving the ungrateful. Compassion for the corrupt. Welcoming the outcast. Radical love. God’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt. This is the Good Shepherd."

A Radical Love, Neil Chappell, aweirdthing, 2011.

John 10:1-10
Good Shepherd from the Catacombs
10“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.




Prayer

Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are his forever and ever

St. Hippolytus (AD 190-236)

Some Thoughts
The context within the Gospel text is the healing of the blind man.  Jesus has healed the blind man, who was blind from birth.  The authorities have not understood and have smarted a little (int he last verses of 9) regarding Jesus' words to them regarding their leadership.  Jesus then begins the teaching in chapter 10.

The double amen leads off today's text, a repetition we are familiar throughout the Johannine text.  Thieves and bandits, (literally street fighters or revolutionaries) climb in and steel sheep.  They have to make their way over some kind of stone wall most likely and scramble through a next of thorny dried bushes.  It takes some work and is a painful enterprise most likely; even for the most determined thief.  Nevertheless, this is how bandits do it.

A shepherd enters the gate, gets the sheep. Calls them by name (pet names) and leads them out and they follow.  Sometimes a helper brings up the rear...but the chief shepherd leads.  The gatekeepers helps by getting the door (don't spend a lot of time on this image and difference between gatekeeper and shepherd as many scholars think this was a latter scribal adjustment to help people understand how the shepherd got out) and all march out by the sound of the shepherds voice. (Raymond E. Brown, John, Anchor Bible, textual notes, 386)

Sheep don't follow strangers. This seems logical, and I have heard and read a number of texts describing how shepherds and sheep know one another well.  Sheep follow their shepherd's voice.  Verse 5 gives us an inter textual understanding here: "They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

The disciples who are the audience (while it is conceivable that the audience is the same audience from before - the blind man who was worshiping Jesus and the leaders).  So, they want to know what Jesus is saying and how these images have meaning in their current context.  Jesus offers clearly his take: he is the gate:
7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
I think the text should continue.  There is an important part of the text which speaks directly to Jesus as the one who will lay down his life for the sheep and offers him as the much better alternative to the thieving and killing bandits.

We essentially have here the parable of the shepherd and sheep (1-5); the misunderstanding by the listeners (6), and the explanation (7-10).

Raymond Brown offers two interpretations to the meaning of Jesus as the gate. First, we cannot separate the comment of Jesus from the context and climate existing prior to Jesus' own time and stretching back through the intertestamental time period which embodies much of the Jesus movement understanding and that is the displeasure with the occupying authorities and some dissatisfaction with the religious rulers.  In this interpretation we have something far from the idyllic pastoral seen and rather inherit here a frontal attack on all those who would use authority in an unjust manner.  While Jesus is given all authority he is not that way. (393)

The second idea that Brown floats for us is the idea that the gate is the gate of salvation. (394)  In the very earliest patristic sources we see Jesus as the gate by which people enter salvation.  Here is just one of the many:
Christ. “For I am,” He says, “the door,” John x. 9. which we who desire to understand God must discover, that He may throw heaven’s gates wide open to us. For the gates of the Word being intellectual, are opened by the key of faith. No one knows God but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him. (Clement of Alexandria)

While Jesus is the giver of water, bread, and wine here we see him as the provider of pasture over an against the death promised by others. These two images then (gate of salvation and salvation's pasture) are important.  This pasture is the fullness of life; fullness of life today and tomorrow.
This week I am thinking about a conversation that I had recently with a group of clergy about preaching and teaching.  The idea we explored was about the nature of community as defined over and against other communities; and as a community engaged in the world. 

The context of Jesus' ministry as described in this Gospel message is very much one in which the movement itself is distinguishing the nature of its mission from those around it (government, religious sects, and power).  John's community was developing and growing. Perhaps a network of house churches connected to a larger community in which diversity and growth are pressing on the fundamental quality of who the community is; who does the community reflect. 

There are seven "I am" statements in John. These I am statements help define both Jesus, Jesus' community, and John's community. In Richard Burridge's John commentary he has a great line: "So Jesus has to spell it out, 'I am the door of the sheep'; he is the way to safety and salvation. Unlike the thieves and robbers, and the false leaders, he will not cast out, but save and protect all those who hear his voice and respond." (133)
As we listen and respond to the image Jesus gives us I would ask how are we doing?  Jesus is the door, the gate, he is the way of safety and salvation.  How are our communities self-differentiating themselves within their neighborhood and city in which we life as a community of safety and salvation?  Are we the ones who are perceived as thieves and robbers? Are we the ones who are thought of as false leaders? If so how do we correct that vision of us?  When people come to us, or encounter us at work in the world, do they feel cast out or brought in, saved and protected, condemned and put in jeopardy?

This is quite the challenge if we are today to continue in the apostles understanding and teaching; if in fact we are to be the continuing community of Jesus in the world around us today.

The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.

Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question

 Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

 9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father..."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

"For Luke, to fulfil the hope of the resurrection is to tell the story of Jesus (testimony). That means telling what he did, how he was rejected and then vindicated; and it is at the same time to live it by the power of the same Spirit, by doing good and bringing liberation for all. This includes forgiveness of sins. It is radically simple."
"First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Easter 3, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.


Luke 24:13-49
Supper at Emmaus by Carravagio
13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then 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?” 19He 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, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But 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. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and 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. 24Some 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.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But 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. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They 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?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. still, looking sad. 18Then 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?” 19He 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, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But 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. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and 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. 24Some 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.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But 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. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They 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?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence. 44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Prayer
As we hear the word that brings salvation, make our hearts burn within us.  In the breaking of the bread, open our eyes to recognize the One whose feast it is.  Through the presence of every friend and stranger, real to us the face of the Christ who had first to suffer but who has entered now into glory, the Lord Jesus, our Passover and our Peace who lives and reigns with you int he unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts

The Road to Emmaus comes in our reading cycle every year A the third Sunday of Easter. But what is so compelling about this story that as I think about it appears in my minds eye to be the strongest story of the Gospels?

Jesus appears to two disciples outside the walls; some seven miles from Jerusalem.  They are talking about all the things which have happened.  In this particular testimony we are watching the transition from the crucifixion and the Easter resurrection become the mission of a new community.  In Luke's Gospel we must remember we are marching always towards Pentecost and Acts.  We are given in today's lesson a memory of the events. We are reminded of what our story is; and in the author's own way he gives us permission to be somewhat concerned and curious about the past and what lays ahead.

If we remember that this Gospel is written that we may believe an in believing be transformed so as to offer and communicate the same Gospel for others.  Luke Timothy Johnson captures well the event of conversion in Lukes' testimony.  Conversion is for Luke an his community the following notion:

The Word of God demands the acceptance of the prophetic critique and a "turning" of one's life. Conversion is an important theme in Luke-Acts, closely joined to the pattern of the prophet and the people.  Jesus' ministry is preceded by the Word of God spoken through the prophet John, which called people to repentance.  Acts opens with the preaching of Peter which also calls for repentance. Those who enter the people that God forms around the prophet must "turn around. (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 23)
This reception of grace and turning births faith in the follower of Jesus.  After hearing one comes to believe and one seeks to mold one's life to the shape of the prophet's life - Jesus' life.  Here is what Luke Timothy Johnson writes about faith:

In Luke-Acts, "faith" combines obedient hearing of the Word and patient endurance.  It is not a momentary decision but a commitment of the heart that can grow and mature.  Essential to the response of faith is the practice of prayer.  Jesus prays throughout his ministry; and teaches his disciples to pray.  Luke also provides splendid samples of prayer, showing a people for whom life is defined first of all by its relationship with God. (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 24)
In the Gospel story we are seeing these two disciples, who have converted, who are faithful move through the enduring walk post Easter.  Like all of us wondering and maturing as we make our way with Jesus. 

So...they are walking and talking about all the events. They are wondering and one might even say wandering.  As they do this (reminding me always of the prayer of Chrysostom, "when two or three are gathered in his name you will be in the midst of them...") Jesus is present, physically with them.   He engages with them. 

The disciples do not recognize him, the text implies they aren't able...perhaps not allowed to know him.  We do not know why, it may be that their sadness and sorrow prevents them from seeing who is with them.  They are sad because they had hoped in Jesus.  The words seem here to play out two meanings. The first meaning certainly is the idea that Jesus was the new Moses to lead his people out.  The second meaning is found deeper in the text and is rooted in the idea the the words used are of a more spiritual nature.  Israel, the Abrahamic family of God, was hoping to be delivered.  This reluctance to believe, this inability to see the triumph of prophetic revelation in the resurrection of Jesus  is a failure of heart - Jesus says.

And, he opens up for them the story. He retells the story. One can imagine if we sat and read Luke all the way through in one sitting that we would hear and rehear the teaching that Jesus had indeed fulfilled all the scriptures and in and through his death onto the other side of resurrection had delivered the people of Israel from bondage.

In this retelling of the whole story from creation until Emmaeus, in the breaking of the bread, and in his very presence with them their eyes are open to recognize him.   He then vanishes, he is no longer visible. In an instant realization, and in another moment gone.

They then quickly tell others and we can imagine Luke writing down this testimony; the Gospel of Luke itself recounting the first witness of events on the road to Emmaeus.

So the work of conversion and faith begins its cyclical manifestation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Luke Timothy Johnson remarks on Luke's writing, "As people tell the story to each other, they also interpret the story."  He continues:

Luke shows us narratively the process by which the first believers actually did learn to understand the significance of the events they had witnessed, and to resolve the cognitive dissonance between their experience and their conviction.  The resurrection shed new light on Jesus' death, on hi words, and on the Scriptures.  The "opening of the eyes" to see the texts truly and the "opening of the eyes" to see Jesus truly are both part of the same complex process of seeking and finding meaning....Luke shows us how the risen Lord taught the Church to read Torah as "prophecy about him." (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 399)
I have leaned on Luke Timothy Johnson a great deal in this passage as I think he does the very best with it.  The preacher has many opportunities for topics on this Mother's Day.  I encourage you to think deeply about speaking about how we have come to understand and to know the witness of Jesus both through others, and through our texts.  For Episcopalians we read the text in community. We read the texts of scripture on the road to Emmaeus, struggling together and inviting Jesus to be in our midst revealing the truth, the way and the life that lies before us as people of the resurrected Christ.

The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.

Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question

 Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

 9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father..."