Category Archives: Year A

Cycle in the liturgical year.

Resurrection Sunday: Easter Evening Service

Word and Sacrament

Jesus resurrection appearance to those travelers on the road to Emmaus has great theological significance. They were met by Jesus, who listened to their stories concerning the resurrection. The travelers were unable to understand or believe what had happened. Along the way, Jesus was able to open the scriptures to the travelers and their hearts burned within them.. They wanted to hear more and encouraged Him to continue talking to them:

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 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. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  (Luke 24:28-35)

It is clear that the travelers were seekers of the truth. That is an ingredient that only we can provide. God will do the rest, but He depends on us to seek after Him. Often we may be confused, yet such confusion should lead us to search out the truth. The Apostle Paul explains that we must be open to new revelations concerning Christ:

Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.   (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

Jesus did not fully reveal who He was until the breaking of the bread. This was the first service of Holy Communion after Jesus was raised from the dead. When Jesus broke the bread, which symbolized the breaking of His body upon the cross, the eyes of the travelers to Emmaus were opened. That is when they could say: “The Lord has risen indeed.”

Word or Sacrament – which one is significant? The answer is both. The worship of the Church is about Word and Sacrament preaching and the Holy Communion. For many churches the Holy Communion is still controversial and often misunderstood. Nonetheless, the travelers to Emmaus found that the communion which Jesus celebrated with them at table was an eye opener.

They were eagerly anticipating the fulfillment of the scripture about which Jesus spoke. Through a reenactment of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross these travelers were able to understand His message. In other words, it took a supernatural event for them to fully grasp who Jesus was and what His ministry was about.

As disciples of Christ, we do not want to rule out any way that Jesus choses to speak to us. Let us have open hearts and eager expectations for a revelation of our risen Lord. He will reveal Himself to us but first He needs our fullest attention. Then when we see Him let us proclaim:

The Lord has risen indeed.

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Filed under Easter, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Resurrection Sunday, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A

Ash Wednesday

ash-wed-pictureRemember That You Are Dust

Ash Wednesday is traditionally a day of fasting and repentance. In many liturgical churches ashes are placed on the foreheads of each participant. Ashes were a sign of penitence in the Ancient Near East, particularly in Judaism.

Recall this example from the Old Testament. Jonah preached to Nineveh that God was going to destroy the city and the people listened:

So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.  (Jonah 3:5-8)

Notice that the King of Nineveh decreed that the people must turn from evil. God is never impressed with meaningless rituals.

Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.   (Matthew 6:1)

As a campus minister I remember a particular Ash Wednesday service when a school official who wanted to know at what precise time I would be doing the “imposition of ashes” (making the customary sign of the cross in ashes on a person’s forehead). She did not want to sit through the scripture readings, homily, or prayers. The mere sign of the cross on her forehead would prove that she had done her religious duty.

Let us consider these instructive words of Jesus?

And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)

We cannot impress God with our rituals or our piety. Why should we try to impress others who must also stand before His throne, as we are required? God is calling us to a holy fast – one in which we come before Him in true repentance.

Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.

Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.  (Joel 2:12-13)

The Ash Wednesday service serves as a reminder of who we are and whose we are. Man was created out of dust by the hand of God. Our lives are sustained by His very breath. One day His breath will be taken away and we will have to give an accounting to Him of how we lived our lives.

Ash Wednesday is a check to the triumphant Christians who have arrived and no longer need to acknowledge their sins before God. It questions the “once saved, always saved” mentality.

Meaningless ritual? It might be for some. The act of fasting and repentance was not meaningless to the King of Nineveh. Jesus did not say that we should not fast. He said that we should not make a show of it. If we do, we may receive approval by some, but not by God. God looks at the heart.

If we say that we have given our heart to Jesus and yet deliberately sin, how should our God judge our act of contrition? The Book of Hebrews has the answer:

For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.   (Hebrews 10:26-27)

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The Season of The Epiphany

17monaco1In the liturgical church the Christmas Season is preceded by the Season of Advent and followed by the Season of The Epiphany. These two bookends extend and enrich the Christmas celebration. Advent is a season of preparation whereby we examine our hearts in the light of Christ. The Christmas Season begins on Christmas Day extends for twelve days up to the celebration of The Epiphany. The word “Epiphany” comes from epiphaneia in the Koine Greek which means “manifestation.”

The Feast of The Epiphany is January 6. In the Western Church, The Epiphany traditionally observes the visitation of the Magi. Eastern Christians, on the other hand, commemorate the baptism of Jesus as The Epiphany. Both events clearly manifest that Jesus is the Son of God. The actual length of the Season of Epiphany depends on the date when Easter will be celebrated. Thus, in some liturgical years the season is longer than others.

Throughout the Season of Epiphany we explore numerous and various ways in which God has revealed himself to us in scripture. God is always revealing himself to those who will open their eyes and hearts:

I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.  (Proverbs 8:17)

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  (Jeremiah 29:13)

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:21)

The wisemen from the East were seeking the Lord. They did not fully understand who they were seeking but it did not stop them from doing so. They traveled a long distance and were willing to make sacrifices. We may look upon our life as a journey. What do we seek? Whom do we seek? And what sacrifices are we willing to make in our day? Will we set aside a time in our lives to seek God with all our hearts?

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Filed under Epiphany, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A