The Sunday Sermon – “The Road to Emmaus and the Worship of God”
Sermon Text: Luke 24:13-35//Easter 3-A
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This morning I get to talk about something that is very near and dear to me, and I hope that it is very near and dear to you, too.
The topic which our Gospel lesson leads me to speak about today is our worship of God. If you have ever met me, and I think most of you have, you realize that I love the worship God which you and I partake of each and every week.
I love to worship God in the way we do, and I think it’s important that we spend time talking about why we do what we do so that we don’t become like the Pharisees who were condemned by Jesus for heaping up empty words and phrases. IN order to worship God aright, we have to understand what we do here when we Gather on Sundays and Weekdays.
I think not long ago, I gave a sermon in which I said that I believe that the worship of God is the most important thing that you and I do as Christians. The Church exists, above all other reasons, to give worship and honor and glory to our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.
We’re called to do a lot of other things as Christians. We’re called to love our neighbor, to serve the poor and the oppressed; To pray for our persecutors, to pray for the sick and the suffering; To offer alms and oblations of our resources to the less fortunate. Yes, we’re certainly called to do all these things. And all of them are important.
But the only way you and I can do any of these things, is our hearts and minds are focused in a God-ward direction. Only when we do them for the Glory and honor of God can they truly be Christian acts.
And the way which you and I get our bearing straight, and align our Spiritual compasses in the right direction is by offering to God our whole selves- our hearts and minds, our souls and bodies to God in Worship.
And what happens in our worship – what is truly meant to happen – and I think truly does – is that Christ comes among us – as a true, risen, and living Savior – and touches us with his love and his grace.
It’s when we allow God to touch our hearts, and lead us into truth, that our Spiritual Compasses are set right. That’s how we’re put on the right path.
Way back in the 16th century, when the protestant reformation was underway in England, the reformers realized something vitally important. And as Anglicans, which you and I as Episcopalians are, we held on the notion that there are two important dimensions of our worship.
You see, through the Middle Ages, the church, as she does from time to time, veered off course. The Church fell in love with the Worship of God through the Sacraments – Baptism and Eucharist, Holy Unction of the Sick, Confession, Confirmation, Matrimony and Holy Orders.
At the time of the reformation, the reformers, especially some of the most radical ones realized that the Preaching and Teaching of God’s Word in the Holy Scriptures had practically forgotten. And so what arose in that time were new churches, which focused exclusively on the Preaching of Scripture. And today if you go into many of the Evangelical Churches around the world, you’ll find that the service is primarily the reading of scripture and singing.
What happened, you might say, is that they threw the baby out with the bath water.
But Anglicans, thanks be to God, were just a little bit ahead of the curve. They realized that in order to worship God as he ought to be worshipped and to experience the risen Christ as he truly is, we need both the Sacraments and the Preaching and Teaching of God’s Word in the Holy Scriptures.
In the Gospel passage that we read today, Jesus demonstrates that truth to us. We need his presence among us in Both Word and Sacrament, and the one must not and cannot take the place of the other.
The passage we read today is perhaps one of the most beautiful accounts of jesus appearing to his disciples. It takes place on Easter Day, late in the afternoon.
As two of his disciples were traveling away from Jerusalem, they were discussing the events of that fateful weekend: The arrest and death of their Lord, and the stories which they had heard from the likes of Peter and John and Mary Magdalene that the Tomb was empty that very same morning when they went back to it.
And in that journey, Jesus comes to them and walks with them, but they don’t know it. And the tell him what they’ve been talking about.
And what follows after gives us the pattern of our worship.
Jesus explains to them all that the prophets and scriptures had foretold about the Messiah. He teaches them the scriptures. He opens their hearts to the truth that is in them. And later on that night, the two disciples would recount to one another “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
Were not our hearts burning? Does you heart burn with the love of God when you hear the scriptures read and taught? Do we not wonder and marvel at the wonderful truth and love proclaimed in them? Is you heart moved when you hear the story of your salvation and the love of God has for you?
What perhaps is most striking about this encounter with Jesus is that the fullness of the truth that this was Jesus with them as they heard those scriptures explained was not fully realized until he broke the bread with them, just as he had done in the upper room that night.
Their hearts burned, but their eyes were opened when Jesus took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them. That’s when they finally proclaimed “The Lord has risen indeed!”
Every Sunday when we gather for the Eucharist, we invite the risen Lord to come among us. And he does come among us.
So let us not take for granted the pattern of our worship in both the Proclamation and hearing of the Word and in the Offering of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
Christ the Risen Lord has shown us that he comes among us in Word and Sacrament, touching our hearts, making himself known, and setting right our Spiritual Compasses.
Christ coming among us. That’s what it means to worship. That’s why I love worship so much. And I hope and pray that you love the worship of God, now, just a little bit more, knowing a little more of why we do what we do.
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.