Welcome to worship for this 3rd Sunday of Easter, landing on April 23, 2023!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. We will be singing one new hymn out of the All Creations Sings hymnal, so the music for that will be included in the bulletin. Also in the bulletin will be the regular things like the order and words of worship with your responses in bold, the page numbers for the liturgical music for the Now the Feast and Celebration setting out of the Hymnal Supplement (1991) book, the hymn numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon. The music and words that you need to know will be on your screen, and the sermon is on this page after the actual worship service video.
If you would like a fuller online worship experience, you can have a lit candle in your space for the duration of the service, up until after the sending hymn when they can be extinguished at the same time as the altar candles. And if you wanted to participate in communion, you may do so by having something small to eat and drink prepared and ready to be consumed at the appropriate time as instructed during worship.
May God’s eternal presence be apparent to you this day and always!
O Lord, open for us your Word and set our hearts ablaze, that we might see the risen Christ in all that we do. Amen.
So this past week has been kind of tough on me for various reasons, and I figure since I have your undivided attention, I’ll tell you about it. I guess the least severe thing that happened was on Tuesday when I couldn’t get one of my Bluetooth earbuds to connect to my phone. The right one worked fine and was playing music through it and everything, but the left one just wouldn’t turn on. After several frustrating tries and charging cycles I came to the conclusion that it’s broken. That might not seem like much, but it was annoying because I’ve had these buds for less than a year, and while I have a plethora of headphones around our house, these have been my go-to ever since I’ve gotten them. And while it’s likely to be covered under warranty anyway, it is still really frustrating.
Another thing that happened this past week started a few years ago actually, when my dentist suggested that I look into getting braces. I’m not sure if you know this about me, but this chiseled, ruggedly-handsome, model face actually is ruined by this overbite that I have, and apparently it’s pretty severe. I can hide it a bit by just intentionally moving my jaw forward, but my dentist said that won’t prevent the problems that I’ll have down the road caused by overbites that could lead to my teeth eventually falling out. Anyway, I finally went to an orthodontist just for a consult and he said I definitely do need braces. So bad is this overbite, in fact, that I don’t just need braces, but I need like jaw surgery just to get it all under control. And after all is said and done, it’s going to take almost 4 years of braces and procedures to correct it all and it’ll cost me around $15,000. So um, yeah, I think I’ll just look into getting dentures. Maybe go for some platinum teeth or something.
And the last bad thing that happened, the number one worst thing this whole week, what totally floored me and almost made me question if life was worth living or not… is that the place where I get my hair cut is closing down, and my hairdresser who I followed around for nine years now is taking this as a sign for a career change and may no longer be cutting my hair. **Sniff sniff
I know, right? I’m just glad you’re all sitting down for this news, because my knees are shaking right now just talking about it. I don’t know if you all change who cuts your hair often or not, but I most certainly don’t. While I’ve had random people cut my hair here and there for various reasons, they were all just one-offs and I’ve been pretty loyal to who I go to on a regular basis. In fact, I’d say that throughout my life I’ve only really had two hairdressers: some dude in Chinatown that used to cut my hair when I was a kid all the way up until I learned to cut my own hair by just shaving it all off, and then this lady that I started going to after my hair grew back out like 20 years later. Basically, I’ve been going to her for longer than our youngest child has been alive, so when she told me this news last week, I was a bit flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to say, I just looked at her with a blank expression on my face and all I could blurt was “wow”.
Sometimes that’s all we can say when we receive bad news. Sometimes it’s only the mono-syllabic words that reside among the pieces of our broken hearts. Sometimes anything else said is just not enough.
Yeah, I know, we’re still talking about haircuts, but c’mon it’s hard on me, ok? Yes I’ll survive, but for now, this week has been tough as I was hit blow after blow and I was struggling to just maintain my sanity. But the point of me sharing this is that I’m thinking that this kind of blow to the heart, this type of earth-shattering news, this sort of mind-numbing awfulness, might be what those original disciples were going through. Ok, I know that back then they didn’t have Bluetooth headphones or braces or even hairdressers for that matter, but emotionally, this was a whirlwind time for them. We should know, we just walked through it all as well in the church seasons thus far: from the hope of salvation in Advent, the joy of God with us through Christmas, the elation of recognising Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah in Epiphany, and then the difficult repentance of Lent, then the triumph of Palm Sunday and the sorrow of the Passion on Good Friday. And that all brings us here to this point. Easter. When they hear that Jesus is alive, the good news that he was telling them all along, and perhaps the uncertainty if any of it could be true.
I mean, they heard that people saw Jesus risen, the text is pretty clear that all of this was the same day. But that wasn’t enough. The testimony of the women wasn’t enough, the sightings by the main disciples wasn’t enough, the experience of others wasn’t enough. They needed more.
Like I said, this was a tough time for them. Times were pretty rocky as rocky times go. The thought of them not being able to see their teacher or hear his teachings anymore floored them. The idea that Jesus maybe not actually being the Messiah because he lost was flabbergasting. The news of Christ crucified shook them and all those around them to their very core.
Well, everyone except for this stranger who apparently was living under some rock.
This stranger who was kind enough, but also kind of dull. This stranger that walked alongside them but seemingly had no clue as to where they were heading. This stranger that was to be the guest of their hospitality, turned out to be the Lord of hosts. This stranger, unassuming, unobtrusive, under the radar, who in my opinion seemed kind of annoying and maybe even a bit rude at first, ended up being the one who saved them all. It was in this stranger that they saw the Messiah, the Christ, the risen Saviour, alive and with them.
So while these disciples didn’t recognise Jesus in person, they recognised his teachings. While they didn’t realise it was him walking with them, they felt Jesus journeying with them all along. While they didn’t know who they were inviting to stay with them, they were able to experience the living Christ in their midst, in their community, in the breaking of bread together.
This living Christ assured them that they were not alone but they had each other and will always have him among them whenever they gathered. They were reminded that the love of God isn’t about following rules and having an easy life, but it is about loving and serving each other in community. It was revealed to them that as people of God we don’t live in fear of bad things and death, but we live in joy and hope and resurrection.
And so, even though this week wasn’t the greatest in my books, I know that the problems we face will eventually end, headphones can be replaced, teeth can be fixed, there are other people who can learn to cut my hair just as well. I know that even in the difficulties, we aren’t alone in this journey of life as we have each other in this congregation, our family, and our community for love and support. I know that our gathering together in the name of Christ is good because he promises to be here among us when we do. I know that the love of God for each and every one of us is bigger and stronger than anything we can throw at it, that even death or really bad weeks can’t hold it down.
This doesn’t take away our hurt, I realise. This doesn’t automatically heal our pain. This doesn’t make the bad go away and leave us an easy life. But this community of God to which we belong helps us to see how we are supported through the hurt, pain, and hardships of life. This relationship that we’re invited to have with God and all the saints helps us weather the storms and those terrible, horrible, no good days. This invitation to be part of God’s family helps us to recognise Christ in the world, even in the most unassuming, as Christ walks with us, journeys with us, and is present among us in our gathering, in our worshipping, and in our breaking of bread together.
As we continue on in this season of Easter, may we have our eyes and hearts opened to the presence of the risen Christ in our midst, that even in the difficulties of life we can be encouraged and strengthened and feel the love of God, now and always. Thanks be to God. Amen.