"After Emmaus: Communion, Repentance, Forgiveness and Proclamation"
Detail: “Jesus at Emmaus” from the Easter Mosaic of the Cathedral Basilica
of Saint Louis, MO. CC BY-SA 4.0.
See the texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Lecionário comum revisado (português)
After a lame beggar is cured by the power of the Risen Lord through Peter and John, Peter invites the wondering crowd to repent and follow Jesus. 5000 of them do!
Psalm 4 (UMH 741).
Thanks to God for vindication and rebuke to those who criticize or disgrace. The sung response is a line from the familiar song, "There is a balm in Gilead." For singing the psalm, consider Tone 5 in D minor.
1 John 3:1-7.
We are God's children now as we abide in Jesus. Abiding in Jesus enables us to live more and more without sin. Repentance is no one-time act, but a lifelong commitment to abide in Jesus. That is why we continue to purify ourselves that we may be like him when he appears.
After his appearance to two dispirited disciples heading toward Emmaus, Jesus tells the rest of those gathered at another meal to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name.
Easter Season continues through the Day of Pentecost. The Third Sunday of Easter continues our celebration of the Risen Lord. On this Sunday, we hear the continuation of the Emmaus story from Luke’s Gospel. We experience the awe of seeing the Risen Lord and his call to be witnesses of his resurrection to extend the call of repentance and forgiveness made possible through him.
This week’s doctrinal focus is on Communion and repentance. The ministry focus is on proclamation. Formational groups for the newly baptized or newly confirmed may focus on supporting persons to proclaim repentance and/or forgiveness in some concrete way during the coming week as a way to put into practice what Jesus teaches in the gospel reading.
See "Planning Lent and Easter Season for Worship and Discipleship Year B" for a week-by-week guide to help you plan worship and small-group work to support the doctrinal and ministry training for each week of the season. These helps will expand on those materials throughout this season, leading to the culmination at Pentecost. For a suggested rite of commissioning, see "Pentecost Commissioning of Laypersons for Ministry in Christ's Name."
Today is also Native American Ministries Sunday (DM Resources) and Festival of God’s Creation on the United Methodist Program Calendar. As with all Special Sundays and special days in The United Methodist Church, remember the Book of Worship calls us to keep the formational work of the season and Scriptures for this day in the foreground for worship, finding ways to incorporate elements of these other two observances in ways that support the larger themes for this day—in this case around Communion, repentance, forgiveness and proclamation. Schedule other kinds of programming (Sunday School, Bible Studies, additional programs at another time, or ongoing resourcing through the week via email or social media) to give greater attention to each of these other observances as appropriate in your setting.
Now-May 24 Easter Season
All Month: Asian-Pacific-American Heritage Month
Christian Home Month
May 10 Mother's Day (USA)/Festival of the Christian Home
May 14/17 Ascension Day/Sunday
May 24 Pentecost
Heritage Sunday/Aldersgate Day
May 25 Memorial Day (USA)
May 31 Trinity Sunday
Peace with Justice Sunday (Discipleship Ministries Resources)
June 21 Father's Day (USA)
June 24-28 Youth 2015
July 4 Independence Day (USA)
August 6 Hiroshima Nagasaki Memorial
Atmospherics Overall: "After Emmaus: Communion, Repentance, Forgiveness, and Proclamation"
Doctrinal Focus: Communion, Repentance, and Forgiveness
At first glance, a doctrinal focus on Communion today may seem out of place. There is no mention of it in Acts or I John. Where something like Communion may have happened in Luke is in the verses before this week’s reading, where Jesus is made known to weary travelers in the breaking of the bread, then vanishes from their sight.
In fact, though, allusions to Communion are present in this week’s reading as well, when Jesus asks the disciples his appearance startles whether he might have some fish, then eats it before them. We have good evidence of some early Christian communities using bread and fish, with or without wine, as the elements of Holy Communion in their worship. So when Jesus asks for fish, and eats it among them, he’s doing more than showing that despite his entrance through a locked door, he is physically present among them. He’s also showing who it is that is physically present among them when they gather around the Table— it is Jesus, their master, risen from the dead, the very one who had made of five loaves and two fish a meal that satisfied thousands.
Even as now he has continued to satisfy billions by his real presence at Holy Communion wherever his body gathers to offer the Great Thanksgiving, remembering him.
Here, at this appearance, Luke makes a strong connection between the fact of a meal shared and the work Jesus calls us to as his witnesses: to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all of the peoples of the world (24:47).
The question for us on this day is about the connection between Holy Communion, repentance, and forgiveness. Some would suggest Holy Communion is a means by which we obtain forgiveness of sins, if we have truly repented prior to receiving it. This would mean that what we offer in the Great Thanksgiving may be primarily the signs of the body and blood of Christ (bread and wine) as a means to gain God’s favor to forgive us.
Yet this is not what we see Jesus doing in Luke’s Gospel, at all. Nor is it in keeping with the logic of the celebration of Holy Communion as we know of it from early Christianity and in our own ritual as United Methodists, which, like that of many other denominations now, is built on early Christian models.
Throughout the whole of Luke’s Gospel, and all the gospels, forgiveness is God’s response to us when, as we saw in the reading from I John last week, we confess our sin and seek God’s help to break free of its continuing power in our lives. We do not offer sacrifices in order to be forgiven. We offer ourselves at the Lord’s Table in a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving precisely because we have already confessed our sin and, by God’s grace, have been forgiven. We pray the Great Thanksgiving, not cowering in fear, but standing in great joy because, just as the Risen Jesus was with his disciples at the Table that night, so we confess the he is with us when we gather around his Table, offering himself to us alive, and commissioning us to rise from this Table and resume our work in his name.
And that work, as Jesus says it here, is to proclaim repentance and forgiveness among all peoples. We proclaim it because it has already been offered, and we are, as Jesus says, witnesses—not only of his death and resurrection, but as importantly here of the power of repentance and the gift of forgiveness now being poured out as a result of his death and resurrection.
So let us to Christ’s table come, by water washed and Spirit-born,
and let us offer all our lives, forgiven and freed, no more forlorn.
And let us all from him receive the body given, the blood outpoured,
then let us from his table rise, and witness boldly to our Lord.
(Suggested Tune: SWEET HOUR, UMH 496)
In Your Planning Team
The work of mystagogy (teaching the core doctrines or “mysteries” of the faith) during Easter Season has historically included spending time teaching about the sacraments. Every Sunday in this season is connected to the resurrection of Christ, and therefore to baptism. This Sunday is one occasion of two during Easter Season this year that focuses on Holy Communion. (The other is Easter 5, May 3).
If you are going to use worship to focus on this teaching about the connection between repentance, forgiveness, and Communion in the sacrament of Holy Communion, resist the temptation to try to focus too much on the acts of repentance and forgiveness themselves. That may move you and your congregation further from the specific doctrinal connection needed on this Sunday.
This teaching today is critical for Christian worship and so for Christian discipleship. We do not come to the Table seeking God’s forgiveness. We come because we have received it. This is why it is essential that services of Holy Communion include acts of confession and pardon and then enactments of seeking peace with one another before we offer ourselves and our gifts to God at the Lord’s Table.
Many people approach God as one who is primarily judge whose standards they cannot meet. Therefore they stand condemned, always, and so always in need of a way to beg forgiveness. They come to God and to the Lord’s Table primarily with associations, memories, or active feelings of guilt. In so doing, they deny the good news of repentance and forgiveness Jesus himself embodied, and the church has declared. It is good news, not guilt-inducing news, that we are being empowered to repent, to continue to turn away from the ways of sin and death. It is good news that though we falter in our turning, God in Christ continues to offer us forgiveness and restoration when we admit our failing and sin.
As your team plans worship for this day, seek out the voices and testimonies of people in your congregation who are willing to share how they come to the Lord’s Table with joy and readiness to offer themselves in praise and thanksgiving to God because they know themselves being empowered to repent by the resurrection power of Jesus and forgiven when they fail by his grace. And seek out, especially, those who may have moved in their attitude from coming to the Table cowering to coming to the Table in joy—and how learning the truth about the Table, repentance and forgiveness has freed them. Consider making a video montage of such persons sharing these stories as part of the sermon today.
It may go without saying, but assuming you are following this track in worship, by all means celebrate Holy Communion today as well!
Ministry Focus: Proclaiming Repentance and Forgiveness to All Peoples
While the doctrinal focus for this week may be a bit “technical” to get at through the Scriptures, the ministry focus is evident everywhere. Peter and John call those amazed by the healing power set loose by the Risen Lord to repent and turn to God that their sins may be forgiven (Acts 3:19). I John reminds us that repentance is an ongoing reality for the children of God, as we continually purify ourselves, meaning, continually work at living out our repentance by God’s sanctifying grace, and in the process continually find Jesus not only forgiving us, but freeing us from sin’s powerful hold in our lives (I John 3:3-5). And in the gospel reading for today, we see Jesus commanding his disciples, and so us, to continue to proclaim the good news of repentance and forgiveness of sins to all peoples, everywhere.
The key ministry word here is proclaim. To proclaim is to make a public announcement. It is the work of official messengers, heralds, even. To proclaim is to speak that which is given to be proclaimed with boldness and clarity so all will know and none can mistake what is said. To proclaim is to say, “This is how things are now.”
Just as I John reminds, right? “Beloved, we are God’s children now” (I John 3:2).
Repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus are living, dynamic and powerful realities in the world since the time of his death and resurrection. This is news to be proclaimed—among all peoples, everywhere. And we, buried with Christ in baptism and raised with him to walk in newness of life, are witnesses called to do this very thing.
In Your Planning Team
The burning issue of this week’s ministry focus is the call to proclaim repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus. The burning question may be, "How?"
You aren’t starting from ground zero as pastor or congregation on this. There are surely living witnesses in your congregation or wider community who model what this proclamation looks like, and do it well. Sometimes this proclamation is a kind of steady, internal witness that refuses to allow persons to be turned back by the culture’s various bad news proclamations. “Be yourself” (i.e., there’s nothing to repent from, which really means, you’re just stuck with what you’ve become). Or “One strike and you’re out” (i.e., there is no time to turn, and if you get it wrong, you are doomed for life, or longer—with no chance for forgiveness).
No, says Jesus, and no say folks you know. There is repentance. There is forgiveness. There is new life and restoration in the name of Jesus.
Go find these people. Get their stories. Tell their stories. Invite them to tell their stories or, again, include one or more of them in a video as part of the sermon or elsewhere in worship today. Let these stories shared of repentance and forgiveness proclaimed in the name of Jesus be a positive encouragement to all present to get about proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus themselves in whatever ways they can to all the people they can.
This ministry didn’t belong just to the first apostles, after all, but to all who are witnesses of these things in our time, too.
Experience and storytelling. One way to connect the experience of the Third Sunday of Easter to Native American Awareness Sunday is through the practice of storytelling one or more of the readings, or offering the sermon more as story—or as suggested above, as stories from others, than as exposition. For examples and guidance for telling the gospel lesson today, see Thomas Boomershine’s GoTell website.
Act of Congregational Centering: BOW 470 (Native American)
Response: BOW 197 Shawnee Traveling Song (Native American)
Call to Worship: BOW 184, "Kiowa Hymn" (Native American)
Greeting: BOW 379 (Easter, Native American)
Greeting: BOW 458 (Native American, last item under Season after Pentecost, about 2/3 down)
Greeting or Litany: BOW 425 (Native American)
Opening Prayer: BOW 455 (Native American)
Canticle: UMH 646, "Canticle of Love" (Psalm, 1 John)
WORD AND RESPONSE
Prayer of Confession: BOW 487 (Native American), 494 (Festival of God’s Creation)
Prayer: UMH 329, Prayer to the Holy Spirit (Luke, Native American)
Prayer: BOW 507, For Creation; 508, Psalm of the Woodlands (Festival of God’s Creation),
Prayer: BOW 512, For Guidance (1 John)
Prayer of Intercession: BOW 399, Week 3 (Easter)
The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Djibouti, Somalia
THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION
Great Thanksgiving: BOW 66-67, Native American Great Thanksgiving
Prayer of Thanksgiving (if no Lord's Supper): BOW 396 (Luke)
Prayer of Thanksgiving (if no Lord's Supper): BOW 553 (Acts), 556-558 (Festival of God’s Creation)
Response: BOW 176, "Heleluyan" (Native American)
Blessing: BOW 560 (Psalm)
Blessing: BOW 562 (Native American)
Benediction: BOW 190, "Benediction" (Psalm)
See Book of Worship 425 for additional suggestions for Native American Sunday. (Note: Festival of God’s Creation was added to the United Methodist Program calendar after the publication of The United Methodist Book of Worship in 1992. That is why that volume does not contain a set of resources specified for that use).