Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-9; Luke 24:13-35
Children, Family, and Youth; Serving others; Spiritual Growth; Outreach and Hospitality
Worship that inspires an experience of grace and invites participation in song, prayer, God’s word, and God’s table.
For 10,000 Sundays, worship has been the central corporate act of followers of Christ. It happens in many different ways and styles. But since the first century, worship has followed a pattern: the Gathering, the Word, the Meal, and the Sending. Sometimes the exact order is a little different, but the actions are pretty consistent…we gather together, we hear God’s word, we share a meal, and we are sent into the world. If it helps you remember, you could say it like this: we are found, formed, fed, and freed.
Today’s Gospel lesson from Luke actually shows this pattern in action.
Walk to Emmaus…
Disciples were honest about their feelings of sadness, fear, and disappointment.
We come as we are; honest about our condition. Be honest: have you ever felt like you had to think or feel a certain way in worship? …
There is no particular way we have to think or feel or do to come to worship. We are found.
The best traditional or flashiest contemporary are nothing if they don’t help us participate…
Worship style that is hospitable and accessible to people yet deep and expressing the full range of emotions and experiences
Although we aren’t currently engaged in something like the ‘Worship Wars’ of the past, we’ve sort of compromised on a mix of certain music styles here at Good Shepherd. But it’s always worth asking, is our worship both accessible — understandable — to newcomers, but also deep and rich for all those coming to encounter God?
After the disciples share their current situation with Jesus, he starts to talk to them about the Word. He helps to form and transform the disciples by telling them about God’s love throughout scriptures.
“…beginning with Moses and all the prophets…” Jesus walks the disciples through — apparently — all of scripture. But, thru the lens of the Cross.
The message, the Gospel, the story of God’s love for us is at the heart of our worship together. Although, we don’t go through all the scriptures at one time like Jesus did with these two disciples (it must be a long walk to Emmaus from Jerusalem…), we did hear a wide swath of the Bible over the three years that our texts repeat over and over.
But just like Jesus told the story for a reason, so do we. The scriptures serve the Gospel, the Good News. We do not use scripture to prove a point. To win arguments. To be right. To be holier than other people. The scriptures always have the purpose of showing God’s love for us, and our need for God’s love.
The Word that Jesus shares with the disciples inspires them and finds a place in their hearts. So they invite Jesus to stay with them as they prepare for a meal.
Eyes opened. (It’s God that opens eyes.)
Jesus promises to be present when we break bread in his name. The meal is a central part of our worship, and because it’s Jesus’ promise, and because it’s God who opens eyes, we don’t put any restrictions on who can come to the table.
I have heard many people describe the hurt they’ve felt when they have been denied access to communion at other churches.
Those churches may have their reasons, but we move in a different direction here. To remind ourselves and to proclaim to others that this is the Lord’s Table, we invite everyone to participate together in Communion — no matter what. We remember that in this Gospel it is Jesus who breaks the bread. It is God who opens the eyes of disciples. It is not Good Shepherd’s table; not the Lutheran table; it is the Lord’s Table, and Sunday after Sunday we extend the invitation to anyone who wants their eyes opened to the presence of God. It doesn’t matter what their week has been like. It doesn’t matter what their religious background is, or to which church they belong: all are invited to God’s table.
If you know someone who has been hurt by the church, or just not feeling welcome in church: make sure they know that any and every Sunday, this table is open to them — not because we’re really really nice, but because God is really really forgiving.
We are found, formed, fed, and then freed to go out into the world.
After the disciples have their eyes opened and discover they had been sharing in the presence of their Lord, Jesus immediately disappears. As if to say, don’t trap me here, don’t linger inside, but instead go back out into the world.
Disciples weren’t just changed or inspired for their walk and meal with Jesus. They were transformed. It was consequential. Their worship changed their life.
How does our worship change our lives and the world around us? All of a sudden, there’s a pretty high standard for worship: what we do in here, should help us to change the world out there. How are we sent out from here, continuing in the spirit of worship?
Officially, amazing Eucharistic ministers; unofficially we are all Eucharistic ministers, sent out with the leftovers of worship — you know, leftovers like grace and forgiveness and awe and peace…there is always more than enough — and we are all sent out carrying doggy bags of hope into the world. Our worship never really ends, it just changes venues.
And over and over, we are gathered, formed, fed, and sent into the world.
Whether it’s your first time here, or your thousandth, our purpose for being here in worship is the same: to experience the presence and grace of God. We value tradition and holding on to the depth of our worship life, but everything we do should be aimed at inviting others in, helping us all participate, and making space for us to experience God together.
We’ve always got more work to do in adapting our worship service. But in the end, it is God who gathers us, God who forms and transforms us, God who feeds us, and God who sends us back into the world, freed to continue breaking bread with our neighbors.