Third Sunday of Easter…Series A
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (April 29th & 30th, 2017)
Text: Luke 24: 13-35
Title: Heartburn and the Ministry of Word and Sacrament
The title of my homily this evening/morning is HEART BURN and the Ministry of Word and Sacrament…Our Gospel reading for this 3rd Sunday of Easter raises an interesting and an important question…a question I would like for us to ponder for a few moments this evening/morning. The question is this: “Would the story we just heard from the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Luke have turned out differently, if Jesus had not stayed for supper? Would the story have ended with Cleopas and the unnamed disciple having their eyes opened and recognizing that the stranger who had walked with them along the road to Emmaus that Easter afternoon was none other than the resurrected and living Jesus? Would the story have ended with the disciples returning to Jerusalem to tell the Apostles, “what had happened to them on the road and how Jesus had been revealed to them if Jesus had not accepted their invitation if he hadn’t stayed for supper??
My guess is that the answer to that important question is: PROBABLY NOT! WHY?? Because the simple truth is that the WORD, all by itself, is NOT ENOUGH. It was NOT ENOUGH that Jesus had opened the scriptures for them, that, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself”. The WORD all by itself was NOT ENOUGH to overcome their doubts and fears and profound disappointment and to enable them to recognize the Risen Christ in their midst! In fact, by their own admission, the Word of Jesus all by itself, had given them HEART BURN!!
These discouraged and heart-broken disciples needed more than the WORD… and we need more than the WORD…they (and we) need the VISIBLE WORD… Friends, we must never forget that it was only when Jesus sat at table and broke and blessed the bread (just as he had done at the Last Supper in the Upper Room on the night before His passion and death) that “their eyes were opened and they RECOGNIZED Him”.
We are a church that believes in and practices the ministry of WORD and SACRAMENT…we need BOTH (it isn’t EITHER WORD or SACRAMENT)…we need the verbal Word of preaching/teaching/singing the Gospel of Grace, but we also need the ViISIBLE WORD…the WORD that we can taste and touch and feel. The VISIBLE WORD that comes to us in the two principle sacraments of the Church (Baptism and the Holy Eucharist), but also in the “OTHER SACRAMENTAL RITES” (Confirmation; Ordination; Marriage; Reconciliation and Unction or Last Rites). It is interesting that this weekend we will celebrate Holy Baptism (in a few moments, Brooke Ruth Jackson will be baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and tomorrow morning , Luis Anthony Ottley-grandson of Bishop James Ottley, will be baptized); and the Holy Eucharist. This afternoon, we celebrated the Marriage of David Fisher and Lisa Johnson and tomorrow @ the 10:00am service, eight of our young people will participate in the Rite of Confirmation!
Friends, here is the truth…the simple but certain truth…the Sacraments and Sacramental Rites of the Church are not OPTIONAL…in fact they are essential…they are INDISPENSABLE. We can not begin our journey of faith without the Sacrament of Holy Baptism…the “seed of faith” planted in Baptism can not mature and grow…we cannot grow in grace…we cannot become all that God intends for us to be apart from a regular encounter with the WORD and with the SACRAMENTS. And, friends, there is only one place that this ENCOUNTER WITH THE WORD and SACRAMENT happens…it happens here in the Church and it doesn’t happen anywhere else…it doesn’t happen on the golf course (I wish it did but it doesn’t)…it doesn’t happen “down to the Shore”…it doesn’t happen at Citizen’s Bank Park…it only happens here…week after week, after week, in this Holy Space among God’s Holy people.
And the great Good News that we celebrate on this 3rd Sunday of Easter is that God promises to meet us in this encounter with His Word and with the Sacraments of His church…God meets us and promises to nourish our frail and fragile Faith, and, like our spiritual ancestors Cleopas and the unnamed disciple (could it have been Mrs. Cleopas), that our eyes will be opened, and we will recognize the RISEN and Living CHRIST in our midst…