Our Gospel text for this Easter season is Luke 24:13-35, the story of the risen Lord’s encounter with his disciples on the road to Emmaus.
In this passage Luke tells us what it means to walk with the living Lord Jesus Christ. It is more than a story of something that happened back then. It represents what newness of life is all about, how it works, and what it is like to experience the new creation.
We are the disciples on the road, and Jesus comes to walk with us.
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“They didn’t waste a minute. They were up and on their way…” (Luke 24:33)
One of the least emphasized parts of the liturgy is the “sending” or the “dismissal.” Robert Webber writes, “The Dismissal is an integral part of worship because it brings closure to the public act of worship and sends God’s people forth into the world, where their private worship is expressed in relationships, in leisure, and in work” (The Renewal of Sunday Worship).
The Church exists in two forms: (1) Gathered, and (2) Scattered. In our gatherings, we meet together in the presence of the risen Christ, his Spirit nourishes through Word and Sacrament, and we respond in prayer and praise. But then we scatter into the world; to our homes and communities to do our daily work, relate to our neighbors, and walk with Christ in every dimension of what it means to be human. At the end of worship, we who have gathered are sent as God’s ambassadors to serve in the Missio Dei.
Traditionally, the dismissal consists of (1) a blessing, (2) a recessional hymn, (3) a word of dismissal. The Church leaves the worship gathering forgiven and in the favor of Christ, glorifying the Father, and empowered by the Spirit for service.
The events at Emmaus give us a picture of people blessed, praising, and moving in mission.
These two disciples from Emmaus might possibly have stayed in their home after Jesus disappeared from their midst. I could see them wanting to revel in the “experience” they just had, soaking it in, discussing what had happened, what it all meant, what they ought to do about it.
However, an inner compulsion shot them to their feet and set them running.
Jesus was alive, and their brothers and sisters needed to know the news. Now!
No one needed to motivate them or give them reasons to share Jesus. They couldn’t help themselves.
Every faithful pastor wishes his or her people would leave church on Sunday morning with such enthusiasm and vitality, filled with Word and Spirit and ready to serve. But such vibrant faith is not something that we can manufacture through technique and emotional stimulation. A genuine missional spirit grows out of encountering the risen Christ. Going to our “between Sundays” lives trusting in Christ to help us fulfill our vocations for God’s glory and the good of our neighbors is fruit that emerges from life, not programs.
Rev. Richard Halverson once said, “The program of our church is everything all the members are doing between Sundays.” Our mission is not accomplished at the table in Emmaus. We have to get out on the road again. Back to Jerusalem. Back into the world. Where others who need to know that Jesus is risen live and work and wonder what the future holds.
We who have met him on the road and sat with him at the table can tell them.