October 22, 2017

Up and On Our Way

Journey into New Life, part seven (conclusion)
Up and On Our Way (Luke 24)

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.

• • •

“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.

Comments

  1. As our pastor ruefully notes, the most heartfelt response in any Mass is to the dismissal…

    Priest: “The Mass is ENDED, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

    People: THANKS be to GOD!!!”

    🙂

    • Tokah Fang says:

      Or there’s that first time you visit an orthodox service, which was already longer than you expected, and finally the priest chants: “Let us depart in peace!” and people sing back, “In the name of the Lord!”… yet there is a distinct lack of of departing.

      For vespers services, “Let us complete our evening prayer to the Lord” is also a mite deceptive. 😉

  2. ‘A genuine missional spirit grows out of encountering the risen Christ.’ Amen to that.
    I think mission happens most easily and naturally when we hold tightly to the ongoing encounter with Christ because it’s only then that we forget ourselves and we are compelled to share Jesus.
    I love the artwork on this especially the second picture – can you tell me who the artist is?

  3. Aren’t we challenged by this? “And the King will answer them, “Truely, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it for me.’ … Who then are they? Might it be me? Might it be a ‘neighbor’? Outside of my own self? . . . So then comes a deeper ringing in my heart . . . Then he will answer them saying, Truely (O, there’s that word) I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least (O, another …) of these, you did not do it to to me.’ . . . Perhaps, . . . perhaps, . . . I need an attitude adjustment . . . . I have been thinking . . . to what has been weaved in the past days . . .

  4. humanslug says:

    Beyond the way we conclude our church services, I think “sending God’s people fourth into the world” can also apply to when people leave a particular local church body to serve God in a different location, church body, or missional field. I’m thinking along the lines of how the church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas on their way when they left that church fellowship to pursue the apostolical mission God had set out for them. They got together with the two, laid hands on them, prayed for and with them, and sent them out with their love and blessings.
    Strangely, you don’t see that kind of thing happening in many churches these days. People come and go, and it seems that it’s just disregarded as the usual human migrations from place to place and church to church. In the worst cases, those “going fourth” are treated as traitors or backsliders.
    Maybe that has something to do with the church’s current obsession with bringing people (and their money, time, and talents) in the doors — while we seem to have lost sight of the reality that it is often to the benefit of God’s larger kingdom when Christians and Christian families depart from one place and stage of spiritual growth to employ their gifts and resources in the new place or situation to which God has called them.
    When church bodies are generally hostile to the concept of people leaving or going fourth, then they miss the opportunity to seed a little bit of who they are in Christ into a bigger and wider world.
    And just imagine a person or family — genuinely called by God to leave one church fellowship to go and serve at a “competing” church fellowship or even one of a different denomination — being showered with love and sent fourth with prayer and blessings by the congregation that’s losing them.
    Now that would be a Jesus moment!

  5. Webber also states that the “sending” portion of the service is the best place for the announcements to go. If we are being scattered to be the church in the world, then this is the best context in which to bring to mind the opportunities to participate in the church organized on mission in the community. Of Webber’s four-fold pattern, gathering, Word, Table, and sending, the last is by far the most concise, and I’ve been wrestling with how to develop it in order to emphasize the commissioning undertones of it: We aren’t being sent out to enjoy the other 6 days without having to come to church, but to be the hands and feet (and voice!) of Jesus in the world, or salt and light. The sending should be a clear reminder of that, imo. But I’m not sure what kind of ideas we could use there to really enhance the purposeful focus of the service conclusion.

    That, and, Lutherans don’t typically divide their services into the four-fold patter that Webber uses as an analytical grid: We have just two parts: Service of the Word, and Service of the Sacrament. It seems that in our liturgies the sending is just a quick afterthought tacked on to the end of communion.

    Looking for a good, in-depth book on liturgy (preferably comparative, with analysis of eastern rites as well). Anybody have a good recommendation?