(Many thanks to Marcia Mcfee and the Worship Design Studio for providing these resources free during this pandemic! We have adapted them slightly for use in our context. I'll post both the Word and Reflection and Action Response, as well as the Have Goodwill action for the week.)
Word and Reflection
Melissa: Here is how the story of Jesus’ surprise visit on the road and at the dinner happened. Imagine yourself walking down the road and a stranger comes along…
Sharon: On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him.
He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast.
The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?”
He said to them, “What things?”
They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.
When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”
They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread. - Luke 24:13-35
Melissa: After Christ was no longer with his disciples in the flesh, several letters began to circulate, making the rounds to the early Christian communities. This one is from a letter called “First Peter” that is recorded in our New Testament. It reminds people that the story of Jesus is about new birth for all people, and we are to be seeds of God’s life-giving love.
Eldon: Christ was chosen before the creation of the world, but was only revealed at the end of time. This was done for you, who through Christ are faithful to the God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory. So now, your faith and hope should rest in God.
As you set yourselves apart by your obedience to the truth so that you might have genuine affection for your fellow believers, love each other deeply and earnestly. Do this because you have been given new birth—not from the type of seed that decays but from seed that doesn’t. This seed is God’s life-giving and enduring word.
Melissa: Jesus’ table ministry was a preeminent way that he showed and shared a depth of love unseen in his time. He ate and spent time with those considered unworthy of his attention. Even in his post-resurrection appearances, it was in the breaking of bread that he was “recognized”–perhaps because so many times in his ministry, it was at tables that he invited people to open up and share “straight from the heart”–getting right to the heart of the matter. As we gather this day, we remember that, at the heart, his message was unconditional love. To offer ourselves “straight from the heart” is the seed he planted in us, and this is the growth we must continue to nurture.
Ben and I keep a running list of legendary meals that we’ve had - meals that just stand out in our memory...one of them was at Evo for our 12th wedding anniversary a few years ago...one of them was at a dinner party when we were living in Haverhill and from time to time - usually when we’re out at a new place - we’ll go through the list and while excellent food certainly does make a difference, part of what makes the meal memorable is the connection and conversation around the table. It’s the energy that’s flowing as we eat and drink and share, it’s the talk about things that matter, that are closest to our hearts, it’s about who you are sharing the experience with that makes the most difference.
I can’t think of the number of times where twelve or more people were crammed into the kitchen of someone’s house, sharing food together, even though there was ample space in the dining room or the living room. But equally memorable are the morning long conversations spent in coffee shops with scones and lattes or the times sharing beverages and appetizers on the porch on a warm summer evening.
There’s something about how breaking bread together breaks us open as well - and allows us to share more of ourselves with others…that allows us to offer ourselves “straight from the heart.” For me, I have to think that’s part of what Jesus meant when he said to remember him in eating the bread and the cup - that when we share food together, there’s something sacred happening that binds us together in ways that reflect Jesus’s love. At the table, we offer one another more than food and drink, we offer ourselves to one another, an act of love that is far greater than whatever else is on the menu.
Leader: I invite you to put both hands on your heart, close your eyes for just a moment, and think about a message of love. Then reach out your hands to your sides and imagine two people on either side of you who you want to offer love to right now. You can reach out with text or call later to let them know you were thinking of them at this moment. In this moment, we just let this gesture plant more seeds of love, straight from the heart.
Every week, we’ll have a time to put what we’ve shared and talked about into action. This week we talked about Jesus breaking bread with the disciples and the seeds of love planted within us that allow us to offer ourselves to the world “straight from the heart.” Because more and more, I think many of us are realizing that this is the truest gift we can offer the world. This season is stripping away so much and that allows us to discern the heart of things in our own lives.
This week, I encourage you to have a Zoom dinner party or cocktail hour or coffee date with friends. Zoom for free allows for a 40 minute call with 100 people at any time so invite some folks to share a meal with you! (Gloria puts https://zoom.us/pricing link in the chat)
If you are Zoomed out - this week, bake a loaf of bread to share with a neighbor. There’s an easy artisan bread recipe if you need one (Gloria link: https://www.itsalwaysautumn.com/homemade-artisan-bread-easiest-bread-recipe-ever.html) - and as you mix the ingredients and let the loaf bake in the oven, be in prayer for the person or family you’ll be giving this to.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and almost 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.