We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Lectionary, Easter 3, April 23, 2023

I.Theme –   Now after the Resurrection what must we do ?

 "Road to Emmaus" , Tiffany (1912)

The lectionary readings are here  or individually:

First Lesson – Acts 2:14a,36-41
Psalm – Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17 Page 759, BCP
Epistle –1 Peter 1:17-23
Gospel – Luke 24:13-35

The answer to what we must do after the Resurrection comes in the various readings to this week’s lectionary.

In Acts,  Peter declares God had made the risen Jesus both Lord and Christ. The people respond, "What must we do?" "Repent and be baptized."  

The Epistle answers "live as the baptized"  in reverent fear of God, and with deep affection for one another from the heart.

The writer of the Psalms package was in a time illness, near death.Tthe answer is to love and praise God since God saved him from this affliction. He will worship the Lord, and praise the Lord  in the worshipping community in the temple.

The Gospel reading on the Road to Emmaus provides the fullest explanation.

The emphasis is on evangelism and mission. Two companions are on the road to Emmaus, some 7 miles from Jerusalem.  Jesus meets up with them but they didn’t recognize him.  He taught them the importance of sustaining their faith through scriptures. It wasn’t until they stopped for the night for a meal that they recognized Christ in the breaking of the bread. After the revelation of Jesus in the scriptures and in the Eucharist, the two individuals went back and shared their faith experience with the community, the Body of Christ in Jerusalem. 

What would sustain the community of faith was the Word of Jesus,  friends involved in community worship and participating with the sacraments.  They had to live out and experience Jesus through revelation.  The followers needed to open their minds and hearts to new possibilities as they fulfilled the mandate to preach repentance and forgiveness everywhere in the name of Jesus.  We need to expect Jesus outside our normal experience.

II. Summary

First Lesson – Acts 2:14a,36-41

This reading forms part of Peter’s speech to the gathered masses on the day of Pentecost. It is the conclusion in which he interprets the event they have just witnessed: the coming of the Holy Spirit. In vv. 16-21, he has shown (from the book of Joel) that the end times, and therefore salvation, are at hand. He shows how we have access to salvation: it is through Jesus, whom God has made “both Lord and Messiah” (v. 36). It is imperative that those who hear may receive new life in Christ.

Peter’s words about the crowd’s responsibility for Jesus’ death stuns his hearers: “they were cut to the heart” (v. 37), but rather than being turned off, they ask “what should we do?”. In spite of the dark deed of their past, he urges them to undergo a radical change of heart (“Repent”, v. 38) to serving the living God, to be “baptised … in the name of Jesus”. Then their sins will be forgiven and they will receive the Holy Spirit (as promised by God through Joel), a promise open to “everyone” (v. 39) whom God calls and who call upon God (v. 21). “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (v. 40) is like Joel’s call. Many (“about three thousand”, v. 41, a round number) respond and are baptised; they are “added” to the 120 believers (1:15) for whom salvation has already begun; they are saved from the sin of rejecting the Messiah. They devote themselves to learning from the apostles, to “fellowship” (v. 42), participating in the Eucharist, and prayer.

Epistle – 1 Peter 1:17-23

The author of 1 Peter writes to the churches in Asia Minor, to an audience of a largely Gentile Christians, many of whom were formerly Pagans. In this first chapter, the author gives advice and encouragement to these new converts as to how to live a holy life in obedience to God so that they may build a community of mutual love.

The author has urged his readers: “discipline yourselves” (v. 13), be ready for Christ’s second coming. Do not fall back into the pagan immorality you practised before your conversion to the faith; rather, separate yourselves from such ways: live ethically.

Now he warns that being a child of God requires that you hold him in proper respect, in “reverent fear” (v. 17) – while your ethics marginalise you from the pagan world around you (“exile”). God paid for your freedom from pagan ways (as one might ransom, v. 18, prisoners of war) not with “perishable” things but with the life of Christ. (In the Jewish idea of sacrifice, “blood”, v. 19, represented life). Peter’s audience are reminded that it is through the “precious blood of Jesus” (1: 19) that their conversion has been possible, however, the saving acts of God reach back to the beginning of time and extend into the future bringing an eschatological dimension.

Especially at Passover, the lamb sacrificed had to be perfect, as Jesus was. The crucifixion is very valuable (“precious”). God planned redemption through Christ from before his creative act (“destined”, v. 20); with Christ’s life, the final stage of history has begun (“end of the ages”). God raised Jesus to “glory” (v. 21, the sublime majesty and radiant splendour of God). Through him you have come to “trust”, “faith and hope” in God. “Purified your souls” (v. 22) probably refers to baptism, when one confesses the faith, “obedience to the truth”. Through baptism one attains true “mutual love”. The Christian is “born anew” (v. 23) in baptism through the creative “word of God”, the gospel, which “endures forever” (v. 25). Baptism brings us to a new way of living.

Psalm – Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17

Psalm 116 is a Psalm of Thanksgiving from a pilgrim or traveler who has come near to death and credits God for his survival. This Psalm has also been described as Jesus’ Passover Song and its references to deliverance from death are particularly appropriate in the context of Jesus’ own death and resurrection. As such, it is not only part of the Hallel (Psalms 113-116), recited at the Passover amongst other Jewish festivals, but it is also one of the lectionary readings for Maundy Thursday.

The psalmist tells the congregation why he loves God: “he has heard my voice”. Because God helped him in his time of “distress and anguish” (v. 3, serious illness), he will “call on him” (v. 2) for the rest of his life. He was near death; he felt life slipping away. (“Sheol”, v. 3, was the place of the dead. People believed that it ensnared those gravely ill.) When he called on God for help (v. 4), God “delivered … [me] from [near] death” (v. 8). (Vv. 5-6 are a lesson for those present; the “simple” are those who are direct, rather than devious, with God.) Even when afflicted, he kept his faith in God (v. 10). He now walks before the Lord (v. 9, follows God’s ways). How can he pay back God for saving him? (v. 12) He will make a drink-offering in the Temple for his deliverance and “call on the name of the Lord” (v. 13) in thanksgiving, in the presence of the worshipping community (v. 14). God almost always preserves the lives of the faithful (v. 15). He sees hi

s status with God as being like a “child of your serving girl” (v. 16, one in perpetual servitude) but God makes him a free man (“loosed my bonds”). The “house of the LORD” (v. 19) is the Temple.

Gospel – Luke 24:13-35 "The Road to Emmaus"

Two followers were walking along the road one day near the village of Emmaus, some seven miles outside of the capital city of Jerusalem. They were not the apostles – merely everyday people. The two friends, one named Cleopas, were upset. They were feeling down in the dumps because Jesus had been crucified, the disciples had run away, a hysterical and hallucinating woman named Mary claimed she saw the Risen Christ, somebody had broken into the tomb and stolen the body, and the Jesus movement was over and dead. Jesus was dead and that was that. They had failed to see Jesus

The stranger that appeared on the road was Jesus but they didn’t recognized him now as they failed to see him back in Jerusalem.  They did not see Jesus because they did not expect to see Jesus. Their assumptions led them astray. They assumed that death was irreversible and so when another man joined their company they had already pre-determined that it couldn’t be Jesus.  

To get them to beyond their self-pity and see beyond themselves, Jesus interpreted Scripture in a new way. [24:26-27] .The Christ needed to die in order to truly live and give that life to others. Jesus took what the two already knew, but threw a fresh light on the matter. He made scripture come alive and personal. Jesus renewed the hope of the two, because he gave them reasons to believe.

Jesus reminded his disciples that he prophesied his resurrection during his earthly ministry. Then he placed in the greater context of the Scriptures: the Law, the prophets, and the psalms. The "Law and the prophets" were code words for the Hebrew Scriptures which the Pharisees revered. The "Law…and the psalms" were revered by the Sadducees as basis for Temple worship. Luke is more explicit when he adds the Psalms, which stands for the other books

For Luke, the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms are enlightened by what God has done to Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the scriptures. This is the conviction of the Evangelists. Luke presents the Scriptures as pointing to Jesus – but the believer must open his mind and heart to this understanding.

By including the term "psalms" with the "Law and the prophets" (an unusual combination), Luke not only wanted to change the interpretation of Scripture through the words of Jesus, he wanted to validate the newly developing forms of Christian worship. This change was a radical shift from the way Jesus’ early Jewish followers lived (a live dominated by spirit and regulations of the Pharisees and Sadducees). The new Christian communities among the Gentiles (to which Luke addressed h is gospel) had new needs, new insights, and new ways to live out the Christian message.

He mentions not one, but three separate and distinct events; His death on the cross, His resurrection on the third day, and the fulfillment of the great commission which is ongoing.

With hope restored, the two begged Jesus to remain and have dinner. With the breaking of the bread at dinner, they recognized Jesus. Then he was gone.

In the end, Cleopas and his companion returned to the Jerusalem community so they could share their encounter of the Risen Lord. Notice, however, they hear the Good News proclaimed to them first by the community before they can share their story. [24:33-35] What they have to share was not news; it only re-enforced the Gospel that the community already possessed. But, their experience of Christ on the "way" (daily life) and in the breaking of the bread (worship) did strengthen the community’s fellowship

Luke’s target audience writing in the 80’s fifty years after the resurrection writing to believers who don’t have the physical presence of Jesus with them in their daily life

The followers needed to open their minds and hearts to new possibilities as they fulfilled the mandate to preach repentance and forgiveness everywhere in the name of Jesus

Instead of leaving Jerusalem, the city where the Messiah ought to show himself, they came back to it and to Jesus’ other followers with new hope

The key to many post resurrection experiences is Christ with those at meals, gathering for the breaking of the bread, was one of the hallmarks of the first Christians. This supported the idea that the church grew in community supported by faith. What would sustain the community of faith was the Word, friends and sacrament.

What is interesting about this story is that the two individuals are unknown – we know only one by name and Emmaus itself is difficult to pinpoint on any map. What is left is Jesus and what he taught

We need to expect Jesus outside our normal experience . The appearance of the risen Lord was so new, it was outside the experience or comprehension of the disciples. They could not rightly interpret the experience; they could not put it into a proper context

Jesus would prove their experience was no hoax. Like the appearance to Thomas in John’s gospel, Jesus showed his wounds and challenged his followers to "touch" him.

Jesus appeared as a living, solid form. This would have a great impact on the spirituality of Christianity. The holy could be found in the tangible. Jesus reached people in a tangible way – seeing him, eating with him, listening to him. They became the body of Christ. This insight became the foundation of the Church’s self-awareness as the Body of Christ. It also grounded the worship in the Church as sacramental. The believer could encounter the Risen Christ through the bodily senses.

In essence there are 3 main themes here

1. Jesus interprets the scriptures more fully, they are not only about him but find fulfilment in Him.

2. The meal is a Eucharist which will become the dominant form of worship in the growing church. We recognized the risen Jesus in the “breaking of the bread.”

3. The emphasis on evangelism – after encountering g and recognizing Jesus in the scriptures and in the Eucharist, the two individuals went back and shared their faith experience with the community.

This in a nutshell is Bible study, reflection and mission. 

III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher:

First ReadingActs 2:14a, 36-41

PsalmPsalm 116:1-4, 12-19 

Epistle  – 1 Peter 1:17-23 

Gospel  – Luke 24:13-35