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Friday, Easter III

(Many thanks to Rev. Dr. Phil Brandt for the use of his devotional material). 

Luke 24:13-35

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

  28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.


When I was a child, we had a reproduction of a painting of Jesus walking with the Emmaus disciples. You may have had it too. They were crossing a little, arched bridge made of stone. I whiled away much time pondering that painting. Before you imagine that I was a particularly spiritual child, know that I was fascinated by the detail the artist had put into one of the trees, not the scene of Jesus with his two disciples. 

I think Caravaggio was far more spiritually aware than I was. He painted several depictions of this biblical account. I have tried to include one of them for you. If you can see it, notice that he has put Jesus’ hands breaking the bread in the middle of the picture. Notice, too, the detail which Caravaggio puts into those hands. 

Jesus hands are framed by the less distinct but equally potent surprise of the two disciples. The one has arms spread wide and the other, with his hand upon the arm of his chair, is ready to leap up and run back to Jerusalem. 

What I love about Caravaggio’s painting, however, is the table and the clothes and the serving girl standing behind them. They are all in contrast with Jesus who is wearing the traditionally depicted clothes of the first century rabbi. The men and the serving girl are each dressed in the clothes of the renaissance. The glass of wine, the food, the table itself is a renaissance table. This is a contemporary event for Caravaggio. 

Caravaggio knows something we all need to hear. Jesus does not only come into the home of those two disciples long ago. He comes to our homes today. It says that in the moment of their recognition he vanished from their sight. The text does not say that he left. They ran back to Jerusalem and blurted out the news and heard that Jesus had also appeared to Simon. I think the next words are unfortunately omitted from this reading. Here they are: 

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”

Jesus ran all the way back to Jerusalem with them. Today He stands in your home, sits at your table, and walks with you, offering that same peace today. 

Thursday, Easter III, 1 Peter 1:13-25

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Peter wrote to people who were being persecuted long ago. But his words seem sometimes to be tailored for our situation. Look at his exhortation in vs 17 above, “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile…” I have spoken to several people who have lost their jobs and are feeling exiled from the productive lives they were leading just a few weeks ago. The job market for their skills has locked up.  Will some of those jobs and businesses come back? I don’t know. 

What I do know is what Peter goes on to tell us. We were ransomed from the futile ways of those who went before, the idolaters who imagined that God was manipulated, as if his favor was for sale. God’s love has never been for sale, it has always been freely given and has been fully given in the precious blood of Christ, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. This is a wholly other sort of economy than the one we are used to. In a sense, God is a bit of a socialist. He really will give the people everything. It may not work in the way we organize our human society, but, awesomely, it works in God’s heavenly kingdom. He just gives it away in Christ. My productive life, my job, my value in this world is not connected to my status in God’s kingdom. 

But that holy awe we feel in seeing Christ’s gift to us emboldens and empowers a new life for us today. As a Pastor I sit at home, unable to conduct the services which I believe my people need. I too am feeling a little exiled. That is frustrating. But Peter reminds me of something. I have been redeemed to a sincere brotherly love. I can still do that. I have been born of an imperishable seed, the living and abiding Word of God. All things human fail, like flowers and grass they pass away. But that Word does not. This is the good news we need to hear today. 

Wednesday, Easter III, Psalm 116:1-14

 I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my pleas for mercy.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
6 The Lord preserves the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling;
9 I will walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

10 I believed, even when I spoke:
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
11 I said in my alarm,
    “All mankind are liars.”

12 What shall I render to the Lord
    for all his benefits to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

One of the things I really appreciate about the Lutheran Service Book is that it indicates the verses of the Bible which are behind the elements of the liturgy. The final verses of this psalm may be familiar to you as the words of an offertory which is sung as the offerings are brought forward. If you have a hymnal handy, you can find it in settings One and Two (pp. 159 and 176). 

This psalm is simply best understood as the praise of an Easter person. Read it slowly and carefully. This really cannot be rushed. Let each line sink in and consider it deeply. 

I delight in verse 7 myself. The psalmist urges his soul to return to his rest for the LORD has dealt bountifully with him. Anxiety takes so much energy. I have to admit there are days when I come to the late afternoon and am exhausted even though I have not done that much on that day. I think it is just the background anxiety of these days sapping my strength. 

But God has delivered my life from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling. I said in my alarm that all men are liars. I was right. But God is not a liar. He keeps his Word. You and I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. Rest in that promise today. 

Tuesday, Easter III, Acts 2:14a, 36-41

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: 

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

I live on a relatively quiet urban street in Portland. The neighborhood has changed since I moved in 15 years ago. As an aging generation of folks have moved out, a younger generation of people have moved in. In these days of pandemic isolation, I have enjoyed watching the families take their daily stroll down my street. I think I have seen a half-dozen fathers teaching little people how to ride a bike. 

It strikes me from this reading that the first proclamation of Easter which we read in Acts was not really good news. In fact, it was a declaration of failure and rebellion. The people to whom Peter preached had killed Jesus but it did not work. Not only did this plot against Jesus fail, but his resurrection was proof that they had worked against God himself! 

The people believe what Peter says and they are cut to the heart. “What shall we do?” they asked. Peter’s response is pure Gospel. Jesus’ resurrection is not only proof of their rebellion it is also the gracious word of God’s forgiveness for sin, even that sin. There is no sin for which Jesus has not died. 

It is a normal human response to times of difficulty and stress to take stock of one’s life. There is much to grieve on every human part. As I walked a few days ago I followed (at appropriate distance) a young father and his son who was perhaps 4 or 5 years old. The little one had a stick in his hand and was putting it to good use poking at things on the ground and in the bushes along the street. All the while he kept up a constant stream of chatter to which his father paid attention and occasionally got a word in too. I thought that this man was likely working from home now or, worse, laid off from his job. But I also thought that this little boy needed what this father was giving him right now as much as anything that money could buy. 

Know that Jesus has risen from the dead to give you daily forgiveness and to give you a fresh start every day in him. Remember your Baptism today. It is the same baptism those 3,000 had that first Pentecost. What seems like a disaster might be another sort of opportunity, an opportunity to love people who are far more important than anything else. 

Monday, Easter III, Prayer for the Week

O God, through the humiliation of Your Son You raised up the fallen world. Grant to Your faithful people, rescued from the peril of everlasting death, perpetual gladness and eternal joys; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

I remember walking into Kay’s hospital room with heavy heart. I had just spoken to her husband out in the hallway and the news was not good. Through his tears he told me that the surgeon had discovered a massive tumor. It would soon kill her. It was one of the early years of my ministry and Kay was one of those bulwark members of the tiny congregation I served. More than that, she had become a dear friend. When I walked in, her face lit up with her radiant smile. Yes, a smile! She knew, this was not the bliss of ignorance. It was the joy of one who had been rescued from the peril of everlasting death. She had been given a gift to stare her own death in the face and not be afraid. Over the coming few months of her life, she shared one more gift with her fellow congregants and her pastor in her witness to perpetual gladness and eternal joy. 

I have, over my ministry, come to love and appreciate Paul’s little letter to the Philippians. Imprisoned and facing death, Paul writes a letter/sermon to the folks in Philippi about joy. He does not complain but he bears witness to his surpassingly great joy. In the first chapter he writes: 

it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

For Paul it stopped being about him a long time ago, on a road to Damascus when an arrogant and zealous man had his pretensions and pride shattered by the resurrected Christ. Paul’s life revolved around the Jesus who shockingly had been humiliated on a cross and, thereby, rescued us all from that peril of everlasting death. 

There is much to be sad and fearful about today, some of it even involves a pandemic. Christ has jumped into this world of sin and death and plumbed its deepest depths. He died the tortuous death of crucifixion. Somewhere on his ascent from those turbid depths to heavenly glory and life he finds you, gathers you to himself, and brings you along. I am not telling you that your fear, anxiety, or anger are inappropriate responses to this situation. But I am pointing you to another way which begins with Christ’s humiliation and trusts that He has rescued us from our biggest foe. Because of Christ, we can have a joy which the world cannot take away. 

Friday, Easter II, John 20:19-31

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


There is so much in this story of the first appearances of Jesus to his disciples. I think a score of devotionals could be written could be written about these verses. 

Consider vss 19-21. Jesus shows up and says “Peace be with you.” He shows them his wounds and they are glad. Again, he says, “Peace be with you.”  

I could use some peace right now. My world is a frightening place and anxiety feels like the only appropriate response. Will my job, my family, my nation, my community ever be secure and the same again? If I dwell on it too much, I am not feeling peace. Should I just shut off the news and retreat into the sanctum of my home? Is that even safe?  

Notice that Jesus says “Peace to you” twice. And notice that two things are sandwiched in the middle of the peace which Jesus offers: his wounds and the disciples’ joy. Would you like to have peace? Gaze upon the wounds of Christ and rejoice. The resurrected Jesus died for you. There is nothing that the world can do which is bigger than that. No virus, no economic downturn, no, not even death can surpass what he has done for you. Therein lies a calm joy for you today. 

Would you like another: consider vss. 26-27? Jesus appears even though the doors and windows are latched and locked. I have often heard people speak of how Jesus can pass through walls. But I think that misses the point entirely. When he shows up the disciples do not need to tell him about Thomas’ unbelief. He walked up to Thomas and confronted him about it. You see, Jesus did not pass through the locked doors like some vapor. He was there the whole time. He was there when Thomas disbelieved. No one had to tell him about it. Jesus doesn’t so much enter the room as he appears to them. He was there with them the whole time, just like he promised (Matthew 28:20). 

Jesus is in your room too. Has he seen your moments of disbelief and doubt? Surely, he has. Does he love you, nonetheless? Absolutely! He did not punish Thomas but helped him. Likewise, this Jesus whom Peter acknowledged yesterday that we do not see but yet we love, trust, and rejoice in, is not absent from our lives. This Jesus is right here with us. Are you afraid right now? Let him hold your hand and calm your heart. He is here and he loves you and nothing can snatch you from his hand. 

Thursday, Easter II - 1 Peter 1:1-9

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter addresses these words to the elect exiles – even those exiled from their church buildings? Of course. I have been wondering what church will look like after this is all over. They say that the children whose early elementary education has been disrupted by Corona will be called Generation C. Dr. Fauci says that we will have to stop greeting one another with a handshake. Will I stand at the door of the church and bump elbows with my parishioners? Will we have to limit our services to a certain number of people? The ancient church had doorkeepers called “Janitors.” They were not responsible for cleaning but for keeping out the unbaptized from the Eucharistic services. Will they now stand there with a clicker in hand to make sure the service doesn’t go over the prescribed maximum for our building? Will health inspection certificates replace the fire marshal’s maximum occupancy note which is posted in the back of most sanctuaries? 

In these times of upheaval and change Peter draws our attention to something very important. Our hopeful expectation is that through the resurrection of Jesus we receive an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. We can rejoice in that, even if now we are grieved. It is hard. We do not see the Lord but must wait for him to be revealed. But though we cannot see him, we love him, trust him, and rejoice in an inexpressible joy. Like a tree which draws moisture from a hidden source, we have joy even in bleak times. 

Our times are in his very capable hands. I do not know how it will work out. But Jesus has promised that his church shall never pass away until the last day. We can look forward to what he has in store for us.