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The Emmaus Prayer

Luke 24:13-35 There is something terribly elusive about Easter. We are familiar with the tough terrain of Holy Week, its betrayal and denial, duplicity and public execution. No matter how boisterous our real or virtual Easter celebrations, we are far less familiar with the elusive terrain of Easter, where it leads or whether we can trust that it leads anywhere but to an excruciating dead end. If you worry that I am overstating my case, read the ending of any of the four Gospels. You will read the painful detail of the final week of Jesus’ life – his last supper, his agony in the garden, his trials before the Sanhedrin and then Pilate, his torture by Roman guards, the horrific march to Golgot

The First Easter Sermon

Text: Isaiah 65:17-25 The first Easter sermon was preached long before Mary stood weeping in the garden, long before a young man told grieving women that the Risen Jesus was awaiting them in Galilee, long before Thomas was out running an errand when the Risen Jesus paid the disciples an unforgettable visit. The first Easter sermon was preached not by a Christian pastor mounting a pulpit surrounded by the beauty and aroma of fresh lilies, with trumpets sounding their glad alleluias and choirs singing the Hallelujah Chorus. The first Easter sermon was preached not by a pastor, but by a prophet, not by a Christian but by a Jew. After years in exile, the prophet Isaiah and his kin came home to

When Easter Dawns

Text: Matthew 28:1-10 When I think of Easter, I think of exactly what it looks like right now outside Cove Presbyterian Church, just south of Charlottesville, Virginia – redbuds in full bloom, daffodils decorating the lawn, an orchestra of bees pollenating almost every flowering tree or plant. Lifelong southerners, like me, are tempted to think that Easter is as natural as the inevitable onset of spring. Whether Easter arrives in mid-March with a chill still in the air or in mid-April like this morning, this holiday has always seemed to be the glad sidekick of nature. Easter joins the colorful spring parade of flowers, celebrating that that the death of winter was only a temporary illusion;

A Bedtime Story

Anne Lamott, Presbyterian ruling elder, novelist, and remarkably free spirit grew up in anything but a religious home. That sets the stage for when she writes: Some of you were taught to pray at bedtime with your parents, and when I spent the night at your houses, I heard all of you saying these terrifying words: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake . . .” Wait, what? What did you say? I could die in my sleep? I’m only seven years old. . . . “I pray the Lord my soul to take.” That so, so did not work for me, especially in the dark in a strange home. Don’t be taking my soul. You leave my soul right here, in my fifty-pound body. Help. (fro

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