April 17, 2022 (Easter Sunday)

The Gospel

Now on that same day, the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose NAME was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 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 took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.


As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.


While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.


Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Luke 24:13-49 (LectionaryPage.net)

The Offering

From Mack Knopf

I have asked for a long time why Easter took so long to come. Why did Jesus wait until two thousand years ago to bring his message to the world? Humans have been around much longer than that. What happened to the people in the ancient world who never heard the Good News? Where did they go before Jesus came? Was the ancient world lost until we were saved? This matters a lot to me, because I too have been lost even with the words of the New Testament.


Let me tell you about what Jesus saves us from.


I have been researching the myth of the Descent Of Inanna, written over 4,000 years ago in Sumeria, where Iraq is now in the Middle East. In one of our oldest stories, a goddess goes to Hell, stays three days, and comes back resurrected to the world. You can see the original Akkadian clay tablet in the British Museum. I love reading fantasy stories, like Episcopalians C.S. Lewis and his friend, J.R.R. Tolkien did. Did you know they were friends and in a campus book club together? To me and to them, myths are just fantastic stories to read and to be inspired by. But when I read the Descent of Inanna now, I also know that people once believed it. The lives of the gods defined their world for them.


So the goddess Innana, Queen of Heaven, wants to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Dead. She goes to Hell, the Sumerian Underworld, where she passes through seven gates, losing possessions at each one. Her sister kills her and hangs her body on a hook. After three days, her father, the creator god Enki, sends helper spirits to free her. She leaves Hell, finds her husband, Dumuzi, and sacrifices him to be taken down by demons in her place. She then goes bodily back to Heaven.


In The Apostles’ Creed of our church, it reads about Jesus that “He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.” But our older version reads as, “On the third day, he descended into Hell.”


He frees those who are inside, which is everyone. We call this the Harrowing of Hell. All people from past times are freed to go to Heaven.


The goddess Inanna doesn’t sacrifice herself for anyone. She sacrifices someone else. Jesus gives Himself for us. He doesn’t, can’t, know, that God the Father will bring him back to life. The sacrifice and loss must be real. After Easter, Jesus is going to later meet Elijah and Moses, from the past, on a mountain. He will be taken bodily to Heaven.


Why did it take 4,000 years before Jesus redeems our sins? Why was the first Easter so late in our history? I cannot explain this. Maybe we weren’t ready to worship a savior god yet. I don’t know why our God waited so long. I don’t know if people were really suffering in Hell until Jesus came.


What do I really believe about those who worship pagan gods, now or then? In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis, the lion Aslan says that whoever does something good in the name of another god, does it in Aslan’s name. And the name for him in our world, is Jesus.

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