SUNDAY’S READINGS | APRIL 23, 2023
Near the beginning of Morning Prayer, the Venite (Ps. 95) is commonly recited as a call to adoration, striking a tone of joy and wonder in the early morning hours. Monks and nuns routinely say these words in the darkness before dawn. “O come let us sing to the Lord. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and show ourselves glad in him with psalms” (Ps. 95:1-2).
God is declared “a great King above all gods” and extolled as the Creator of the earth, sea, and dry land. Before his presence, we are to bow and bend the knee. Fittingly, as readings from the Psalter and other portions of Scripture are to follow, we are called to “hearken to his voice.” So, the day begins as one dedicated to song and joy and thanksgiving. The day starts, we might say, with Easter exhilaration!
The concluding verses of Psalm 95 (8-11) are usually omitted because they have a quite different emotional tone, one of grave warning. Hearing those verses, however, we find an entry point to a great theme: a contrite and broken heart, a heart open and responsive, a heart restless in its yearning for God. “Harden not your hearts, as your forebears did in the wilderness, … They put me to the test” (Ps. 95:8-9). A heart of stone will not respond to God; a heart unbroken will know almost nothing of God. The warning is, strangely, a key to the earlier verses. A contrite and broken heart is a gateway to new life and joy and wonder.
What happens when a preacher preaches? Here is one example. “Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:14, 36-38). “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added” (Acts 2:41).
The preacher thrusts the flaming sword of God’s Word directly into the seat of thought and emotion. His hearers suddenly “know and feel that the only Name under heaven given for health and salvation is the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (BCP, p. 457). Jesus Christ cuts his way into our hearts because he wants us to know and love him, feel and understand that, in him, we live and move and have our being.
Consider the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They are “talking with each other about all these things that had happened” (Luke 24:14). Jesus appears to them, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16). Jesus asks what they were discussing, drawing them out like an astute therapist. He then interprets “the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:27). Still, they do not recognize him. Finally, urged by the two men to stay for the evening and share a meal, Jesus reveals himself “in the breaking of the bread.” As he breaks the bread, he breaks their hearts.
After Jesus’ departure, they think about their walk with him. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) As their hearts burned, their hearts opened. Seeing the open door, the risen Lord enters.
LOOK IT UP: Revelation 3:20
THINK ABOUT IT: Open the door.