Bread for the Journey

A sermon for the Third Sunday after Easter, Year B

Luke 24:13-35

Be known to us, Lord Jesus, in the breaking of the bread. Familiar words, no doubt. This morning we are privileged to hear the story behind them.

This story, one of the resurrection appearances of Jesus, happened not to one of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve disciples (now 11 after the death of Judas), but to two of his other disciples, perhaps numbered among the 70 who we hear about following Jesus elsewhere in the Gospels.

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_EmausThese two disciples, we are told one is Cleopas, were making the day’s journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, just a few miles away. Church tradition tells us that Cleopas’ traveling companion was, in fact, his wife. Whoever they were, we are still telling their story to this very day.

They are walking this road with rumors of Jesus’ resurrection still ringing in their ears. They cannot bear to hope for such a miracle. A stranger joins them on the road and begins to instruct them how all of the events of the last few days, the triumphal entry, the betrayal of Jesus, his trial and crucifixion, and yes, even his resurrection, had been foretold in the Jewish writings we know as the old Testament. They are moved by these words to the very center of their being. And yet they still do  not recognize the one who is walking and talking with them.

emmaus-art-3These travelers invite their new friend to rest from his journey and eat with them. This was not uncommon, especially if you have forged this close of a bond with someone. There is something intimate and sacramental in just sharing a meal – we often miss this in our disposable, fast-food culture, but even today in Middle-Eastern culture, hospitality and sharing a meal is a highly important aspect of their everyday lives. When this stranger breaks the bread during dinner, their eyes are opened and they recognize Jesus, but immediately he vanishes from their sight.

We’ve already heard of Jesus appearing in the midst of the disciples in a locked room, but here he doesn’t stay once they recognize him. The act of eating together, and this moment of recognition seem to be enough for now. These two disciples have a mission, like Mary Magdalen had on Easter morning.

Filled with joy and hope, these two rush back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples who were still there. This would mean traveling right back for miles overnight. The news of Jesus’ resurrection and the joy it brought their hearts gave these witnesses courage and very light feet indeed.

We who are gathered here come to receive food from the Lord’s Table.  This is waybread, if you will, for our journey, as individuals and as a congregation. We have a mission to perform as well. We are called to be witnesses, to tell the world that Jesus is risen.

Now, I’ve said before, that for most of us, that won’t mean standing on a street corner holding a Bible. But think of these disciples who knew Jesus that night in Emmaus. Their hearts were burning after they saw Jesus, so much so that they rushed right then to share the good news. For us there are particular times in our lives when we feel this joy, this excitement about our faith and about our family here at St. Brendan’s. That’s the time when we cannot keep silent. We must tell the world that we have been with Jesus. He is not dead. He is risen.

emmaus1Of course, we all struggle with our faith from time to time. Often our eyes seem closed to the reality of the miracle of Easter morning. Grief, despair, anxiety – there are many things that cloud our vision. It is in those times that, like these two disciples, like Thomas in last week’s Gospel, we need to be with others. We need the support of our spiritual family. It is with our spiritual friends and family that our faith can be strengthened and our mission renewed – our mission to live our lives as if the resurrection of Jesus is a reality. It is good news.

We tell this truth every time we reach out, whether it is through tangible outreach ministries like those here at the church or speaking up in a world that is often dark and fearful. We share in this resurrection joy when we spread hope instead of fear, when we celebrate God’s mercy and God’s goodness, rather than judgment or pessimism. When we live our lives as if the resurrection truly happened, we are reaching our hands out in love to minister to the world as Christ would have. We are his hands.

So as we receive food and drink from Christ today, the nourishment he provides, the way-bread to strengthen us for the journey, let us truly go forth into the world rejoicing in the power of the spirit.

St. Augustine of Hippo, in an Easter sermon he delivered in the Fourth Century, once said, “You are the body of Christ. In you and through you the work of the incarnation must go forward. You are to be taken; you are to be blessed, broken, and distributed; that you may be the means of grace and the vehicles of the eternal charity.”  Amen.

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