by Alexis (Alex) LaChapelle
In the breaking of bread, our hearts and minds slow down and we finally can see whom we are eating with.
There are these 2 brothers that I grew up with and went to grade school with, and whenever I came home from college or time away from Wisconsin, we would always try and hangout. The older we get the more time there is between our meetings, but the routine still seems to be the same as it was in high school. Someone calls or nowadays sends a text making plans… and the question comes, “What do you want to do?” The answer is the same now as it was in high school… Dinner and a movie! Dinner and a movie was routine we had created that could bring us back to something simpler, easier, and familiar… So even though I did not know my friends lives like I once did, who they were dating, what they were doing for work, or how their parents were, it was like we were back in high school sitting in the Applebee’s laughing and joking.
Now, there was always that worry right before we would see each other… right before the big smile and the bear hugs where I wondered…
Do I even know these guys anymore?
The most recent time it had been years since we had seen one another and there was a lot of catching up to do… and as I heard about purchased homes and soon to be engagements, you would have never felt the gap because as we sat down and ordered the usual burgers and fries, we were revealed in that breaking of bread that we had never truly left each other’s minds and our hearts burned while we talked and our stomachs ached as we laughed.
I am sure we all have reunions that are centered on a meal, whether it be with friends at a certain restaurant or families around annual Thanksgiving Turkey or Christmas Ham. Food can bring us back to simpler times, and can strip down the most convoluted of minds to be able to sit and be at peace.
Jesus is found breaking bread with two people who should recognize him, but they seem completely oblivious to who they encounter on the road to Emmaus. And why would they in the fog of their last few weeks with a triumphant entry bursting with ambition and good news to the loss of their leader and friend buried in the ground with their aspirations and hopes… so when the news of an empty tomb and rumors of life after death come knocking, they are unable to muster courage to even look, and so we find them walking away filled with sorrow more worried about getting on after such a loss.
But Jesus shows up… and they are in the midst of wading through all of this stuff… and he inquires, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” Half angry and half surprised they respond to Jesus question and just unload…
“You don’t know…. Jesus… The prophet… the mighty one… he was arrested… they crucified him… he was suppose to be the chosen one… but there were some women… who saw some angels… and supposedly he’s alive… and all we know for sure is that the tomb is empty… so who knows what to believe…
You know you are having a rough day when you can tell a stranger everything when they ask, “What’s up?”
But Jesus knows what to believe and turns from an inquiring mind to a scholar calling the two fools for not believing and goes into an exegetical breakdown… interpreting where the Hebrew scriptures talk about what the Messiah must do…starting with Moses, Jesus leads them through two semesters of Ralph Klein Hebrew Bible talking about the prophets which his identity is so very much linked to in fulfillment of the Scriptures…
But they reach the end of the road… this is where they get off and as Jesus makes a move to keep going on these two reach out in hospitality.
Cleopas goes… Stay with us now for it is evening…
And the other one… And the day is almost over.
These two were not even able to bring themselves to see an empty tomb, so full of grief and hopelessness that they are just packing up and moving on, but Jesus has given them something to hold onto and they grasp at this stranger to come and fill the void of an evening sure to be silent without something more than just themselves.
So Jesus goes in with them and
Taking his place at the table like he would have several days earlier…Jesus the guest becomes the host, and he took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them… Jesus signature move…
At that moment their eyes are opened wide, not only is Jesus alive, but he is sitting in their midst. As excitement builds and before anyone can get a word out Jesus disappears from sight.
That simple action, taking bread... that becomes the catalyst for the greatest news… He is alive!
Cleopas and the other immediately figure out… this is why our hearts were burning on the road! So now what, stay and eat the bread and rejoice… no they go back out into the darkness that they warned Jesus about going on in because they cannot wait to share this news and they scatter the darkness of doubt as they come into the city saying, “The Lord has risen indeed.” They talk about the road and the bread, when he broke the bread and POOF! But it was him!!! Oh he lives, he lives, he lives!!!!
These two were walking away… and Jesus found them in the suspense of these last few days and the skepticism of an empty grave… Jesus searched like a shepherd for his sheep, like a woman for her lost coin. But when he finds them, there is no big feast, but instead bread… and that is where they come to know the risen Lord.
Jesus left them with an uncomplicated meal of bread and wine, body and blood and returns to it in order to divulge himself… the unassuming, modest breaking of bread is where the Messiah is made known. The humble home becomes a holy house as Jesus presence fills it and pushes the disciples out and back to Jerusalem with the good news that all the stories are true… the angels, the women, Peter… it’s all true, and in that moment these two were redeemed from wandering withered spirits to proficient preachers in a miraculous meal. And forever they will have the fleeting moment so that wherever they travel they need nothing more than bread, blessed and broken to see their risen Lord.
Today’s reading gives us Cleopas, but does not give us the other person walking on the road with Jesus. Is there an invitation to put ourselves there? An invitation to see ourselves walking with Christ, looking him right in the eyes and saying, “I thought he was the one…” or “they found the tomb, but they did not see him…”
Do we ever find ourselves feeling like there is no future… nothing ahead… only crosses and empty tombs and empty promises behind us?
What were our hopes? What did we dream for that now only exists as memories? Are we sometimes walking place to place, run ragged by our expectations of this life? Do we see Jesus when he inquires, “What are you discussing as you walk along this lonely road?
Are we able to hide our surprise and anger as we say, “Are you the only stranger that does not know the things that have taken place in my life?!” We list off our experiences… and Jesus listens as we dump out all our stuff hammering him like nails in a cross and we think we are talking to a stranger, but we do not realize that Jesus has conquered death and emptied the grave and walks with us now. Jesus is revealed in the Scriptures and as he moves to walk away, never truly intending to leave we hastily request that he stay with us in the darkness because we do not want to be alone… And Jesus enters unbeknownst to us…
Jesus walks with each and every one of us, waiting to reveal himself in blessed and broken bread. For some of us it is not very long as we approach the table repeatedly making it practice. Others will walk a lifetime with a stranger that they could never recognize… but either way there is a promise to never be alone again, and an invitation in this life to approach that table… and all are welcome to sit with the risen Lord taking bread blessed and broken remembering his words and his actions past the cross and out of the tomb.
Then the Scriptures are manifest and we see that God has provided us with bread given for us and that God has always provided for those in need starting with Moses and heavenly manna in the wilderness, then the prophets Jeremiah receiving bread from ravens and Elijah receives bread from a destitute widow with an animated flour jar, Jesus feeds 5000 people with just a couple loaves, and today in our reading, Jesus reveals himself to in a modest breaking of bread, as he did with Zacchaeus, sinners, tax collectors, and so many others in his life.
Where else do we see the Scriptures manifest in the breaking of bread?
-At the living room café down Cottage Grove as bread is served with dignity to those who would go without.
-In the community meal where everyone gets something, a drink, and a dessert.
-When we make sure there is a gluten free and vegetarian options so everyone can feel welcome at the table.
-When the table here is described as for all people, but that is not enough until the whole institution reflects that as well.
Christ body is broken for us at the table and God’s presence fills this place and pushes us out running back to that which we have left behind. Jesus’ teachings and ministry, enlightened by the Scriptures, are reenacted at the hospitality and table fellowship of the community of believers. We are sent from that table, our hearts burning with justice, peace and love. We know that Christ is alive and that every table is an opportunity where Christ can be revealed in the breaking of bread.
When I’m home with my friends, I could lament the time lost between visits and walk away, but in the breaking of bread our hearts are on fire, we are ignited running back to each other, claiming that the other is alive in our hearts and minds.
And so at the table we are reminded that all are raised and made alive in Christ Jesus. We are linked in the breaking of bread with all the saints past, present, and future. So whether in the ritual of dinner and a movie, courtyard barbecues, refectory lunches, or the handouts at local shelters, Christ is in modest breaking of bread, blessed and broken in remembrance of him.
Download a PDF of the sermon, HERE
Luke 24: 13-35