Third Sunday of Easter Yr A April 26 2020
Acts 2:14a,36-41, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35, Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17
Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread. From the moment my journey in the Episcopal church began, this is the scripture, the prayer, the action, that made the presence of Jesus Christ real for me. There is nothing about church, about community, about family, about faith, about compassion and justice, about baptismal promises, about a passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is not contained in this little collection of words, if only we can recognize. Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread.
As a child, I lived in a community of people. I am five of eight. There were most always people around, and the liveliest times of the day were our dinner meal. We would scrunch around our kitchen table, someone would have to sit on a stool at the counter, actually, the bread board, remember bread boards? in order to get us all in. I wonder if then I recognized the wonder in all that chaos. When my extended family would gather for holidays there were 23 of us grandchildren. We would enjoy a meal together, but not much quiet. Often many of us little ones would end up staying the night wherever we were, eating breakfast and lunch together the next day, and playing of course. I think the seeds of understanding Jesus’ real presence were planted in those gatherings.
In the summer of 2013, Rick and I, and Tom and Amanda, and Willie went on an incredible journey, and among many amazing things we did, we met some of our Norwegian relatives. They were as happy to meet us as we were to meet them. A cousin, Jan, took us to see the land on which our ancestors farmed. We were profoundly moved as we stood on that land, and felt the timeless connection to those who came before us, and those who will follow us. We recognized that connection, that story that joins us all together. At Jan's home, we ate a wonderful meal of Norwegian porridge, and pork, and cheese, and bread, of course. The next day we gathered with my cousins Kjell and MaryAnn, and had heart shaped waffles with cloudberries.
Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread.
It makes so much sense, as we journey together through this life, that breaking bread together is the central activity for us, we come from farmers after all. The most radical activity that Jesus engaged in was to invite people to a meal. And everyone got that invitation. Not only were there religious leaders, there were tax collectors, there were women, single women at that, women who were protected by no one. At table Jesus taught about the kingdom of God. At table Jesus disrupted the social order. At table, Jesus nourished not only the body, but the spirit and the soul as well.
When we gather together at the communion table we come from home and work and school; we come from far away and down the street, we come and we tell our story, and we tell the story of God’s activity in our lives; we tell the story of creation, blessing, turning away, God loving us back into relationship, repentance, reconciliation and restoration. We tell the story of life, death, and resurrection. We tell the truth.
The story that we know and we tell, is about how God saved God's people from the flood waters, and God freed God's people from slavery in Egypt. God brought God's people out of exile back into their land and God came to live and die as one of us, Jesus is in our midst.
We read and we study and tell these stories. We listen and talk about what God did and continues to do in this world. We tell these stories to our children. And we do because they help us remember who we are. We remember who we are and we recognize one another and we are recognized in the breaking of the bread and the prayers. We give thanks for our blessings; we ask for healing for ourselves and others, we eat together.
That is what happened with the two in our story today, who were walking away from Jerusalem, dejected, alone, afraid. Wondering what it was all about, wondering how it all went so very wrong. And the one who told the story of Moses and all the prophets, who told them the story of Jesus, joined them. They invited him to stay, he did, they ate together, and they recognized him.
We recognize Jesus in the people with whom we gather to share and tell our stories, and the stories of our faith; we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, we see Jesus in the hands, and in the eyes, and in the faces of the people who are at our table.
But we also recognize Jesus in the stranger, and the alien, and the immigrant. We see and hear Jesus in those who are out there, those who continue to live in isolation, in loneliness, in hurt, in this broken world. We recognize the freedom, the peace, the community that can be theirs as well.
Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread. But it's not just in the baking of the bread, or in the breaking of the bread, the bread broken for you and for me. Our wholeness comes from brokenness, our healing rises up out of broken hearts that are mended by God’s love. Humanity is made whole once more by the real presence of Jesus in our midst, in our lives, in our brokenness, the broken bread.
Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread. Help us to recognize you in word and sacrament, in story and in food, help us to see you in the midst of community. Help us to be agents of your new creation, standing on the ground that you have already won in your resurrection.
And yet, we sit in our homes today, having not broken bread together for weeks. And we ask the question, Risen Lord, when we are not breaking bread together, are you still present? We miss you so much. We miss communion and community so much. But Jesus' gift of love and life is as real now as ever. If we were never to have bread and wine together again, Jesus would continue in our midst, of that I am sure. My heart and soul yearn to break bread together, with all of you. But Jesus in our midst is not dependent on us. Jesus is really present with us, wherever we are, socially distant or socially proximate. Jesus is present in the bread we break around our tables at home. Jesus is present in the ways we break for others, in our time given, in our phone calls made, in the cards written, in the prayers offered. Soon we will gather again, but always remember that Jesus is with us even when we are absent, one from another.