Summary: Involves the congregation in some immediate community-building, as well as inviting them to see the face of Jesus on their brother or sister. Explores the corporate role of "communion".
Easter 3A - April 14, 2002
"Made Known In The Breaking of the Bread" - Luke 24:13-35
Grace and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior, who is made known to us in the breaking of the bread.
On that first Easter day, two of Jesus’ followers were heading away from Jerusalem toward Emmaus. They may have been heading out of town because of fear, despair, hopelessness, or because they had a previous engagement, but they were definitely headed out of town. Suddenly a strange man was speaking with them, asking questions about the one they had hoped would be the Messiah. The two travelers informed the stranger of the bizarre events of the day - the women not finding the body at the tomb, seeing angels who said he was alive. The stranger replied with some vague references to scripture…and Messiah.
When they arrived at the place they were headed, the travelers invited the stranger to come stay with them. When this stranger was at 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." This man was no stranger; it was Jesus, and they knew him in the breaking of the bread. Not in the words on the road, not in the sight of his physical body, not in anything he said to them or did to them, but in the moment of the breaking of the bread.
There is something so intimate about the idea of walking alone on a road with Jesus. Just traveling together, chatting as we walk along, getting personal pointers from the Son of God. Just me and Jesus. Nothing fancy, just two buddies catching up on lost time. Me and Jesus, on our own private road, with no one else to butt in. No one else to bother us or change us or challenge us or make us think. Just me and Jesus.
And though there is something so comforting about that picture, there is also something very insidious and dysfunctional about the image as well. Just the idea that a spiritual experience could be just me and Jesus is tempting, but inadequate. Think about it: no one to challenge me; no one to disagree with; no dissenting opinions. Just me and Jesus. How can we talk about reflecting the kingdom of God without the presence of a variety of people and a diversity of opinions? How can just one person walking along a road with Jesus represent the whole of humanity? It can’t. Faith is a corporate venture.
Think about the experience the travelers had on the road. They had their own personal moment with Jesus as they walked along, and yet when did they recognize him? They recognized him when they were at table with him, as he broke the bread in their midst. And immediately, instead of memorializing the spot where he had been or erecting a monument to the Emmaus experience, those two travelers ran back to Jerusalem, as fast as they could, to tell the others how "[Jesus] had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread". They knew that this experience could not be kept private. They had to tell the others.
Every week, we gather here at Timothy and share Communion. Every week, this community gathers in Christ’s name and recalls that special meal, as Jesus is made known to us in the breaking of the bread. It sounds self-explanatory but this communion meal is for a communal gathering of the community. The word "communion" has the same Latin root (communis) as the words common (as in "they held everything in common"), communal, and community. The communion meal is never just a pious moment with Jesus and me. When we come to the table of the Lord, we come with people who are different from us - culturally, socially, ethnically, personally - but the communion meal unites us.
Sharing communion can build community, but we must go beyond just kneeling next to each other at the altar rail. Each of you, visitor or member, is a vital part of this community of faith. I want you right at this moment to locate someone in here who you do not know and go sit by them for a few moments. As you sit together, find something you have in common with that person. Maybe it’s your favorite hymn, or scripture passage, or maybe you were confirmed in the same year, or maybe you like the same movie or musical group. Have enough conversation that you can determine some commonalities between the two of you. (Yes, this means you have to get up, and you may have to speak to a stranger.) I’ll give you about 3-5 minutes to do this exercise.