Sermon, October 4: Joyful

Today is World Communion Sunday, the day we come together to celebrate two things. The first is our diversity. The second is our oneness. My favorite way to think about this is by reading the story of the journey to Emmaus.

But before we think about what the story might mean, it matters that it is a story. And it is by story that we understand who we are, how we came to be, and what we are about. So let’s take a closer look at this old story, keeping in mind that its essence is eternal but the language is only ancient.

Let’s start with the simplest part – eating and drinking are essential to life. Even more, eating and drinking together are the way we mark big moments in our lives.

How, then, are we to celebrate with bread and cup, our very simple symbolic meal? What can it really say to us? The key biblical passages that pass on the church’s understanding of this meal are the words Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. They are the essence of it all, no matter the words we use, because their meaning is deeper than words. “For I received from the Lord,” Paul told the Corinthians, “what I passed on to you:”

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord until he comes.”

Four things: take, thank, break and share. It’s about doing, and – in the doing – memories and hope are joined together. Why do we “do this”? We do it to remember Jesus. And the heart of this remembering has to do with what it is that we remember about Jesus.

It was common for a time in the church’s history to do this to remember only the Last Supper and so, to understand the sacrament only in terms of the crucifixion. But central to remembering the crucifixion is the vital awareness that the cross would be long forgotten if it weren’t visible always and only in the light of Easter morning. This is crucial: if Jesus is Christ, then crucifixion and resurrection can never be separated.

Without that light of resurrection morning, Jesus himself would be long forgotten. The two sad travelers on the road to Emmaus would have gotten it right. Once it had looked to them like Jesus was the one who had been spoken of by the prophets. Once Peter has even said he was the Christ. But that walk to Emmaus happened three long evenings after he was crucified. He had died and, as far as these two could see, it was over.

So Cleopas and his friend got out of town. While they were walking, Luke says “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them but they were kept from recognizing him.” When it began to get dark, they asked him to stay and share their supper.

“When he was at the table with them, “[Luke says] “he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” He did those four things – did you hear them – he took, thanked, broke and shared. It was about doing, and, in the doing, history and hope were joined together.

You know, of course, that this is not just a story about two people on a back road a couple of thousand years ago. It’s a story that repeats itself over and over down through time. What could we see, do you think, if we were at the table and our eyes were opened? Well, one thing would be that we would sense that God is involved in our lives – using the simple requirements of our lives to love us, change us, re-create us.

Trust the story, Jesus said. Break the bread. Drink the cup. Do this. Do it so we also might recognize the stranger as the One whose presence creates a space where all can come together and join in a moment when sharing the gifts of the earth becomes the way toward sharing the love of God.   Amen.

Posted by Rev. Barbara Ewton

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