What Is This Bread? What Is This Cup?

First Congregational Church UCC, Wareham MA, June 2, 2019                                                                       

Luke 24:13-35  – When he was at the 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. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 

That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.

On Easter Sunday afternoon, two of Jesus’ disciples were headed home.  After all their hopes, all the excitement of Palm Sunday, they’d though the week would be one triumph after another.  And, we know, it wasn’t.  Instead, it was one disaster after another, each one worse, until at the end of the week, their beloved leader, Jesus, was executed.

They were headed for home and safety, headed away from any of the anger in Jerusalem, headed home after hearing the story about the Resurrection from some of the women, who’d gotten the crazy idea that the reason Jesus’ body wasn’t in the tomb was that he had risen from the dead.  Just too hard to believe, and if it’d been real, wouldn’t it have been Peter or James or John who’d have been told?  Not one of the women???

They were walking and as they glumly ambled down the road, each of them looking as though they’d lost their best friend, they were joined by a stranger, someone they didn’t recognize.  The stranger asked them why they were so sad.  In astonishment that anyone wouldn’t have heard what happened, they spilled out the whole story.  They even told how they couldn’t possibly believe the women and their astounding story.

You might well think they were pretty clueless, to not recognize Jesus when he was walking right beside them, but think about it.  Don’t you remember times when you had trouble recognizing someone – maybe they cut their hair so it was now short when it’d been really long, or shaved off a beard, or wore radically different clothing?  Sometimes we might think to ourselves, wow, that looks like Susie…muse be a cousin, when it’s actually Susie.  In this case, since they knew, absolutely, that Jesus was dead, it didn’t matter how much the man looked like him – he couldn’t possibly be him, and so they didn’t recognize him.

They told him their story and he gave it right back to them, re-telling them all Jesus had said – the words spoke to them, they liked what he was saying, enough that they begged him to stay with them in Emmaus and have dinner, but still they didn’t recognize him.

It wasn’t until they shared bread and cup that they began to realize that Jesus was back, was with him. The bread and cup – the scent, the taste, the experience of being together – all combined to bring them back, to have them knowthat Jesus still lived, still was changing the world.

The bread and cup we’ll share this morning are the same meal that the disciples shared with Jesus so long ago.  And the story we shared tells us some important things about the meal.

Because, you know, eating this bread, drinking this cup, is about more than simple eating and drinking. This isn’t snack time in the church. This is an expression of our willingness to follow Christ.  It is the way we tell the world to step away from our hope, our faith, our commitment to love.

For us, Communion is something like an AA meeting, where we can hear and tell life stories, know pain, comfort and be comforted, and, when we eat and drink, say to God and ourselves, yes, still, again, one day, one month at a time, I will follow Jesus.

Our ancestors in faith believed that taking communion faithfully and regularly would absolutely strengthen us in faith – they called it food for the sin-sick soul, medicine for the weary, comfort in suffering.

Communion is a meal which transcends time; when we eat and drink, doing what our ancestors have done, there’s a way in which we are united in this common commitment, so that we are not alone, but joined by all who have gone before us, an unending stream of saints of God – parents, maybe; surely friends and fellow church members who have gone on before us.

And there’s more… because Communion isn’t only about me and my life, but about declaring to our world that there is another way to life.  Communion is an act of defiance – in the face of those who would separate us into “us” and “them”, we eat together as one.  

In the face of those who would say that some people are better, smarter, whiter, more important, we say that every person matters.  Just as we hear, on tv or radio or internet, that it’s ok for people to be homeless, hungry, or dying because they can’t afford a doctor, we eat and drink together to say that God loves everyone, and no one should be without home or food, work or heath.

Here we all are, in this place where we regularly meet God, care about one another, and plot to change our world, and now there is only one more thing to do. . . 

And that is to simply share this feast; it is small but it is mighty.  So when the meal is passed, take your share, and when you eat and drink, know that Jesus sits with you, and trust in the strength it will give you to continue faithful for all your days.


© 2019, Virginia H. Child