In the breaking of the bread

Luke 24:28-36

Whenever there is news of a major storm it seems the first aisle in the grocery store to be emptied is the bread aisle, with milk, eggs, and peanut butter a close second.

Many of the healthy afterschool snack ideas circulating as families start preparing for Fall include some type of bread.

Bread in the form of freshly baked rolls, bread sticks, or warm slices of fresh rye, sour dough, Italian, or corn bread often accompany meals in our favorite restaurants.

Bread with peanut butter and jelly is usually acceptable to even the pickiest of eaters and can be the answer to dinner when everyone’s too tired to cook or are headed out the door to sports practice, 4-H club, a meeting, or other activity.

Toast is a standard foundation for a quick healthy breakfast and holiday meals are always more special with the transformation of this basic food into stuffing and bread pudding.

Some form of bread is often on our tables.  Throughout the world, if resources have depleted to the point there isn’t even bread on the table, hope for sustaining life is gone.

Bread is the staff of life, today, as it has been throughout the ages.  Because of its symbolic relationship to life, breaking rather than cutting bread is an ancient custom which continues in some faith communities today.

We have talked about bread during this series of messages on coming to the table and here we find it again.  Jesus revealed to those who should have recognized him, in the breaking of the bread.

There are many ways to look at this passage, you have heard many of them over the years, as this is a common passage to share on Easter.  The context of this encounter is the day the followers of Jesus find an empty tomb and begin to try to make sense of all that has happened.

This morning I invite us to look at the passage through the perception of the bread.

Before our senses can take in the presence of bread at our table, ingredients must be brought together in the correct proportion and order.

Here we find Cleopas and his companion, whom some think was his wife Mary who was at the foot of the cross during the crucifixion.  They seem stressed and uncertain, possibly overwhelmed by their experiences.  They are talking and discussing what has taken place over the previous few days and are trying to make sense of it all.  Maybe the kind of conversation your families have on the way home from a significant event in your lives.

We find that, in some ways, these two followers of Jesus are trying to taste the bread without pulling together all of the ingredients.

Jesus comes close and begins to walk with them.  They don’t recognize him.  We hear that “their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.”  I don’t think this necessarily means there was Divine intervention that kept them from knowing who he was.

They were preoccupied with many “what does this mean?” questions and personal disappointment that this leader, who they believed would free them in a political way, was no longer in a position to do so.

Their last view of their friend and rabbi was one of a beaten up, bloodied, life-less man.  Walking with them was Jesus in his glorified body.  He didn’t come to them in the condition someone who had hung on a cross until death would come.  They weren’t looking for him and so couldn’t see Him.  His face may have been recognizable, but so many circumstances putting him out of context and distracting them may have been the reason their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.

I suspect that most of us have walked by someone on the street, distracted by the things we are trying to accomplish, the appointment we are trying to keep, the conversation we just had, and don’t recognize the person until they call out our name to say hello.

Jesus doesn’t acknowledge he knows them, and Cleopas and Mary bring this stranger up to speed on the events of the week, not realizing the one they are updating is the one who lived it all.  Then Jesus, understanding they haven’t put all the ingredients together, begins to share the recipe and beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interprets to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

The right ingredients, brought together in the proper proportion and timing, mixed together to bring the Bread of Life to the table, as recorded in scripture.  A complete recipe of God’s plan to provide us with bread which will satisfy and bring us abundant life.

Something in this conversation drew the couple to Jesus.  There is no indication they were put off by the frustration Jesus expresses as he begins his teaching with the words, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”  They invite him to stay for a meal.  Not a polite invitation, but an urging plea for him to stay with them, to share table with them, to continue the conversation.

The ingredients pulled and pushed together, the bread is exposed to the heat which releases its wonderful aroma.  Whether over an open fire and tucked into a stone oven, the sense of smell is treated to the odor promising to deliciously end their hunger.

Then the Bread of Life holds the warm, fragrant, loaf in His hands.  The One broken for them and for us, holding the bread, blessing it, breaking it.  Scripture revealed in the breaking of the bread in their presence.  Their Savior as the one who ends their spiritual hunger, who frees them from their sin, who brings them life filled with hope, becomes recognizable to them in the breaking of the bread.

The staple of physical life revealed as the staple of spiritual life.

Context may have factored into their recognition of Jesus as he did what he had done in their presence throughout his ministry.  He took bread, blessed it, broke it and handed to others to share.  The familiar mannerisms, actions, tone of voice, words opening their eyes.   The meal seems to end in that moment, as Jesus disappears from their physical presence as soon as they recognize him.  In reality I believe, the meal goes on, gathering all who accept the invitation to come to the table throughout the ages.

It had already been a long, difficult week for Cleopas and Mary – good night’s sleep and leisurely meal more of a necessity than a desire.  Yet the bread broken in their presence by their risen Lord was too good to keep to themselves, too important to let them sleep on what was revealed to them.

They get back on the road, travel  hours by foot to share the bread with others.  In turn, others have experienced the presence of the risen Christ through discussions of spiritual things and in the sharing of the common meal of Holy Communion.  Bread held, blessed, and broken so our eyes may see Christ as He is revealed to us through scripture and the faith stories of those who have witnessed His presence.

On the days when I am frustrated with how things are going.  When relationships are strained or broken, when a direction I was sure God was leading ends up at a brick wall, when finances are strained or health concerns surface, when it seems there is way too much to do and too little time to do it, I think Jesus calls to me with the words, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah[e] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”

How foolish I am that I don’t remember all the ingredients, the easy to handle as well as the messy ingredients, are necessary to the story.  That God is faithful, all of Scripture reveals that faithfulness; That Jesus has it handled, all of Scripture points to the understanding that Christ has us covered with Grace that frees us from our bondage to sin and fills us with hope;  That we are all welcome at the table, to share in the meal that comes from the breaking of the bread

Jesus the Christ walks with us today.  Sits at these tables with us.  He is holding the bread of life in his hands, offering it to us.

Imagine that temperatures would allowed me to bake this loaf in this kitchen this morning, that the room is filled with the delicious aroma of fresh baked bread, that we are hungry to taste that which we know will satisfy all of our senses.

To receive this nourishment, it must be broken, pieces torn off and shared.  To recognize the risen Lord, we must open the loaf of scripture and prayer-filled conversation, break it apart, and share it.
When we see Jesus glorified, recognize how the ingredients, the story, come together and see how each one of us is part of that story through Christ, we recognize how in partaking of the loaf, we experience God’s grace and are energized to share the broken bread with others.  It is a bread that not only feeds us, but transforms us.  This broken bread will never run out, we can share it as much as we can and there will still be more than enough for each of us and for all those with whom we share it.
As we share at the table today, I pray Christ will be revealed to us in new ways and we will be energized to share the grace we experience with others in all places and situations.  Filled with joy that cannot be contained and which pushes us to action, we can offer the hope and love around all the tables of our lives.   Amen

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