Known in the Bread

I have always loved the “Walk to Emmaus” passage. It is one of my favorite post-Easter readings. I totally relate to two men who unknowingly encounter the risen Jesus and are so startled by the very notion of a risen Jesus that they don’t know until the very end that they have been walking with the RISEN JESUS!

Let’s be honest. There are many times in our lives when we have failed to realize that the risen Jesus has been walking by our side, too.

Jesus is sneaky like that.

Jesus joins these guys as they are discussing all the events that had just taken place in Jerusalem, ending in the crucifixion. They related a lot of good detail about Jesus, and how they thought he was the Messiah, the One who would deliver Israel. They then recounted how the women had “confused them” this morning by reporting that the tomb was discovered to be empty. Everything was laid out before them, but they couldn’t put two and two together.

Jesus was a tad peeved.

Luke 24 (The Message)

25-27 Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?”

Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

Can you image any better “Prophets of the Old Testament” professor? The fellows still didn’t get it…but at least they had the good sense to invite Jesus to dinner.

28-31 They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

In all that is beautiful about this passage, it is the singular moment when Jesus blessed and broke the bread that the power of the risen Lord was revealed, and their eyes were opened.

That is exactly what happens in communion. Jesus becomes known to us in the breaking of the bread. We arrive at the altar, looking for him. When the bread is broken, we know that it is for our sake that the brokenness happens. He broke his body to heal OUR brokenness. That is what we recognize in the bread.

Communion has been set aside in my church for the duration of the pandemic, following the suggestion of our Bishop. Many people have adopted a practice of home communion, and some churches have created online communion. I have a friend who celebrated communion all by herself on Easter Sunday by carrying the elements in a backpack up a sand dune, and taking them as the sun came up. I think that is beautiful. I think it is ALL beautiful. I think abstaining is also beautiful.

I know for me, when I finally am able to take and serve communion, the abstinence from it will make that moment all the sweeter. I want more than anything to be TOGETHER when that happens, and I pray it happens soon.

But in the meantime, know this: the risen Jesus has been walking with us all along.

Walking with Jesus by Janie Serbousek

Befriending Your Brokenness

Last week I told my congregation a story that came out of India. There once was a water bearer who had two large water pots in which he carried water from the river to his master every day. One of the pots was perfect. The other one had a crack in it. The perfect pot always arrived at the master’s quarters perfectly full. The cracked pot was always half empty. Embarrassed and ashamed, the cracked pot said to his carrier one day, “Why don’t you get rid of me? I never arrive at the master’s quarters more than half full.”

”Ah,” replied the water bearer, ”you don’t know the full story. Look beside the road where I carry you each day. There are flowers growing that I pick for the master’s table. The flowers only bloom on your side of the road. It is your cracked pot that waters them.”

Isn’t that an inspiring story for all of the cracked pots reading this today???

Scripture: Psalm 147: 2-5 (NRSV)

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.

This beautiful Psalm speaks of brokenness. It reminds us that God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Brokenness is everywhere. All around us are people dealing with broken hearts, broken bodies, broken dreams, broken relationships, broken thoughts, broken jobs, broken social lives, broken promises, broken minds….brokenness has been part of who we are since Adam and Eve broke the covenant with God in the garden.

In his wonderful book The Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen suggests that we befriend our brokenness by embracing it, acknowledging it, and owning up to it. This is far preferable to running away from it. The first step to healing is not a step away from the pain of brokenness, but a step toward it. Attempting to avoid, repress, or escape the pain is like cutting off a limb that could be re-attached if it only had proper attention.

Nouwen asserts that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we desire, but instead it can become the means to it. But he cautions that we can’t do it alone. We need someone to stand with us in the brokenness, to remind us that there is peace beyond the anguish, life beyond death, and love beyond fear.

Are you broken? What is the source of your anguish? Where is God calling you to lay down your broken pieces and let him make something beautiful out of them?

As you make your way through it, find a friend. Ask for help. Go to a therapist, a church, a clergy person, a trusted family member, and get someone to come alongside of you. Nouwen is right. If we befriend our brokenness with someone who has befriended us, we will find hope at the end of the journey together.

God will use your brokenness to bring forth beautiful flowers, if you let him. Everyone and everything can be repaired, and you will find meaning and value in the hands of the Master. You are the Beloved!

Broken Shell Planter by Jan Wilson