by Mandy Mizelle Norris, Associate Pastor
This past Sunday, we contemplated the story of the two travelers on their way to Emmaus that first Easter day. Two of Jesus’ followers who meet and walk with him, presumably for miles, listening to him recount scripture from Moses through all the prophets… and yet call him “Stranger.”
Maybe they were overcome by the events of the past few days, from the Passover celebration through the crucifixion and burial, their eyes cloaked — closed — in grief.
Maybe Jesus looked radically different in some way(s) after all of this. He was resurrected, not merely resuscitated, after all.* The point was never to be the same.
Whatever the case, they do not recognize him until they are at the table together, and Jesus blesses and breaks bread, and gives it to them. Then, John tells us, their eyes are opened and they recognize him. Later, they tell the others that “he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
He had been known to them in the breaking of the bread.
On Sunday, we broke and passed and took bread — thanks be to God and Guglhupf! — from where we were sitting (in my case, standing). For at least a few moments, we looked up from the roads along which we had been trudging, saw beyond the events that distract and overwhelm us, touched and smelled and tasted, paid attention to the One who draws near — and yet is strange(r), beyond our grasp.
In homiletics — a fancy word for the study and art of crafting and delivering sermons — I learned that you cannot fit everything you want into a sermon (unless you are Baptist and the sermon is 40 minutes). This academic theory is confirmed by your faces about 12 minutes into preaching.
So I always have at least two documents open when I am writing: my “real” sermon — the one I’ll actually preach; and the unedited version, with all the extra material that helps inspire and inform the process, but may not make it to the pulpit.
One of the outtakes this week was this gem from Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World:
“To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger—these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.”
It was not the long explanation, the careful interpretation of scripture that revealed to the travelers who Jesus was; it was the pleasure-filled, extra ordinary, any-bodily practice of breaking bread.
This strikes me as very Good News in a world that constantly whispers — sometimes shouts — that we need to know, to do, to be more. Very Good News for those of us who consider our lives and our selves, our occupations and our offerings (in the widest senses) too simple, not enough.
In this season of Easter, this perennial spell of resurrection, may the presence of God and spirit of Christ be made known to us in the bending and digging, the chopping and stirring, the reaching and receiving.
*Marcus Borg elaborates on this point in the eight chapter, “The Truth of Easter,” of The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions — worth reading!