The Breaking of Bread

October 3, 2010                          Luke 24:13-35
In the words of a member of Trinity Mennonite Church in Phoenix Arizona, where recent legislation has many followers of Christ asking difficult questions about how to be in Arizona:
…if people want to live in this country, they need to come in legally, apply for citizenship and embrace America.  If they are not legal, they need to go back to Mexico.  I felt very strongly about these beliefs and never really questioned them until last week.
My preconceived beliefs were shaken when I met …two young Hispanic girls.
They are sisters, both in the National Honor Society and came to [my workplace] to do community service to meet the requirements of the Honor Society.

These young women were [given the task of assembling] some 120 book bags and filling them with appropriate school supplies. This requires great attention to detail [since each bag is packed with different things according to the age and gender of the recipient].
…These young women were amazing…[they] paid attention to every detail.  I could not have asked for better volunteers to help with this project.
During this process it became evident we would need more supplies.  I suggested lunch before our shopping trip.  We went to Burger King.  During lunch I asked [one of the girls]if she was excited about her senior year in high school and what she planned after graduation.
She explained she carries a 4.0 grade average and would love to be become a sports medicine doctor.  In addition to excelling academically, she is also very involved in sports.  I asked her about her family.  She explained her father is in prison and that her mother supports the four children by cleaning houses.
She explained that she could not get a job because she has no social security number, nor does her sister.
They are both in the country illegally, and have been since they were infants.
Neither one of these women have ties to Mexico-they are Americans-who if forced to return to Mexico would have to drop out of school since their mother would no longer be able to support them.
Suddenly I was torn.  Senate bill 1070was not so black and white after all.
[These two young women] daily fear that they will be rounded up and sent back to Mexico.
They fear their family being torn apart, since two younger children would probably stay in Arizona since they were born here and are therefore ‘citizens’.
I too, suddenly became fearful.
I was driving around in my car with an illegal person, a crime in Arizona.
What if I were stopped-would I go to jail?  Would this wonderful, smart, intelligent girl be torn from her family, robbed of her future, and sent back to Mexico?
Something that should have been a joyous shopping trip turned into a nightmare.
“Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.”
They sat together.  They ate together.
The stranger picked up the bread.
Gave thanks–and Broke it.
And began to give it to them.
Whether it was at home around the table or at burger king on a shopping trip…it was then in the breaking of bread that the disciples recognized the Risen Christ.
It was then that the world became a very surprising place, as preconceived notions about life and death and legal status were broken and a new way of life unfolded before them.
What about you?  What about us?
What is it that clouds our vision?
I’ve always wondered about that verse that says ‘their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.”
Maybe the sun was in their eyes, since they were walking west and it was the end of the day.
Maybe the resurrected Jesus looked so different than he did before that it was impossible to recognize him.
Maybe they were just so absorbed by their own grief over losing their teacher and friend that they couldn’t be expected to recognize the face on the road with them.
Maybe they just never made eye contact.
Maybe they were so blinded by the comfort and ease of a privileged, 21 Century North American lifestyle that they found it nearly impossible to break out of their isolation and make room for someone new in their routine!  🙂
The list of maybes could go on forever.
But the fact remains that the resurrected Christ came to them first as a stranger–and these were guys who supposedly knew him well.
See, all of those ‘maybes’ seem like pretty good answers to the question of why these guys didn’t recognize Jesus, and maybe why we don’t recognize Him today.
But I just don’t think it’s the right question.
This story isn’t told because we need to know how to recognize Jesus.
It’s told because we need to know how to treat strangers!

Are we open to their company?  Do we urge them to stay?  Do we withhold our judgment until we’ve eaten with them?
Or are we content to watch them fade into the distance from the comfort, security, and familiarity of our homes?
And then we wonder why we feel so isolated and alone.
This story is kind of like that story about the king who used to dress up as a peasant and go around the kingdom to see what people really thought about him.  That’s the only way he could really get their honest opinion.
Jesus does the same thing here–except he’s not looking for our opinions.
He’s looking for our hospitality.
You never know when or where or in whom Jesus is going to show up.
So be alert!  Be Ready!  Don’t let Him go!

It must have been pretty unsettling, you know?
To sit down for supper with a guest you hardly know…to sit around the table with the road behind you and the broken bread before you…only to realize the world is not as you thought it was.
It must have been pretty unsettling to see the face of a dead man come to life–right there at your table, eating with you, sharing stories, and then disappearing just like that.
Is it any wonder they left that same hour to go back to Jerusalem?
this story is usually called “the road to Emmaus”–but you know, it could just as easily be called ‘the road from Emmaus’, because that’s where they were driven by the Risen Christ!
Suddenly, the only security these guys could find would be in the knowledge that their world was a very, very surprising place.  So they scrambled back to the fellowship!
They needed people who would understand, people who could help them make sense of their experience.  So they got up from the table and retraced the 7 miles back.
On  foot.
After dark.
It’s not what ‘respectable’ people do.
But this encounter with Jesus propelled them out the door.  It drove them to turn their backs on home and rejoin the people who could help them make sense of this encounter.
How’s that for a definition of church at its best?
A group of people propelled to meet together because it’s the only place we can make sense of this Jesus-thing that’s happening to us?
Jesus wants to surprise us by showing up when we least expect it, in faces we don’t recognize!
In other words, how we respond to the stranger reflects on how we respond to Christ.
Whether he stays or goes depends on that hospitality, or the lack of it.
In just a few minutes, we’ll be taking communion together.
Today gatherings like ours are doing this all over the world, as an act of solidarity with each other.
It’s a symbolic thing, but it’s also one of the most powerful things we can do as a church.
When we break bread together, it’s more than bread that is broken.
Walls of hostility and misunderstanding are broken down as well.  But you’re the one who has to receive that brokenness.  You’re the one who has to make room for the stranger, receive bread from their hand, and then respond.
So who’s the stranger who’s invading your space?
Jesus comes, but he’s not pushy.  He’ll keep moving if you let him.
I know we don’t like to think of it like that–we prefer to think of Jesus as something like an insurance policy that stays with us as long as we keep up the payments…but he was acting like he was going to keep walking in this passage.
Let’s not take Him for granted.  Invite the stranger in, no matter what your politics, your prejudice, or your friends might say.

Would you pray with me as I close this morning.
Dear God, you show up on our journey, and you reveal yourself at the end of the day, in the breaking of bread.
Give us wisdom.  Be present with us as we journey with strangers.  Show yourself along our journey, in the sharing of food, in acts of humble service, in the washing of feet.
Find us willing hosts and gracious guests as we stumble along life’s way.



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