Sunday, April 30, 2017

A platter of hummus and some pieces of bread

We have know the risen Lord, Alleluia, in the breaking of the bread. Alleluia, alleluia.

On the last day of a Holy Land trip with some disappointment I learned that while we would be visiting the celebrated village Emmaus / Abu Ghosh seven miles from Jerusalem, we would not be staying for lunch at its celebrated landmark, the restaurant boasting a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest platter of hummus.

Instead we would only have time to visit the (Crusader era) church commemorating the encounter “on the road to Emmaus” of two disciples on the afternoon of Easter Sunday with an unrecognized man who turned out to be Jesus.

At first they thought him to be ill-informed as, while in their grief-struck flight from the city they went over the events of the past few days, from Palm Sunday to Good Friday and on to the supposed-hysterical reports of the women who found the tomb empty that morning, he asked them what they were talking about and, with all the sarcastic astonishment of tourists in the know, they react: “Are you the only one who doesn’t know what’s been happening?”

Then he in turn with patience interprets the events of the past few days, not on the surface level of what’s happening but on the deeper level of what is really going on, preparing them for the deeper revelation of what is really going on in the Breaking of the Bread, that is, the revelation of the Messiah.

In his converse on the road the apparent stranger lays out for them, we are told, all about the Messiah throughout the Scriptures.

I sometimes thought of this Emmaus story in seminary, in the course Systematics 100, because each week we’d read a new theologian, and I thought it could be that we are trying to fit God (or Christ) in a box and just when we think we’ve got him in there with the lid closed, he leans over our shoulders, and asks, Hey, guys, what’ve you got in the box?

What really opens their eyes is not theological argument by itself but the experience of the living Lord, his loving presence, … as they are there with him, in conversation, their hearts burning as they hear the Word, and then their eyes, opening wide, as he takes, blesses, breaks, and offers, the Bread that is his own Body.

What happens to us when we listen to the Word he speaks to us?

What happens when we accept the Bread that he offers us?

Yes there is sustenance, nourishment, and reassurance of his presence.

And yet there is even more going on, when we accept that bread.

We become what we receive. -- Rabbi Thomas Louchheim pointed us to these words in the communion song “El cuerpo de Cristo” last Tuesday during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood for Bishop Gerald Kicanas.

It is not only about how he is present in the bread (or how we take in that bread) it is about how we are incorporated into him.

It is not just about getting the body of Christ into you - or how that happens - it’s about getting you (incorporated) into the Body of Christ.

When have you been on this road, away from disaster and disappointed hope, headed perhaps back to the familiar, the secure, however wise your decision to leave it in the first place?

When have you fallen in with strange company and learned something new, something that changed your perspective?

When have you received the bread, blessed and broken, that changed your life? That caused you to look with fresh eyes on the world around you, on your companions and yourself?

How about today?

Abide with us - abide in us.

Abide with us as the stranger encountered on the road.

Abide with us as the unrecognized teacher revealing the hidden mysteries of faith.

Abide with us as the patient companion, the inquisitive fellow, who seeks us out for fellowship and a mutual opening of hearts.

Abide with us as the priest, who takes, blesses, breaks, offers… himself, that we might see him and hope anew when hope was lost.

Abide with us as the Messiah you yourself prepared us to accept, the one who is Redeemer and Salvation for all people.

Abide with us as the mysterious stranger who knows our hearts and warms us to the core.

Abide in us as the fire within, enkindle by knowledge and love, en-flaming experience, your holy spirit, lead us into all truth, not merely pointing the way, but being the way.

For you are the Road on which we must travel, the journey’s end at its beginning, the impetus of our movement and the welcome of our rest. AMEN.

AEaster3 2017 4/30 Tombstone, A.T.

John Schiavone, Amen. El Cuerpo De Cristo. (OCP, 1995)

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