Can I have this to go?

We human beings like convenience. We want what we want when we want it. When we can’t have it on our terms we tend to get a little testy. At least it appears that way, as we seem to hear more messages about tantrums than we hear stories about grace.

Today we have heard two stories of convenience: one of home delivery and one of carryout. Each of these stories reveals something about us, but more importantly they reveal something about God that we may have forgotten in our tantrums or desire for convenience.

These stories remind us that the Lord makes house calls. The Lord is not remote and detached as we may sometimes imagine from our own experience. Quite the contrary, the Lord is on walkabout among us and creation.

We may have forgotten this because we are distracted by our own desires or cares. Like Peter walking upon the waters of Galilee, we may have started out on the right foot but we soon founder and sink because we are distracted by the busyness, the cares, and the fear that surrounds us. Yet the whole time, Jesus is standing on the water before us with his hands outstretched ready to steady us. Talk about convenience!

Some of us are more aware and open to the presence of the Lord among us. Consider Abraham and Sarah. While it’s possible that Abraham did not recognize his divine guests at first, nonetheless he reveals his openness in his radical hospitality of welcome and provision for his guests. And Sarah does her part in extending this hospitality too, but she also reveals the limits of her openness. Convinced of her circumstance, that “it had ceased to be with [her] after the manor of women,”[1] Sarah laughs when she hears that she and Abraham are to have a son. Like Sarah, where does our conviction or skepticism come between us and God’s abiding presence and grace?

And then there are the disciples that Jesus calls to be Apostles. Like Abraham, these disciples know their Lord to be in their midst on a walkabout through the cities, villages, and countryside bringing good news and defying pragmatic assumptions by healing what is broken. These twelve become Apostles because they, like Abraham, are open to what they are hearing and seeing and willing to accept it. But even in this, because we know their names and the rest of the story, they like Sarah, they have their doubts, their faults, and their failures. They too will lose sight of the Lord at times; each will founder at some point, and one will even perish. But not because Jesus abandons them, but because they fail to reach out to him in their need as they are sinking.

You and I are the Abraham, Sarah, Apostles, and crowds of these stories. And these stories reveal the kingdom of heaven freely available in our very midst. But it is the state of our mind, our heart, and our spirit that determines how open we are to hearing the good news and reaching out to claim what is right before and all around us.

When we reach out, whether it is in faith or desperation, then like Abraham, Sarah, the Apostles, and the crowds we can set aside our doubts and tantrums and embrace the love and compassion that is right before us, sharing it with others, continuing the good work set in motion by our Creator from the beginning.

Therefore take this feast to go, carryout this good news of the kingdom of heaven, and join our Redeemer, and Sanctifier in delivering it in our community and wherever you go. Share the story of the grace you have freely received so others can know the convenience and presence of the kingdom of heaven in their midst.

[1] Genesis 18:11

On the Occasion of Confirmation

Let me begin by saying that I do not presume to put words in the mouth of our Presiding Bishop, but I don’t think Bishop Curry will object if I say, Welcome to the Jesus Movement!

This is where I pause for a moment to see if there are looks of dismay or confusion among our confirmands.

Now if no one warned you about this, and it comes as a surprise, you still have about ten minutes to make a run for it before Bishop Smith lays his hands on you! So ushers, please bar the doors.

But seriously, I am excited for you and for the church because there really is a spirit of energy and enthusiasm stirring in the church as we are awakening from what may have seemed to be a Rip Van Winkle-like slumber.

It’s almost as if Ezekiel, having felt the hand of the Lord upon him, has prophesied to the bones of the church scattered across this land, “hear the word of the Lord.” The same Holy Spirit that you will encounter in a few minutes is breathing new life into the church. As a result, the church, like the bones of the valley, is rediscovering its incarnation and catching its breath. And like those dry bones, we shall live and know that Jesus Christ is Lord.

But enough about the church, let’s talk about what brings you here today. I suspect that for some of you, you’re here because someone said it’s time to be confirmed. This sort of rite of passage approach is certainly my experience. For others of you – and I really hope this is the experience for most of you – you are responding to a vague tug or stirring within you, an awareness that you are being sought out. This experience, this experience of being sought out, is reminiscent of the fifth verse of the 8th Psalm, ‘O Lord what are human beings that you should be mindful of them; that you should seek them out?’

I hope this experience of being sought out is your experience because this is an intimate encounter with God, the lover of souls. This is the Lord God of the 139th Psalm, who has searched us out and known us and discerned our thoughts from afar. This is the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, who presses upon us and lays its hand upon us. Where can we go from the presence of this abiding Spirit?

If this has been your experience, you know the yearning of God for you, and your confirmation is an affirmation of that experience and your response to that experience.  If this has not yet been your experience, don’t worry, God does yearn for you, and you will be drawn nearer and nearer through the graces of the sacraments, the Word, prayer, and open especially your own seeking.

Whatever your experience, keep this in mind: even when we do feel abandoned or forgotten, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier never abandons us. It is we, who like Peter walking on the waters of Galilee, get distracted and fearful, and take our eyes off Jesus, who remains before us with his arms outstretched.

This distracted, doubting, and ‘not yet experience’ is where the disciples find themselves in our Gospel lesson from Matthew. This story takes place very early in Jesus’ ministry, he has just called his first disciples and he is sitting down with them for the first time to begin the “Great Instruction” also known as the Sermon on the Mount.

What we hear today are the Beatitudes, which are quite simply the preamble to the Sermon on the Mount. This preamble sets the tone and the context for the entire sermon, and that context is what the kingdom of heaven looks like. The language of the Beatitudes is uplifting and aspirational because it describes the God-like qualities to which we are to aspire, seek and ultimately achieve as we grow closer and more deeply into relationship with our Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier and one another.

What is set before us today is an aspiration and expectation for something far greater than our individual selves. What is being begun today in our prayers and in Bishop Smith’s laying on of hands is something being set into motion. That something is the “Great Instruction,” that great lifelong experiential and communal learning process is beginning and will continue until such time as all the dry bones are reanimated with us all in this new creation of the kingdom of heaven.

In the years to come you will master much in your life academically, professionally, and personally, but seeking will be the one pursuit that will continue to challenge you, stretch you, and pull you in deeper into something mind-blowingly far greater than you can imagine. This is the one thing that will continue to tickle you, perplex you, amuse you, and astound you your whole life long.

I am so excited for you as you stand on the cusp of this adventure, an opportunity for you continue to discern the answers to the question, what is humankind O God that you are so mindful of us, that you seek us out?

Confirmation is, simply put, our response to God’s desire for us. It is saying ‘Yes’ to the invitation to enter into this lifelong communion with the divine and other seekers, and to share our life changing experiences with others. By your presence here today, you have said, ‘Yes!’ So I bid you, welcome to the Jesus Movement!

“What is man …?”

There is a verse from today’s Scripture that has captured my imagination and won’t let it go. It is the Psalmist’s question, O Lord “What is man that you should be mindful of him? The son of man that you seek him out?”[1]

I love these questions because they remind me of the value and esteem with which we are held by our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. So today I invite you to reflect on this question as we contemplate the nature of the Holy Trinity.

Speaking of contemplation, are there images of the Trinity that today evokes for you? By images I don’t necessarily mean symbols, analogies or metaphors, but perhaps memories you may have accumulated over the years of listening to Trinity Sunday sermons.

A dear friend of mine served for years as an associate rector in a huge church that had a deep bench of clergy. Yet despite an abundance of preaching colleagues, year after year he found himself preaching on Trinity Sunday and struggling with new ways to explain the Trinity – a concept that he was still grasping for himself.

He once confessed that he felt the experience of preaching on the Trinity year after year was a kind of penance. His experience of Trinity Sunday has infected my own experience of preaching on this topic for the past five years. It has sometimes seemed more like a burden than a gift.

In simply acknowledging this fact – confessing it if you will – I find a sense of tangible relief from the abstract burden of the Trinity. I would like to share this sense of relief with you.

Let’s begin by thinking about the timing or placement of Trinity Sunday – this first Sunday after Pentecost. Sometimes Trinity Sunday can be lost in the light of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the beginning of summer as we transition from the crush of activities at the end of the school year to summer activities. In addition to this reality there is another transition taking place; a liturgical transition from the season of Easter to Ordinary Time – that is the season after Pentecost.

It is telling that this transition is marked by two of the Principal Feasts of the Church: the Day of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. This unique occurrence marks this as no ordinary transition. The coming of the Holy Spirit marks Easter’s conclusion; while the beginning of Ordinary Time – a season of growth – is marked by the reminder and example of the Holy Trinity. There is something to be teased out here!

To draw this ‘something’ out, perhaps we need to begin by letting go of our inclination to struggle with the metaphysical reality of the Trinity today, and open another door to see something else going on at the beginning of this season of growth.

The Holy Trinity may be redirecting our attention not to the wonder of its abstract reality but to a concrete truth about ourselves – a place of growth and opportunity for us individually. In a few minutes, before we exchange the peace in preparation for the Great Thanksgiving, we will collectively confess our sins for the first time in more than 50 days. I suspect that by now there is some pent-up demand for penance among us even as we emerge from the season of resurrection and redemption.

Despite these graces of resurrection and redemption we are after all humans who struggle in our relationships with one another and the Holy Trinity. Yet it is the Trinity that provides the perfect model of relationship. Co-equal, cooperative, founded on mutual and reciprocal love and esteem from the beginning of time as encountered in the first creation narrative of Genesis.

Yes, this particular story doesn’t mention Jesus by name, but John the Evangelist reminds us in his own creation narrative that …

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.[2]

Here John reminds us that our Redeemer was present and active with the Creator and Sanctifier in perfect harmony of relationship and creativity from the beginning.

All that the Trinity created – including humanity – was perfectly whole in its beginning, which speaks to the Psalmist’s question, “What is man that you should be mindful of him? The son of man that you seek him out?”

If we pause here before rushing on to our fall in the second creation narrative, we can remember that the Holy Trinity made humankind in its image. We can consider that the Trinity’s aspiration for us was and still is for something greater than our present selves; to resemble the Holy Trinity itself in our relationships. This is why the Trinity is so mindful of us.

That ill-defined and vague tug we feel at our core is the Holy Trinity seeking us out, yearning for us to embrace once again our relationship with the Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, and each other. All that stands between us and the Trinity is our inclination to brokenness.

It is no accident that now, after the Easter season of resurrection and redemption, we are again presented with the opportunity to confess our sins and receive absolution. We need the grace and humility this act provides us to recall that the Holy Trinity is mindful of us and that we are worthy of the redemption we have received.

Nonetheless, we are in constant need of confession and absolution if we hope to approach the insight necessary to remain in relationship with the Trinity and one another.

The key to all of this is forgiveness, whose effectiveness is only fully known and appreciated in its giving as Jesus reminds us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”[3]

This understanding brings the concluding verse of last week’s Day of Pentecost Gospel into a new light. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”[4]

The ability to offer forgiveness opens the door to ones own ability to be forgiven – that is to re-enter into that life-giving relationship with the Holy Trinity. Whereas to hold on to resentment, to fail to forgive is to bind oneself in restraints that keep us out of communion with our neighbor and the Holy Trinity. The power to forgive or retain is the power to choose either life or death for oneself. Which do you choose for yourself in this season of growth and life?

Were this an easy thing to do we would not find ourselves in such a conflicted state, straining against the nature of the Holy Trinity and its desire and expectation for us. We all need guidance in learning to forgive, and the sacrament of reconciliation is both a starting place and a lifelong way of experiencing that inward grace of forgiveness.

The Holy Trinity: the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier is mindful of each and every one of us, and is seeking us out. Answer its yearning; reconcile that eternal relationship by releasing the sins that bind you and others in separation. Forgive, and choose life in the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Amen.

[1] Psalm 8:5

[2] John 1:1-5

[3] Acts 20:35b

[4] John 20:23

Pentecost

This day of Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the church. While I appreciate the desire to define a particular day as the point of origin for the church, I also think this desire reflects some preference for order over ambiguity. In my estimation, this preference overlooks some of the theological connections and biblical ambiguity surrounding the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As for theological connections, the day of Pentecost does not owe its existence to the coming of the Holy Spirit as divided tongues of fire; that is simply the context we associate with it. Rather Pentecost is the Greek name of the Hebrew festival of Shavuot or the Festival of Weeks, which long preceded Pentecost as we observe it. Shavuot celebrates the wheat harvest and marks the giving of the Torah to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. As such Shavuot is a festival of bounty and stewardship of God given gifts and word.

Thus this feast of Pentecost that we celebrate is the appropriation of a festival of gratitude and stewardship from our spiritual ancestors. I, for one, am grateful for this understanding because it reminds me of our heritage – whose we are and where we come from. We did not invent Christianity from whole cloth but inherited it shaped and formed from a pre-existing tapestry of faith. Even the variety within the stories of the New Testament reflects the diversity of that tapestry.

Today, as if to emphasize the hand-me-down origin of our stories of the Holy Spirit, we have two tales of receiving the Holy Spirit presented to us. Neither of these stories is orderly, tidy, or self-contained. The first includes a chaotic and cacophonous appearance of divided tongues, as of fire, and the ability to speak in other languages at Shavuot; and the second, is John’s account of the startling appearance of Jesus to the disciples on Easter Sunday and his breathing upon them.

While it may be the differences between these stories that stick out to us, such as the public havoc of the first in contrast to the private and intimate breath of Jesus in the second, I think it is what they have in common that invites our attention. Both stories invite our consideration of our roots in Torah. The first by the setting of its context in Shavuot; and the second by its subtle reference to the second creation narrative of Genesis. Each story is making its claim on our theological heritage. Acts builds upon a pilgrimage festival tradition, and John builds upon our origin in one of the creation narratives.

One could argue that we have two models to account for our personal disposition or preference; and perhaps one of these does resonate with you more than the other. But I would argue that both invite us to consider the challenge they present, because each requires action and accountability on our part.

In keeping with Acts, which turns into a baptismal story, shortly we will reaffirm our baptismal vows – a conscious reaffirmation of our receipt of the Holy Spirit and our promises to be stewards of that gift in thought, word, and deed.

Whereas John, with his connection of the Holy Spirit to Easter, reminds us of our connection to the Resurrection through our Baptism. But John goes further by including the intimate detail that Jesus breathed on his disciples. The only other instance of such breathing occurs in Genesis, “then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.”[1] Through this unique reference we are reminded that through the Holy Spirit we are connected to that short-lived, pre-fall, eternal relationship with our Creator, and through the Holy Spirit we are restored to wholeness.

It would seem that these remarkable and disorderly stories of giftedness are enough. Yet John goes on to present us with a confounding scriptural tagline, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”[2] I think in this Jesus is telling us of the awesome stewardship we have by virtue of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the responsibility to liberate others and ourselves from the tyranny of sin and death rather than condemn them. The outcome depends upon our choice; do we retain the Spirit for our own comfort or do we forgive – that is release the Spirit – by sharing it with those in need of hearing and knowing they are loved and forgiven.

My charge to you is to consider your gift of the Holy Spirit. Whether it was bestowed privately or publicly, whether it descended upon you, was poured over you, immersed you, or was breathed into you, it was a gift freely given. In this light, consider how you will answer Jesus’ charge to set the Holy Spirit free so it can continue wreak pentecostal havoc.

[1] Genesis 2:7

[2] John 20:23

Perfect Knowledge

If you have ever watched the Big Bang Theory, you are familiar with the character named Sheldon Cooper, a Caltech theoretical physicist who is extraordinarily annoying if for no other reason than he is aware of the breadth of his knowledge.

Sheldon may be the quintessential know it all, which makes his character a wonderful comedic foil. But his character also reminds us that it is not only knowledge that defines us.

An equally essential aspect of Sheldon’s personality is his lack of awareness of social cues. He struggles with relationships as he grapples to balance his aptitudes and his insufficiencies. But like many of us, Sheldon prefers to focus on what he knows rather than address his shortcomings.

There is something instinctive about our quest for knowledge. All we have to do is observe how babies interact with the world around them, or to hear from the mouths of toddlers the seemingly incessant question of why. From these observations alone, we can see that we have a natural appetite for knowledge. Consider also our biblical text. The first story of the Bible is an explanation of the origin of existence, our own big bang theory if you will. And the second story of the Bible is another creation story; yet at the center of this story is the issue of knowledge – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In this narrative it is our desire for knowledge that becomes the stumbling block in our relationship with the Creator.

So what on earth does this have to do with this last Sunday of Easter, this season of Resurrection, and the formation of disciples? Well, as we watched Jesus ascend into heaven four days ago we still had questions to which we were seeking answers such as, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

It seems, at least in this circumstance, that our quest for knowledge is as much about clarity or certainty as it is about curiosity. We either want our expectations fulfilled so we can be proved right, or we want to be relieved of our anxiety. In either case, these are not of their own accord worthy objectives because they are self-centered.

Just as eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not life giving and to be avoided, Jesus redirects our desire from knowledge for our own sake to action for the community’s sake. “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.”[1]

But why this redirection? Well, just as God knew from the beginning that our quest for knowledge would impair our relationship with our Creator, Jesus knows that our fixation on knowledge for our own sake will impair our relationship with him as well.

Fortunately the promise of the power of the Holy Spirit seems to be enough for the disciples because as they return to Jerusalem they devote themselves to prayer as a community, just Jesus has taught them. Prayer that prioritizes our relationship with God, the sufficiency of his daily gifts, and loving others as we are loved.

Such common prayer leads us to a different kind of knowledge. Not a knowledge of that which is self-aggrandizing but a knowledge that even in our insufficiency of self we are more whole and complete as a community, that is in relationship with others and our Creator.

It is Sheldon’s quirky and sometimes contentious circle of friends and colleagues that fill in what is lacking in their respective selves to create a community that is far more whole and life giving. And it all works because of the common relationship – that which they know about each other, and that which is greater than any one of them.

This too is Jesus’ prayer for us a disciples in our Gospel lesson: “this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”[2]

The knowledge we as disciples seek is not that which is self-aggrandizing, rather it is that which grounds us in the common knowledge that everything we have has been given to us by our Creator. It is in knowing that we are only complete in relationship with our Creator, and with one another that our knowledge is perfected. To this end, let our common prayer, and especially our Eucharistic prayer – our prayer of thanksgiving – so penetrate our being that we may know our selves to be one with our Redeemer, our Creator, and each other.

[1] Acts 1:7-8

[2] John 17:3

I am the Gate

This Sunday is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday, which strikes me today as a bit of bait and switch. You see, while we have the 23rd Psalm – “The Lord is my shepherd” – in our Gospel lesson Jesus tells us he is the gate, not the shepherd.

I don’t know, perhaps the lectionary for this Sunday has shifted over the years. After all, in the very next story of the Gospel according John Jesus does in fact refer to himself as the good shepherd; but that is not part of today’s lectionary. So, for today, what are we to make of “I am the gate?”

Perhaps we should begin with the psalm; this comfortingly lovely pastoral psalm that refreshes us whether we are at ease or in distress. The 23rd Psalm spans green pastures and still waters to the valley of the shadow of death and those who trouble us. There is only one thing that spans the distance of such images as heaven and hell, and that is the love of God as revealed in the resurrected Jesus Christ. But, for today, Jesus is not the shepherd; he is the gate.

Let me share with you another story. Earlier this week, a dear friend of mine was telling me about friend of his – a rancher in western Kansas. As you will recall, before we were being soaked with rain and western Kansas was being blanketed with snow, they were dealing with out of control prairie fires. You and I know controlled grass fires to be life-giving – returning nutrients into the ground, destroying weeds, and encouraging the growth of new grass for grazing. But we also know the life-consuming fires that rage out of control destroying personal property and livestock. This has been the recent experience of our sisters and brothers in western Kansas.

The fires experienced by this particular rancher were so intense that they destroyed a large part of his herd and most of his fencing. But not all of his herd was killed by the fire, about 200 survived but were so badly injured that he had to destroy them himself with the help of a neighbor. The pasture was empty but for the carcasses of his herd, even the fencing was gone. All that remained was the steel gate and cattle guard, which was still closed and locked.

The rancher could have driven a beeline direct to wherever he needed to go, but he chose to drive to the gate. His neighbor clambered out of the cab to unlock and open the gate. As the rancher pulled through the gate, he paused and told his friend, “Leave it open, there’s nothing to keep in.”

The rancher’s words reflect a kind of Kansan stoicism, but I choose to see in them a faithful optimism. Not so much because the pasture will grow again, or because the fence will be rebuilt, or because there will be another herd, but because the gate is the one thing that was present through it all. Through the heavenly greening of the pasture, and through the hellish destruction of everything about it.

The gate is there, and the rancher, who could have left the scene of all this devastation by any direction, chose – whether by habit or intention – to go through the gate; and not only to go through but to leave it open. I imagine the Lord is most pleased with this image.

The gate is there in that pasture in the presence of peace and green pastures, and in the presence of death and destruction. Paraphrasing part of the 23rd Psalm, “Surely your goodness and mercy are present to me in all the circumstances of my life.”

The gate is present to us at all times, even in the face of what we imagine hell must be like, because Jesus loves us so much that he suffered the worst that we could offer – even death on the cross – and came back to us to reveal his resurrected glory – a preview of the eternal life that awaits us.

My charge to you today is to bring the destruction and hell in your life to the gate before this altar. Allow that which stands between you and the gate to fall through the cattle guard so that you can walk through the gate into eternal life.

The Road to Emmaus … a Daily Call

This morning, Peter proclaims, “Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”[1]

Actually, this proclamation occurs not today but on Pentecost, seven weeks after Easter. This proclamation would not have been possible on the day of Resurrection because Peter and the other disciples were still hiding in fear behind locked doors. The disciples first had to be coaxed into unlocking and then opening the doors.

This coaxing begins in the Gospel according to Luke with the road to Emmaus story. In this story Jesus is incognito as he encounters two disciples who do a lot of things right. The story of the road to Emmaus can be seen as a story about how well-formed disciples function even in the midst of adversity and uncertainty.

On the day of the Resurrection, these two disciples are making their way to Emmaus. They are still grappling with all that has transpired in the previous three days, when they are joined on their journey by a stranger. What takes place among these three people is an exchange of stories. Some of the stories are heard second hand and at some distance removed from actual events; and other stories of insight or perspective are shared by the knowledgeable stranger. While there is no revelation or aha moment in this exchange itself, the groundwork is laid for what is to come.

What is worth noting about this exchange is the candor with which the disciples share with a stranger: they share what they know; what they had expected; and what confounds them. To my mind this is discipleship – the sharing of our experience with others, especially with those we think may not know or share our experience.

I think these two disciples are well trained. They’ve been taught to go out in pairs, and they do. They have been taught to share the news with strangers, and they do. They have been taught to tend to the stranger, and they do. For their efforts, they are richly rewarded as the stranger reveals the meaning of the scriptures to them.

But the highlight of this encounter comes when the disciples extend hospitality to the stranger, inviting him to stay with them as they arrive in Emmaus. It is in this hospitality that revelation takes place.

What is it about hospitality that makes a difference? Perhaps it’s because there is an intentionality and focus in hospitality. When we extend hospitality we set aside our reticence and we focus on preparation and the comfort of those we have invited. We want our guests to feel welcomed and wanted.

These disciples in the Emmaus story are well formed by Jesus before his crucifixion. They are taught how to go out into the world, how to share what they know, how to tend to the stranger. While they are on the road to Emmaus, it is as if Jesus is giving them a pop quiz to see if they have done their homework before he continues his lesson. Having shown they are good students, now it’s time to break bread together.

In this story it is the two disciples who extend hospitality to the stranger who is prepared to go on alone. If they did not invite the stranger to stay with them they may never have known it was Jesus. Their hospitality toward a stranger sets the stage for an eye-opening encounter – their encounter of Jesus in the stranger as “their eyes [are] opened, and they [recognize] him.”[2]

Jesus finds these disciples are capable; satisfied that they have integrated what he has taught them into their lives, Jesus reveals himself, in the midst of their hospitality, in the breaking of the bread – just as he will do for us at this table shortly.

This revelation is particularly noteworthy. While we have the ability to reveal Jesus to others, this story and some of our personal experiences remind us that Jesus is often revealed to us in the face of the stranger. These revelations continue to surprise and delight us, and drive our desire to throw the net of hospitality wider.

Remember that Jesus is always present for us to encounter as a stranger to be welcomed. He reminds us of this in the Gospel according to Matthew, where he says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these …, you did it to me.”[3]

The formation of these two disciples – that is their ability to extend hospitality – makes possible the revelation of the risen Jesus to the other disciples. Their faithful attendance to their formation as disciples and their witness helps open the locked doors so that Peter and the others can also encounter the risen Christ, receive the Holy Spirit, and proclaim the good news.

The road to Emmaus is before us everyday. This opportunity to walk the road and share our story with others; this opportunity to extend hospitality is a daily call to us as disciples. The opportunity for us to encounter Jesus Christ in the presence of others is the fruit of this call.

Amid such open hospitality minds are changed and eyes opened to new perspectives. This is what church is about, and most specifically what this liturgy is about. This liturgy is a radical act of hospitality – intentional, planned and provided so that all can encounter Jesus Christ – so that eyes can be opened and hearts changed, as well as minds and lives.

As we are fed, let us in turn cast the net of hospitality widely. Invite others to join you in the presence of the risen Lord and the Holy Spirit. “For the promise [of the Holy Spirit] is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”[4]

[1] Acts 2:36

[2] Luke 24:31

[3] Matthew 25:40

[4] Acts 2:39