Easter III

Abraham's Oak - Henry Ossawa Turner

Abraham’s Oak – Henry Ossawa Turner

Pausing, looking back toward where the story began there is symmetry, a type–antitype. The place God began his self-revelation was at Mamre, which wasn’t much even then except for one world-class oak, In fact the place was known as the Oak of Mamre as the tree gave it about its only reason for being.

God and two archangels some say or perhaps God, the Trinity, dropped by for lunch with Abraham and his wife Sarah. Since most have not seen an archangel and no one at all has seen the Trinity, it’s a little hard to know where one left off and the other began. It is safe to say that neither wife nor husband recognized their guests until all was revealed over lunch.

Abraham & the Three Angels - James Tissot

Abraham & the Three Angels – James Tissot

Abraham bent over backwards showing hospitality that day and Sarah would have baked a cake if they had given her warning. The holy ones gravely accepted Abraham’s spread under the spreading branches and then got on to the business at hand. You know how it turned out of course. The childless couple had a boy come new-year and Sodom and environs became the Dead Sea by year end.

Turning toward home, see the script? Cleopas and his companion are running away from home and bump into Jesus and then it all becomes clearer over supper. Both stories come to the moment of insight because of hospitality. Extending ourselves in service of the comfort and welcome of the stranger will often lead to gifts unforeseen. Do not neglect hospitality for some have entertained angels unawares. So you never know who might put their wingtips under your table, either expensive shoes or feathers. Prepare to hear the good news.

Jesus came near Cleopas and his un-named companion on the road from Jerusalem and Emmaus. Let’s get the actors straight on our program before we get confused. Hegsippus (early historian) records that Cleopas was the brother of Joseph the husband of Mary and step-father of Jesus our Lords. His companion may have been his son, Simeon. who became bishop after James, Jesus’ brother, was martyred?

road-to-emmaus1

Cleopas and company are running away from the scene of the crime. Their deepest hopes have become their deepest wounds. There is no one more cynical than a deeply wounded idealist. Their eyes were “held” so they did not recognize him. When they explain their distress, Jesus showed them, beginning with Moses and so showed them that another way to read and understand the Scriptures was exactly what happened to Jesus. Thus he reframed their history and made bad news into good news.

Anyone who has lived for very long has come to know that sometimes the only thing worse than the disappointment of not getting what we want is the remorse of getting exactly the thing longed for only to learn how bad it was for us and our souls. Of course, hopefully we learn from the consequences of getting what we want. It may well be that our “wanter” is broken. Actually it has been since Adam at the apple. It may be that God knows better what we need and want than we do.

Emmaus - James Tissot

Emmaus – James Tissot

They come to Emmaus, perhaps to the family home, where Cleopas and his older brother Joseph were brought up. It was there it happened. They were sitting at the old family table, the very one that for all their lives on Friday they had the prayers and only the day after the Passover Supper where again they had eaten and told the story of rescue, how God brought them out of Egypt into the promised land and where they hoped for Messiah, the anointed one of God.

Here Jesus did what is always done at this table, all Christian tables, at this service of Holy Thanksgiving.

Supper at Emmaus - Abraham Bloemaert

Supper at Emmaus – Abraham Bloemaert

The four movements of the Eucharist, He took, he blessed, broke and gave.

He Took

In reply to Satan who suggested he turn loaf-shaped stones into bread Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone.” Of course he doesn’t live without it either. In the only story told by all four Gospels (other than the passion) Jesus took a lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish and fed 5000 people. If Jesus is God, then he was on the ground floor when the Universe began and if you can make matter from scratch then he can stretch molecules of bread in hand.

Supper at Emmaus  - Diego Velazquez

Supper at Emmaus
– Diego Velazquez

What folk should have learned that day was (and is), whatever we make truly available to Jesus can (and will) be used. In addition, we should have learned by now that when Jesus takes something (any old thing) it is transformed and it becomes enough..
Now, think of all the “castoffs” of our lives. . It is a hoot seeing what Jesus does when he up-cycles what we distain into something needful. Today, look around, take inventory and then offer what we find to Jesus. He can do more with less than anyone I have ever I have ever known.

HE BLESSED

A couple makes promises and then is married but when they are blessed their relationship is filled with divine content. Having taken the bread, ordinary stuff to sustain life in the body, Jesus now makes the bread “different/holy” and it is no longer just bread, but, like Manna in the wilderness, it is the bread of Heaven.

Blessing changes things. It changes relationships. It changes effect. It changes value. To be blessed by God gives dignity and worth. If we are worthless by all human standards not so with God, divine love and blessing creates value where none existed before.

What we will give up, Jesus will take up. What Jesus takes up, he blesses as he did that day when the children came running to him. And what he blesses has merit and dignity if for no other reason, because he blessed them. If God can do that with ground wheat seed mixed with water and baked, what can God to our lives?

HE BROKE

The most solemn moment in any Eucharist is the “fraction” – the actual breaking of the bread. On a day with low humidity there is a discernible “cracking” sound heard through the room. In that moment we are confronted symbolically with the suffering of Christ.
The rubric (stage direction) in the Prayer Book is, “The celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread. A period of silence is kept.” What can we do in face of his sacrifice other than be silent? I believe that the breaking of the bread is all the broken things in our lives, our souls and bodies, those things done, those things left undone, are all (everyone) broken there as well. It is a good breaking, like re-breaking a leg that was inadequately set, in service of fullness of life.

HE GAVE

What Jesus’ taking, blessing and breaking make, he gives. It is food. It is life. It is healing. It is celebration and it is joy. Above all it is Viaticum, literally “food for the journey.” That which God requires of us, God in grace provides us. We need not grow hungry, forced to eat fast-food along the shoulder of the road. Lest we succumb to the junk-food at the Jiffy Mart, Jesus provides us nourishment such that we will arrive prepared to do what needs doing.

When we come for “solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal;” (BCP. Page 372) then we miss the best part. And what is the best part, you ask?
Why, the best part is going out and doing what Jesus said for us to do and seeing that indeed it is happening. What’s not to like? Join a ministry team and find out. These are the four movements of the Eucharist.

THEY WENT

In truth there is a fifth movement: they went. Having the last say, the Deacon exhorts, “Go and do what needs to doing. If you have been fed – be bread.” (My language)

emmausJesus gave them the bread, they eyes were no longer “held” and they recognized him. Then he vanished. Then, no longer tired; (interesting how that happens) Cleopas and company marched immediately from Emmaus back to Jerusalem with the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Upon arriving they discover that the risen Christ has been busy and there afore them.

Our hearts burned as he reframed the scriptures to include Messiah’s “failure” death upon a tree, they marveled. It’s really a simple matter, you see. Their unconscious got it even if their eyes were “held” and the same, beloved, is true in our own day.

Ever since Emmaus, Christians know that Jesus shows up when the bread is broken. We don’t have to see him with our physical eyes. Our hearts will tell us even when our eyes fail us. Pay attention to the awaking fascinations of your soul. The soul turns unconsciously to God, as sunflowers follow the sun. .

JWS

Our God Makes Leaders Out Of Cowards And Elders Of The Deceitful

Recently I found a new title on Dove Booksellers, “Forsaken Firstborn” a study of how God seems to choose the “wrong” one rather than the one that should be the heir. We find this pattern in the Old Testament. God chooses Isaac over Ishmael. Jacob is chosen over Esau, his twin, even thought he is a stinker. Judah is chosen over his older brothers to be the father of the principal tribe of Israel. Joseph is chosen over his older brothers to be the one to deliver his family even though his brothers reject him. Jacob then blesses the younger of Joseph’s sons to be the chosen son.

Jacob Blessing his Grandsons - C V Vos

Jacob Blessing his Grandsons – C V Vos

As an oldest son I hope that senior birth order is not always the source of perdition and divine rejection. However this does seem to point to the spontaneous, creative and even, if I may say, playful nature of God who makes leaders out of cowards and elders of the deceitful. It gives me hope. Then a thought seized me that I had never thought before. Jesus, the first born, the beloved, was abandoned on the cross. Here the divine pattern is played out in a cosmic way. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” is the cry not just of Jesus but also of all the forsaken firstborn.

We are the descendents of Adam the firstborn yea even the forsaken firstborn alienated by sin. Jesus became for the forsaken firstborn. If that were the end of the story it would be a tragedy. But it is not the end of the tale. Jesus is not the forsaken firstborn he is the firstborn of those that sleep. His resurrection is for the forsaken firstborns and all those who have wasted their inheritance (and we all have) in the far country. The good news is that like Jacob the heel grabber who was reconciled with his forsaken older brother Esau, we too are reconciled by the death of Jesus who died as the forsaken firstborn, risen from the dead that we too might not be forsaken but have not only life in the age to come but life and that life full in this present time. Praise be to God who gives us the victory.