On This Night, We Choose to Remember

election-night-decorationsI had the privilege of leading a communion service on Election Night 2016 (November 8). I learned about this idea through reading Slow Church back in 2014. The idea stayed with me, so when I was brought on full-time at Mountain Life Church, I asked if I could organize a service for our people. Election Night Communion Services have spread to include many churches: on this website, there were over 300 churches across the nation participating (there is also a Facebook page with more information).

The idea of behind the service is rooted in understanding that as we approach the Lord’s Table, part of what we are doing is remembering that we are one body because we partake in one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17). Christ’s broken body and shed blood have destroyed the walls that divide us as people; therefore, our duty as brothers and sisters is to remind ourselves of this profound and difficult truth, and to live from this, instead of the divisive and corrosive nature of politics.

The service was beautiful, reflective, and not rushed. Robert Bartko, the worship pastor at Mountain Life, and I led our people to remember that God is sovereign and we are called to display God’s love to a very hurting, divided world. (Here is the order of service.

I must confess: it was easy to remember God’s sovereignty on Tuesday night; since Wednesday morning, I have struggled a lot more. While I will pray that President-elect Trump will lead this nation well, I found his rhetoric to be incredibly hateful at times. As a white, middle-class, Evangelical male, I don’t have much to worry about, but the question I, and all of us as Christians, must ask ourselves is this: Can we truly hear the fear, worry, and anxiety of the minorities that Trump at times seemed to target during his candidacy?

We, as the church, not only need to hear their fear and worry, but also then stand and work with them to speak out against racism and strive toward reconciliation. My Life Group has been studying the biblical book of James currently. James writes, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

For James, looking after the orphans and widows (or you could say any marginalized people in society) is more than simply wishing them well. A little later in James, he writes, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-17).

The Evangelical church must lead the way in the days, months, and years to come to speak and continuously speak out against racism and speak for the marginalized of our neighborhoods. But it cannot be “Whites to the rescue.” We must listen in humility to their honest, true and very real fears, working alongside them to see the flourishing of all peoples.

The way forward for the church is not seeking power and prestige, but to once again listen and discern Jesus’ words: “You know that the ruler of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

May this passage be so of me and all of us.

Book Review: Slow Church

Slow Church Book CoverIf the 20th century taught us anything, it taught us that efficiency, calculability, predictability and control are to be most prized, seen most readily in large, corporate chains, most notably McDonalds. Machine-like speed and efficiency are now virtues, celebrated even in our churches. How many people can we get in the door on any given Sunday? How many people have prayed the prayer? How many people have we baptized? How many people have become members? What is the latest fad in church and how can we copy it?

But like any large social movement, there have been little pockets of resistance by people who are willing to ask the tough questions of where this path of destruction might be leading us. One of those pockets of resistance was The Slow Food Movement which began in 1986 in protest to the building of a McDonalds near the Spanish Steps in Rome. “The Slow Food Movement is fundamentally about the richness of common life with the neighbors who grow our food, prepare our food and share our food” (16). The Slow Food Movement has spread worldwide, and its greatest contribution might not be in the area of food, but might be in giving us pause to think through how other areas of our life might have succumbed to the pressures of this cult of speed.

Most recently, Chris Smith and John Pattison have been thinking through how the themes of the Slow Food Movement might shape a view of Slow Church, first through their blog and now in the publication of Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus. They survey the landscape of American Christianity and conclude:

“Many churches, particularly those driven by church growth models, come dangerously close to reducing Christian to a commodity that can be packaged, marketed and sold. Instead of cultivating a deep, holistic discipleship that touches every aspect of our lives, we’ve confined the life of faith to Sunday mornings, where it can be kept safe and predictable, or to a ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ,’ which can be managed from the privacy of our own home. Following Jesus has been diminished to a privatized faith rather than a lifelong apprenticeship undertaken in the context of Christian community” (14).

Over and against this mode of church, Chris and John hope to begin a broad and possibly slow conversation, issuing “a call for intentionality, an awareness of our mutual interdependence with all people and all creation, and an attentiveness to the world around us and the work God is doing in our very own neighborhoods” (16). They long to savor a conversation around the dinner table on how the church can be a “way of being authentically connected as coproducers to a Story that is as big as the planet (bigger) and as intimate as our own backyards” (20).

As they begin this important conversation, they frame it around three courses: The first course is ethics, giving preference to quality, how we embody Christ in our terrior. The second course is ecology, framed by the fact that God is in the process of reconciling all of creation, which means how we do things as a church is just as important as what we do. The final course is economy, understanding that God’s economy is based on superabundance and never scarcity.

Lest you think that their idea of Slow Church is simply a means to make church sound cool and hip to our culture, especially the middle and upper White Suburbia, enamored with all things local and slow, their vision of church is rooted in deep theological reflection. They reflect on such key themes as the drama of redemption, looking at how improve shapes our participation. Our God being a “remarkably patient yet radically immanent God” (24) is also foundational to Slow Church. They reflect deeply on humanity, not in some utopian way, but recognizing how deeply rebellious and sinful we all are, yet that we were created to move beyond this through the working of the Holy Spirit into deep rich fellowship and community. And finally, in everything they develop throughout the book, the authors continually remind us that the Christian life is first and foremost a deep joy in the resurrection life – “The primary work of Slow Church is not attracting people to our church buildings, but rather cultivating together the resurrection life of Christ, by deeply and selflessly loving our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and even our enemies” (33).

Much of their reflection is centered around ridding the church of its McDonaldization (drawing on the work of George Ritzer and John Drane). McDonalds is driven by efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. While none of these four are evil or sinful in and of themselves, they are, for the most part, antithetical to the ethics, ecology and economy of God’s Kingdom.

The reason we have succumbed to the idol of McDonalds is the fragmentation that we are all plagued with as a result of sin. We know in our heads: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:19), but is this how we truly live? Do we, do I, truly believe that God is in the process of making not just us, but all of creation whole again? If I truly believe this and truly desire to live from this fact, then I am compelled to slow down, sit and stay for a while with messy, sinful people, which includes me. It means not fleeing from myself, not fleeing from others, and not fleeing from the place God has placed me for greener pastures elsewhere.

How do we start moving away from the McDonaldization that pervades so much of our culture and church? Unfortunately there are no “five easy steps.” What Smith and Pattison advocate is not just a completely different mindset, but a completely different soulset. A striving not after what the world values, but a striving to “receive one another, our neighbors and our place as gifts of God intended not for our private good as individuals or as a church but for God’s work of reconciliation in helping out place to heal and flourish” (189).

In other words, hospitality, breaking bread together, taking the time to savor what God is already doing in our midst and joining with Him as He seeks to inaugurate His Kingdom in our church and in our neighborhood.

Chris Smith and John Pattison “challenge you [me] to imagine what our common life would look like it were centered around (a) eating together at the table and (b) the slow, eucharistic conversation that convivial feasting encourages” (209).

That is the conversation I have tried to start here on this blog. But more importantly, that is the person I want to be and that is the church and community I want to be part of.

Taking versus Receiving

Do we take Communion? Or do we receive Communion? Does it even matter?

Recently I have been reading Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us by Ragan Sutterfield. In the book, he writes, “I have a priest friend who says that there are many in his congregation who simply can’t hold out their hand and receive the bread—they must take it” (p. 31, location 568). This sentence started me thinking about my posture in coming to the Table as well as the Evangelical’s language in inviting people to the Table.

In short, even though it is only one word difference in the question, I think it is of vital significance that when we approach the Table, we receive the Elements, never taking.

Sadly, in the Evangelical churches I have been part of, the way in which the Eucharist is celebrated, as I approach the Table, I am required to take the Elements as there is no way for me to receive the body and blood of my Savior.

What then are the implications of taking the Elements versus receiving the Elements?

First and foremost, taking the Elements has the potential to teach a false view of salvation and sanctification. The Evangelical tradition rightly teaches that salvation is a free gift received based on what Christ has accomplished once and for all through his death and resurrection – justified by faith through grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is not something there for our taking. Therefore, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, in which we once again remember and proclaim the awesome gift, should we not have the same posture as when we first received our salvation? Do we implicitly teach people that once you receive salvation, Jesus is there for your taking whenever and however you want?

Second, and related to the first point, taking gives credence to our culture of consumerism. We are taught from the moment we enter the world that everything is there for our taking. New cars, new looks, new technology, new medicine is all within your reach, and unless you have the newest and greatest, you will never be satisfied, so go out and grab it. But this consumerism is antithetical to the Gospel. The world is not there for the taking. God did not give us the gift of Creation in order to take, take, take, but rather in humility to receive the joys of the gift. Sutterfield writes, “To be humbled is to be returned and reminded that we are but soil” (p. 30, location 541). Humility implies the deep recognition that I am part of the same earth I so often neglect or exploit.

Finally, taking places ME above all else and implies a radical false independence from other people and creation itself. Taking denies my creature-ness – the fact that I am part of a rich system of mutual interdependence upon millions and millions of other creatures. I am tempted to think that as I mature, both physically and spiritually, I am more and more independent of others. But in actuality the opposite should be true – as I mature I should recognize more and more just how dependent I am upon everyone else in order to live the life Christ is calling me into.

I don’t think any Evangelical would say that this is his goal in how he invites people to celebrate the Eucharist. But I think we do need to examine the subconscious implications of our practices.

Contrary to taking, when we receive the elements from one another, we receive back our humanity. We move; we are active, not passive. While it might seem that taking is more active than receiving, receiving actually requires more activity and retraining as it is so contrary to our society.

Hospitality and Being with Others

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love,” John 13:1.

So begins Jesus’ last night with his closest friends in which he washes their feet, shares Passover with them, inaugurates the Eucharist and gives them their marching orders for when he is gone.

What always astounds me about the Passover meal Jesus shares with his disciples is the very fact that Jesus decides to share it with his friends who are about to betray and desert him. Peter is there—the disciple who swears up and down that he will never, ever, in a million years betray Jesus. And we all know how that worked out for Peter. And yet Jesus still washes Peter’s feet and extends to him the bread and the cup.

But more astounding to me is the presence of Judas. The same Judas whom Satan had already convinced to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. And yet, Jesus, knowing all that was about to happen, still washes Judas’ feet and as far as I can tell extends the cup and bread to Judas.

I wonder how this passage can speak into our theology of personhood and hospitality. I wonder what this passage means for my theology of strangers, and even more so, my theology of enemies. Who are my enemies? What is my responsibility towards them? And bigger still what should the stance of the Church be towards those we disagree with?

I wonder when it comes to specifically the issue of homosexuality, which seems to be the issue for the Evangelical church right now, why is this passage never talked about? Shouldn’t the fact that Jesus washed Judas’ feet on the very night Judas betrayed him somehow inform what it means to be with others? And if so in what ways?

Jesus never excused sin; he actually upped the ante. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus redefined sin that makes me, and everyone I come in contact with, guilty of murder and adultery. When Jesus meets with the woman at the well in the Gospel of John, he calls out her behavior as sin. And when the woman caught in adultery later in the same gospel is alone with Jesus after all of her accusers have left, Jesus tells her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

But what compels these women to leave their lives of sin is not judgment and rejection and a hard-line stance, but rather a radical, life-altering experience of love. They realize that, contrary to their culture, they are so much more than their sin, and that they are loved even in their sin.

What is so hard for me to wrap my heart around is that Jesus knew that Judas was not going to repent, and yet he still opened the door of hospitality to Judas till the very last minute. Till the very last minute Jesus was inviting Judas into love; Jesus never stopped inviting Judas into love.

In his book Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen describes hospitality in this way:

Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are not alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit. It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own. (pp. 71-72)

This view of hospitality is scary and raises more questions than answers, but we have to be okay with the questions instead of thinking everything is so cut and dry.

I really do not know what it means that Jesus washes Judas’ feet and Peter’s feet, but I at least want to ask the question. And I want to dialogue with others about what this means.

An Amuse Bouche

My childhood was rare according to most people, and this was only twenty or so years ago.

Mom was a stay-at-home-mom. Mom was a stay-at-home-mom who baked bread, at least once a week if not twice. Mom was a stay-at-home-mom who baked bread without any of the modern conveniences, no stand mixer and definitely never using a bread machine. Her sole equipment –  a wooden spoon, a mixing bowl, and arms strengthened from simultaneously kneading dough while holding and caring for her children.

Cracked Wheat BreadYou see, I was raised on homemade bread of two varieties, either white sandwich bread or cracked wheat sandwich bread. (Now as a married man, I make cracked wheat bread, but I use a KitchenAid stand mixer to aid in the process.) There were school days when my sisters and I would come home to the heavenly aroma of fresh baked bread, and beg Mom to cut us a slice. The worst part for a kid whose idea of delayed gratification is waiting 30 seconds is being told by Mom that the bread had just come out of the oven and was too hot to slice. We would have to wait.

The fresh baked bread got even better when Mom started making homemade strawberry jam during the summers with farm fresh California strawberries. Her trick was to go to the Farmers’ Market, asking the vendors for the bruised strawberries that were too ugly or too overripe to sell in baskets. (After all, we Americans want our fruit pretty and uniform, not misshapen or ugly.) The farmers were happy to make some money from otherwise worthless produce and gladly sold my mom whole flats of bruised strawberries for five dollars, which were perfect for turning into jam.

Fresh California strawberries turned into fresh strawberry jam smeared across still slightly warm homemade bread. To this day, there is still no better treat. To this day I am still very particular about the way I eat these first few slices of bread, something my wife did not understand until she also tried it, and was instantly converted.

I begin by peeling away the top crust of the bread which is at once both chewy and slightly crunchy. There is a depth of flavor here that I have only truly come to appreciate as an adult as a result of the mixture of the grains and the sugars intermingling to produce a rich, sweet nutty flavor only found on the outside crust of the bread. I will then sometimes eat the bottom crust, while not having the depth of flavor as the top crust, still yields a greater chew and density than the interior of the bread. With the crust having been consumed, I am now left to enjoy the middle of the bread, which when freshly out of the oven is so soft I handle it with the greatest of care.

I do have a confession to make, however. Growing up with this plethora of bread, I did not realize how lucky and fortunate I was and am. Sure the first slices of bread were soft and delightful, but soon after, the bread would fairly quickly lose its once soft texture and become drier and drier. We kids wanted soft bread. And soft bread was found when we would visit Nana (Mom’s mom) and she would have a loaf of Wonder Bread for us. Soft, flavorless bread, now that was a treat!

There really is nothing like fresh, homemade bread. The smell of bread baking brings people into the kitchen. We are instinctively drawn to the smell. I wonder if the Atkin’s Diet became so popular because most people have stopped baking bread and have forgotten the immense joy and pleasure found in bread and the breaking of it.

Sadly the loss of baking bread in the home has influenced the Church as well, most notably in her celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Alexander Schmemann in his discussion of symbols as it relates to the Eucharist writes, “Its [a symbol’s] function is not to quench our thirst but to intensify it” (The Eucharist, p. 39). A symbol no matter how perfect it correlates to that which it symbolizes is never the object itself. A symbol is never meant to replace the primary object. A symbol should stir our whole being, causing us to long for that to which it symbolizes. It should awaken our hearts and desires more fully to that reality.

A sacrament might function in the life of a Christian much like an amuse bouche functions in a great meal. The literal meaning of the phrase is “something to please the mouth,” and the purpose of it is to awaken the palate to what lays ahead. A singular bite to simply excite you about what lies ahead.

The Eucharist is meant to excite us about God’s kingdom breaking forth. It is meant to entice us to reflect on the great joy of salvation, the great mission of God that he has invited us to particpate in. It is a singular foretaste of the heavenly banquet, where one day we will all dine with Jesus as he intends. An amuse bouche of the totality of the Christian experience.

But if the Marriage Supper of the Lamb tastes anything like what we serve at the Lord’s Table, I, for one, am not all that excited. A stale, flavorless, pre-broken piece of cracker and a pre-portioned miniscule serving of high fructose corn syrup laden grape juice? No offense, but that in no way awakens my senses or amuses my mouth.

Sourdough BreadOne day I want to be walking up to church and from 50 feet away, smell the unmistakable perfume of fresh bread wafting through the church parking lot. I want to be in service and here that crackling of the crust as my brothers and sisters share the one loaf, remembering “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor. 10:17). I want to share with my brothers and sisters the immense joy of fresh bread, remembering and greatly anticipating what is still to come.

In Remembrance of Me

Communion Elements

The idea of memory and remembering is a key theme throughout Scripture. God calls on his people to remember their covenantal relationship. Specifically the Lord instituted the Passover as a memorial for the Israelites: “And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt” (Ex. 13:9 ESV). At other times God is called to remember his covenant with people, specifically the use of the rainbow to remember that he will never again wipe out all of humanity (Gen. 9:12-16).

In the gospels, when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist, he instructs his disciples to partake in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19), which Paul reiterates in 1 Corinthians 11:25. Why are we called to partake of the Eucharist in remembrance of him?

The Eucharist book coverIn his book The Eucharist, Alexander Schmemann, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, writes, “Man’s memory is his responding love for God, the encounter and communion with God, with the life of life itself” (p. 125). Memory is not simply a recalling of facts, but rather an attentiveness to God and his love. We as humans, who alone possess the power to remember, only truly live as we remember God.

Therefore, sin, according to Schmemann, is that “man has forgotten God.” Forgetting God, like remembering God, is not simply to stop thinking about God, rather “to forget means above all to cut what has been forgotten off from life, to case to live by it, to fall away from it.” Sin came into the world when Adam “forgot God because he turned his love, and consequently his memory and his very life, to something else, and above all to himself.” I continue to sin in the same way – when I turn my attentive memory away from God’s love toward me to my own self love. Schmemann draws out the implication of this: “If it is God, the giver of life and life itself whom I have forgotten, if he has cased to be my memory and my life, my life itself becomes dying, and then memory, which is the knowledge and power of life, becomes knowledge of death and the constant tasting of mortality” (p. 126).

Part of the multifaceted act of salvation is the regeneration of memory – moving from remembering only death and mortality to love and life everlasting. Schmemann writes, “Salvation consists in this: that in Christ – perfect God and perfect man – memory comes to reign and is restored as a lifecreating power, and, in remembering, man partakes not of the experience of the fall, mortality and death, but of the overcoming of this fall through ‘life everlasting’” (p. 128). And life everlasting is not simply some future hope of glorious bliss, but life everlasting begins in the here and now as Christ’s kingdom has begun to break through into this present age.

If remembering is an attentiveness to God, an encounter and experience with God, then the Eucharist has the power to be a means for us as believers to re-center our attentiveness towards God through Christ’s sacrificial offering. To quote Schmemann, “The services are the entry of the Church into the new time of the new creation, gathered by the memory of Christ, transformed by him into life and the gift of life” (p. 129).

As we remember Christ through the sharing of his body and blood in the Eucharist, we remember him not as we remember a loved one who has passed, but rather as one who lives. We remember Christ as the one who invites us to partake now of his kingdom. We remember Christ by returning our attention to what he is doing to bring salvation to others. We remember Christ as we celebrate with others the broken body and blood of Christ as being formed into a worldwide, eternal community.

On the Road to Emmaus

The road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). It has been a story that I have had on my mind for a while now, and I am still not quite sure what to make of it.

Here is the text:

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas,asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

It is Sunday. Passover is over. And a lot has transpired in the past 72 hours. So these two disciples of Jesus, one name Cleopas, the other remaining nameless, start the seven mile journey back to their home. They are despondent, grief stricken, and terribly confused, trying to make sense of all that they had just witnessed, especially the fact that Jesus, whom they thought was the long awaited Messiah of Israel was now dead, although they had heard rumblings that Jesus’ tomb was empty and women were told by angels that he was alive.

In the midst of trying to comfort one another, Jesus appears, yet they do not recognize him (In many of the post-resurrection appearances people were kept from recognizing Jesus.). Jesus plays dumb and asks what the two of them were discussing.

Luke tells us in verse 27, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in the all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

For the entire seven mile journey (probably around two to three hours of time) Jesus explains all of the Jewish scriptures (or the Old Testament, Genesis through Malachi) to these two disciples on how everything points to Jesus and the fact that he came to suffer. I don’t know about you, but the Old Testament can be confusing and hard to understand at times, so to have the Word himself explain the word would be amazing. If there is any sermon or teaching of Jesus to be included in the Gospels, I want this one.

But the weird thing is, it is not included. And what is even stranger for me is that Cleopas and the other disciple do not realize it is Jesus explaining all of Scripture to them. When the two disciples finally reach their home, they convince Jesus to stay with them as it is almost night.

Finally we reach the climax of the story: “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:30-31)

First, the words that Luke uses to tell this story are almost the exact words that he used when Jesus instituted the Eucharist just a few days before: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19). We do not know if Cleopas and the other disciple were with Jesus on that night, but Luke obviously wants us as readers to recall the Lord’s Supper in this instance.

Second, the disciples only come to recognize Jesus when he breaks bread, not during his teaching. When they report to the Eleven Apostles what had happened, they tell the Eleven “how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread” (Luke 24:35). But after Jesus disappears from their sight, they also realize that there was power and authority in his teaching: “They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32).

This is the reason that this story perplexes me so much: the disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread not during the sermon. In the Evangelical tradition that I am part of, a high emphasis (I might argue too high of emphasis) is placed on the preached word. Everything about Sunday revolves and centers around this passive activity. But in this story, the disciples fail to recognize Jesus through his teaching, which causes me to pause and reflect, “If Jesus’ teaching failed to open disciples’ eyes, what effect will my teaching have?”

However, we have to take into account the disciples’ words to each other in verse 32 after Jesus disappeared – Jesus’ teaching obviously did something to them – so I am in no way trying to divorce Word from Eucharist. The two go hand-in-hand. Without the Word, the Eucharist is devoid of all meaning; without the Eucharist, the Word is abstracted from the everyday routine of life. As Eugene Peterson writes, “Holy Scripture is an orientation in largeness and coherence. Holy Scripture rescues us from out-of-breath stutters of distracted and amnesiac journalists who think they are keeping us in touch with what is important…. Christian practice in matters of spiritual formation goes badly astray when it attempts to construct or organize ways of spirituality apart from the ordinariness of life. And there is nothing more ordinary than a meal” (Living the Resurrection, pp 62, 71).

And maybe that is why Luke includes this story: Even as we now live life post-resurrection, life is still very full of pain, confusion and bewilderment, which is why we need the Word to orient us to God’s cohesive love and plan for the world and the Eucharist to ground us, reminding us that our resurrection life is formed through the ordinary and everyday.