The following sermon was delivered by Rev. Christine Elliott May 1st, 2011 at Calvary Church, United Methodist.
I’ve met many people who explain their absence from church and characterize their spiritual life by saying that they do believe in God – and they like to spend time in Nature. In response to that I have begun to say 2 Yes-es and a But. Yes to belief in God, Yes to time in Nature BUT…
You see over time I have come to a clear and firm conviction:
You can believe in God all by yourself.
BUT you cannot be a Christian alone.
“Christianity is a social religion; to turn it into a solitary thing is to destroy it.”
The Emmaus story is for some of us our favorite post-Easter morning story.
It demonstrates the presence of the risen Christ in community – and in it we find all of the foundational elements of Christian life.
Christian scholar John Dominic Crossan apparently recognizes that readers find his book The Birth of Christianity daunting in size and scope. He pokes fun at himself. “It took me 500 pages to say what Luke says in just a few lines.” The lines he speaks of are the Emmaus story, which I think can be told almost entirely with participles – you know, those “-ing words” which point to ongoing action.
Walking – sharing – discussing – inviting – breaking – telling. Reflect on your Christian life -where are you strong, where do you need more of a good thing??
Walking side by side – on the road toward home – from Jerusalem to Emmaus, about 7 miles. . .two friends. Cleopas and someone else (so each of us can see ourselves in the picture?)
Sharing “all these things that had happened” – H2H highs and lows – ups and downs – being genuine and even vulnerable with each other about the things that are important to us. What’s happening with us.
“a community within which Christians can sustain one another, not only in the need for hardheaded analysis and personal immersion in struggle with the oppressed, but also in the need for the sustenance of the Gospel that promises hope and courage and freedom even when things look discouraging.”
Discussing the Scriptures – considering where God is in the events of the day – in the tragic, heartbreaking, confusing events of the day. Karl Barth: “Christians should read “with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”
Walking… sharing… discussing…
Inviting “the stranger” to stay with them – hospitality – the mysterious person who had joined them on the road seemed to be going on farther than Emmaus. But they “urged” him, compelled him, prevailed upon him, to stay the night.
Paul Wadell, professor of Religious Studies at St. Norbert College, points out that “imitating the table manners of Jesus” isn’t easy because “the hospitality of God is radically unlike the hospitality of Martha Stewart.” Christians are called to live out not “safe neighbor love” – restricted to those we find easy to care for – but risky love offered to the stranger in our midst.
We can only do that because sharing bread is at the heart of our life – it is the essence of who we are and what we do.
Breaking bread: both table fellowship in homes AND Communion: central and key.
“Nothing schools us in the divine hospitality more than Christian worship and the Eucharist.”
Going to tell their good news – now THEIR good news. Has become their own. They will find that others back in the city have encountered Jesus also – in their own way – and from those encounters come the gospel message.
At the heart of the Christian story is bread – the breaking of bread, the sharing of bread. Which is why one cannot be a Christian all by herself or himself. At the heart of our story – at the heart of our life – is bread. Which makes you and me “companions,” from the Latin “com” “panis”- “with bread.” A companion is one who breaks bread with you.
Walking the road – sharing our lives – discussing the Bible – inviting strangers – telling about our God sightings. . .life in the Christian community. But at the heart of it all is bread. Breaking bread, sharing bread – and discovering the risen Christ as we do so.
Brian Wren: “Jesus is our strong companion – joy and peace shall never end.”
In Hammond Castle in Gloucester there is a 16th century German box. Made for keeping the family valuables. It is fitted with two locks and two keys. In order for the box to be opened, the two keys must be turned simultaneously, requiring not one but two members of the family.
The beauty of Christianity is that it requires not one, but two – to access the treasures of the faith. Jesus tells his followers: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am, in their midst.”
To quote UM Bishop Will Willimon:
“When some people come to the Lord’s Supper they come with long faces and sad hearts, as if they are at a funeral, as if their best friend has just died, or at least as if their best friend died 2000 years ago. But our best friend has NOT died! Christ is present, alive, at work in the world, in the midst of us.”
Thanks be to God – let the people say “Amen!” 🙂