Jesus + Food = Miracle
A Sermon for First Church in Cambridge, UCC
Rev. Reebee Girash
October 7, 2012
Responsive Reading Psalm 8
L: O God, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
C: Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
L: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established:
C: What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
L: Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
C: You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
L: the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
C: O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Reading Luke 24: 13-33
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
Jesus + food = miracle.
They walked along the road, murmuring. A stranger asked them what they were talking about. Cleopas and his unnamed companion said, we are deeply grieved. Our teacher has been killed. How can we imagine life, now? We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel. The stranger wondered at their foolishness, and opened scripture to their understanding. Which was, let’s just say, an odd response to their grief. If I had been Cleopas I would have been thinking, who’s this guy who hears our grief and responds by citing scripture and calling me foolish for grieving?
So, Cleopas and his companion, when they got to their fork in the road, they could just say – well, have a good day, safe travels, see ya. It would have been perfectly understandable to wave this stranger on. But they were followers of Jesus, Jesus who ate with sinners and children, Gentiles and tax collectors, Jesus who managed to look at everyone with compassion.
And their hearts were burning, while he was talking to them. And so they invited the stranger in to stay with them and eat at their table.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. That’s when they recognized him. And that’s when he vanished from their sight.
Jesus + food = miracle.
Growing up I experienced a miracle once a month.
Our family was part of a little United Methodist congregation on the west side of Nashville. The church was tucked in between a McDonalds and a pawn shop, across a busy road from a public library and park. Back in the day that my parents first called West Nashville home, Charlotte Avenue was on the suburban edge of town; in the 80s this street was urban and troubled. But this was our church, and miracles happened there. Not every Sunday. Most Sundays folks sat in the pews wishing the preacher would wrap it up so we could get to Shoneys before the Baptists. But then there were Communion Sundays. This congregation drew deep upon the ancient Christian tradition of the Agape Feast which John Wesley had updated for the American context and called the Love Feast. Every Communion Sunday, after worship, we all settled in to the Fellowship Hall to eat a potluck meal together.
George brought the chicken and Louise the banana pudding (delicious, but not the miracle). Harry loaded the dishwasher and Ed played music with a pair spoons on his knee. McDonald’s often donated the drinks (that’s not the miracle part either). There was always some holy chaos. The kids knew all the grownups and the elders held all the babies, and no one had assigned seats. That was part of the miracle. And there was always, always, enough food. That was part of the miracle, too. You all know this: at a church potluck, even when you start with the 7 leftover goldfish crackers in your kid’s lunchbox, at the end there’s biscuits to take home. And part of the miracle, too, was that our door was open to the world.
And the door was open and all manner of strangers, neighbors and friends came in. One time, a man came to the door and asked if he could eat with us and we said, sure, of course, and we felt like we were doing something nice for him. Until after the meal was over and we were digging in to the banana pudding and he made his way over to the piano and he sang to us, it was a spiritual, it was I Want Jesus to Walk with Me. And there was Jesus in the room with us. We recognized him in the breaking of the bread, and the sharing of the banana pudding. It was a miracle. It was a Love Feast.
Jesus + food = miracle.
Church, you know that when people get together to eat, when the table is spread and the doors are open strangers become friends over a meal, miracles happen. Jesus shows up.
And this is what happens at the Communion Table, too. The piece of bread may be small but the nourishment is abundant. At the Communion Table we experience a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Jesus makes the invitation and we respond. We are all welcome in God’s house and at the Communion Table, and miracles happen here.
It is World Communion Sunday. We do not often get to share communion with people around the world, but today, we do. Today we can imagine that in sanctuaries in Uganda and Belize, people are sharing a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. We can imagine that in Korea and the Philippines, there are potlucks taking place. And folks are seeing Jesus in their neighbors and miracles are happening in Fellowship Halls around the globe. And in spite of the differences in our traditions, our languages, our cultures – that’s a miracle.
But, it is World Communion Sunday and it is also the season of the Neighbors in Need offering. And how can we imagine this lovely picture of the miracle of unity in Christ around the Communion Table without also considering: who is hungry in our world?
If Jesus + food = miracle,
then what does Jesus say to us when there are people in our world who do not have access to food?
When it comes to our nearby neighbors I know this church is thoughtful and generous: sandwiches and meals, a shelter downstairs where often the smells of a fabulous feast waft all the way through the building. Not to mention the miracle of last week’s luncheon which will be told for years. Yes, indeed, many a guest has shared a meal in Margaret Jewett Hall and maybe, even, we have entertained angels unaware.
That church down in Nashville – you will not be surprised to hear that not long after we heard that spiritual, the congregation decided a weekday evening meal, every week, advertised to the neighborhood, would be a good idea. And then came a food pantry, too.
It’s World Communion Sunday, though, so let’s think about this globally. After all, our Psalm reminds us that we have been given dominion over the earth – we have global responsibility.
One of the news stories hidden under the fold these days the spike in global grain prices. If you listen to NPR you may have heard this week that social scientists are now able to predict social unrest based on food prices. Let me quote: “High food prices….create the range of conditions in which the tiniest spark can lead to riots.” This group accurately predicted the Arab Spring based on food prices. And right now, they note, are higher than they were in the winter of 2011.
Food prices are high because of all sorts of factors: commodity speculation, use of food crops for biodiesel, various economic injustices, and extreme weather events related to climate change. Climate action is my passion – and this is one of the reasons.
It takes about twenty seconds on Oxfam’s website to see how humanitarian agencies highlight the link between climate change and food security.
Much of our world faces increasingly unstable access to food. Put another way, our brothers and sisters are hungry. Around the globe, as of 2010, one in seven people were undernourished, according to the UN. (http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm) 925 million people hungry, and that number has not magically improved in the last two years. On World Communion Sunday, that’s disturbing. We can’t just think, how miraculous to share the bread and the cup, how thankful we are to eat lunch together in Margaret Jewett Hall. Sara Miles, whose food pantry memoir some of us are reading together, says that when the disciples came to complain to Jesus that there wasn’t enough food to feed the crowd, he looked back at them and said: You feed them. (Take this Bread by Sara Miles )
Churches know that when people get together to eat: when the table is spread and the doors are open strangers become friends over a meal, miracles happen. Jesus shows up. Churches also know that when people are hungry, Jesus calls us to show up. And maybe in following that call, there is a different kind of miracle.