Third Sunday of Easter 2015: Peace, Bread, and Liturgy

Acts 3:12-19 Psalm 4 1 John 3:1-7 Luke 24:36b-48

Peace, Bread, and Liturgy
By this time, according to Luke, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women had found the empty tomb of Jesus, and “two men in dazzling clothes” had told the women that Jesus had risen from the dead. The first “resurrection ‘sighting’” of Jesus, then, is an empty tomb. The “eleven [disciples] and all the rest” did not believe the women. Their story was most certainly an “empty tale.” Peter ran to the tomb and saw for himself that it was empty; empty, that is, except for linen cloths that Jesus left there. Peter was amazed.

Cleopas and a companion saw Jesus while the two were walking to Emmaus. The two did not recognize Jesus, but they told Jesus the astounding story of the empty tomb. How did Jesus respond?

He said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

It was not until Jesus broke bread with them that these men recognized Jesus.

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.”
It is here that we enter Luke’s story today. Cleopas and the companion return to Jerusalem and join “the disciples and their companions,” who are already talking about Simon having seen Jesus. They add their astounding “on the road” story, and the revealing of Jesus to them “in the breaking of the bread.”

Are you still with me? Here we are:
“while they were still talking about this, Jesus appeared among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” Shalom.

This is not the offering of just any kind of peace. It is the kind of peace, shalom, that only Jesus can give. Shalom is the peace about which we say “passes all understanding.” This is the peace that we share when Jesus is among us. THIS is the “peace” that we verbally offer and share with one another each week when we say “the peace of the Lord be always with you … and also with you.” This is not a “hello, how ya doin’?” type of peace, but the deep, abiding peace that only our Lord, our Savior, our God, can impart. Our words of peace are a glimpse into, an offering of, the peace of Christ.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says. “Why are you frightened?” It’s me, I am here, and I have flesh and bones. See. Touch. Jesus is not a ghost, and he is trying to show that to his close friends, his followers. “Is there anything edible here?” (You’re allowed to smile. That’s a funny question, right?) An apparition, a ghost, does not have flesh, bones, an appetite, or a digestive system. Jesus eats cooked fish – broiled fish! – in their presence. This is not a ghost. It is he, the risen Christ. Perhaps we remember a time that Jesus fed over 5,000 people with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread … there is something about fish, bread, and a miracle. Do we remember that?

In any case, after eating, this “bodied” Jesus speaks about “the law and the prophets (and the psalms). All must be fulfilled … thus it is written.” Jesus, in the flesh, is the fulfillment of all of these things, as told by God, the same God who existed at the time of the Law of Moses, at the time of the lives of the prophets and of the writing of the psalms. This is the one God, and ALL of these things are fulfilled in the person and divinity of Jesus. All of them.

This claim of fulfillment is incredible, preposterous if it weren’t also true. Jesus is the fulfillment of all things that we call Scripture. Jesus is revealed to us … how?
In the breaking of the bread.
In the opening of our minds to the Scriptures.
Each of these Lukan encounters with Jesus has Jesus not only breaking bread/eating with the disciples (now apostles), but opening their minds to understand the Scriptures. Jesus is known to us through a body of writings, the Scriptures.

Come back with me to our present time, and to our worship today. What we do each week is structured around this fact: that Jesus is known to us in the breaking of the bread and in the opening of our minds to the truth (and fulfillment) of the Scriptures. We have talked before about the shape of the liturgy, our worship. It is in two essential parts:
The Liturgy of the Word.
He opened their minds to the meaning of the Scriptures.
The Liturgy of the Table.
He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
These two pieces of our worship are bridged by a sermon. A sermon is one person’s (usually an ordained person’s) response or exposition of the good news. We are meant to be opening our minds to the Scriptures, pointing our hearts to Christ, through the sermon or homily.

We then prepare further to come to our Lord, to receive Christ’s body into our own. We offer our prayers in the prayers of the people. Please, Lord, hear us! Please, Lord, heal us! We present our bodies and our faults to the Lord in a corporate confession, asking to be forgiven. We have now heard, prayed, and prepared ourselves, presented ourselves to God. Then what do we do?

Yes, we offer one another … peace.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
We offer to one another the peace that only our Savior can give. We join the opening our minds and the receiving of Christ’s body … with Christ’s peace. Shalom.

There is a lot more “to the story,” of our liturgy. For today, rest in the beauty of a structure in which we try to be faithful to Christ and to the fullness of taking Christ into ourselves. What does it mean to have our hearts opened, to receive forgiveness, peace, and the body of Christ. How we are prepared for the world! We have met Christ here in word and in table. One part is not sufficient; one part alone is incomplete.

In this time in which our “alleluias” are fresh and strong, when Jesus is with us in a whole new way, what now will we tell the world? What will we tell the world – “in our lips and in our lives” – about the Gospel, the Truth? Our bodies are prepared, our minds have been opened. We, not just Mary of Magdala and the apostles, have a story to tell. The apostles were sent out from Jerusalem to tell the whole world. We are sent forth from Henrietta.

Come and see, taste and see, go and tell, again and again. Live into the fullness of what we have been given: Bring others in, that they, too, might meet the Scriptures, be filled, opened, and offered the peace that is far beyond our understanding.

Peace, bread, and liturgy: Alleluia!

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