Acts 2:14a, 36-41
I Peter 1:17-23
One of the interesting things about testimonies at court trials is the fact that even when people are telling the truth, almost every witness has a slightly different version of the events under investigation. That doesn’t mean that one person is right and all others are wrong; it means that all the witnesses are human and therefore have grasped only part of the truth about the situation. The gospel story today is an example of this: the two Emmaus-bound travelers tell their version of the story, and then Jesus tells his. The two travelers had the facts down fairly well; Jesus supplied them with the meaning and reasons behind the facts.
We are like the travelers – we can report what we perceive to be facts about the world, but without Jesus, the facts don’t always make sense. Sometimes we don’t even get the facts right, because our perception is skewed by our psychological makeup, physical condition, personal history, and cultural bias. Then we take what we perceive to be that empirical evidence of the world around us and try to make sense of it all, but then again our ability to construct a world out of those facts is tempered by those same conditions just mentioned. That is why we must see the world through the lens of Jesus, and also that is why Jesus must be the basis of our world. Only through and with and in Jesus can we hope to experience reality. Of course, sometimes, even with Jesus as the basis of and operating system of our lives, the world around us doesn’t make much sense. That is ok – things might make sense to us in the future, or they might not, but at least with Jesus we are grounded in reality and we can be at peace with our confusion, because we know that things don’t depend on us; they depend on God.
So we need to always have Jesus as our lens through which we perceive the world, and we must have Jesus as the logic by which we understand the world. But even our understanding of Jesus is affected by our personal and cultural history. That is why it is so important to always grow in our knowledge of Jesus –not just knowledge about Jesus (although that is helpful), but even more importantly in our personal relationship with the living Jesus who is not only Lord and Master of the Universe, but is also a frail human being just like us. We can grow our friendship with Jesus by hanging around him through prayer, scripture reading, serving him by serving others, and letting him serve us through others. Of course, our personal relationship with Jesus must always be measured against the community’s relationship with him to make sure we are not falling into a fantasy relationship with a fantasy lord.
That is why one of the most important ways of getting to know Jesus is mentioned in the gospel story this morning, and that is why it is the very thing we are preparing to do here and now – breaking bread together with Jesus and each other. It is an act which is both communal and individual. We as individuals gather together, we pray together and individually, we receive the meal as a group and consume it into our individual bodies. We come to the altar as a group and receive Jesus as our personal savior without the need to doubt our acceptance of him or his acceptance of us, because we hold the evidence and guarantee of it in our hands as bread and cup. That might not make sense to us, but it does not have to, because it doesn’t depend on us; it depends on God.
The world is a strange place, full of frightening events and dubious futures, just like it was to those travelers in the gospel story. But by walking with Jesus and letting him feed us, we can know that all will be well. That doesn’t change the facts of the world around us, but it will help us to perceive them more accurately and to understand the reason behind them. Of course, knowing the facts and understanding the reason behind them does not always make them less frightening, but the more we know Jesus, the more we realize that he goes through the frightening situations with us and is able to heal them and give them meaning if we allow him to. The road to Emmaus is a long one for some of us, but Jesus is on the same road, just waiting for us to ask directions. The first steps are the ones to this altar. Let us break bread together with Jesus and each other, so that our eyes may be opened, and let us not stop at this first step, but rather make it only one of many as our lives progress toward our final destination in God. AMEN