3 Easter Year A: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Ps 116:1-3, 10-17; 1 Ptr 1:17-23; Lk 24:13-35
A sermon preached at St. John’s Episcopal Church, May 4, 2014, in Mtgy, AL
Take, Bless, Break, Give. We’ve heard these words from Luke before. In the telling of the feeding of the five thousand, Luke says, And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And again in Luke’s description of the Last Supper, Then he took the loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them¦ And now, in Emmaus, when he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
These stories are memorable”feeding the five thousand because it is miraculous, the last supper because we are commanded to do this in remembrance of Jesus, and Emmaus, because we have been given an inner glimpse into the mystery”a sign of hope and understanding in which Christ’s presence becomes known in the breaking of the bread. Take, blessed, broke, gave”the four-fold action of the Eucharist.
The liturgy of the Table is designed around this four-fold action of the Eucharist. But this action is not limited to the Eucharist, instead the way we worship each Sunday is a call to how we should live our lives”the four-fold action of the Eucharist becomes the pattern of our daily life. I don’t think it is enough to simply profess the faith”our response to Christ requires more than simply warming the pews. Our response to Christ is a call to action and these four verbs”take, blessed, break, give”become the foundation in which Christian action is built on.
We heard that in the reading from Acts this morning. When the crowd asks Peter what they should do in response to hearing that Jesus was indeed both Lord and Messiah, he tells them to be baptized in the name of Christ and about three thousand persons were baptized that day. Belief requires action. But our action does not end with our baptism.
The four-fold action of the Eucharist becomes the way in which we can live out our baptismal covenant in our daily life. It is the way in which we live as intentional Christians”not just good, moral people. Take, bless, break, give”these four words are our mantra, the fundamental principles of who we are and how we are as Christians.
We take what God has given us, be it good or be it bad. All of our life”our innate gifts and skills, our material treasures, our homes, our families, our jobs, our call as Christians, our sufferings, all of this”is given us by God. Not only are the gifts of God given to us, they are given to us to become our offering, that which we give.
To bless is to set aside as holy. It is the thankful recognition of a person or a house or a pet or a marriage or a whatever as held aside in some higher accord. It is an opportunity for us to actively enter into a covenantal relationship with God”He is our God, we are His people, his provision illicit our response. So we take God’s gifts and we say thank you.
Then we tear apart those gifts. We invite doubt and frustration because we are not that good at sharing our gifts”at least I’m not, that’s the one thing I failed in kindergarten. We really aren’t that much better at receiving gifts”we revel in our independence and from the time we are two want to do it, whatever it is, by ourselves. We measure success by winning, by being independent, by being the best instead of valuing our failures and brokenness”we have forgotten how to tear apart our gifts in order to share them, giving of ourselves to ourselves as well as to others.
We see brokenness only as a painful reminder of our own personal failures. We’ve forgotten that in a great twist of irony, Christ’s broken body does not stand for us as failure, but as the greatest success the world has ever known.
In understanding our own brokenness, we can finally give to the world, to our families, to our selves the love of Christ that has been poured out upon us. All of life is a gift”a gift that we have been given, a gift that we give. We may give in the simplest forms, a smile or a meal, or in complex and more involved ways through our talents, our money, our life. No matter what we give, it is in the giving that we participate in the generative process, the renewal of this world.
In a way, we experience a journey to Emmaus every Sunday. We interpret the Scriptures in the Liturgy of the Word and participate in a great act of hospitality in which bread is taken, blessed, broken, and given in our practice of the Eucharist.
It is in that moment of hospitality, that Christ’s presence is made known to us. We see Christ in the offering of the gifts he has given us. We remember Christ in the words of the Eucharistic narrative that we repeat each Sunday”do this in remembrance of me. We know Christ in the breaking of the bread”the breaking open of Christ himself to be shared with all. And we find Christ in one another as we come to this rail together with all those who have come to the table to participate in Christ’s offering to us. God takes the lives of those who gather at the altar, and blesses them. And many of those who gather find their lives have been broken. But this moment of the service is telling them that they are broken in order that their lives may be shared so that God’s people may be fed. This four-fold action then becomes the shape of salvation.
Take, bless, break, give”that is our Eucharistic call to participation in this world. That is how Jesus demonstrates to us the miraculous, the remembrance of hope, and most significantly, that is how Jesus makes himself known to us and we make Jesus known to the world.