“Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”
This isn’t the first time Jesus has done such a thing.
Rabbi, teacher, they called him
as he taught and healed and fed people
traveling between towns and villages
and throughout the Judean countryside.
No more memorably than
three days after he, God in Christ Jesus, dies on a cross;
the evening of the first day of the week,
while it was growing dark —
sundown the day he, the very same God in Christ Jesus,
is raised from the dead.
Two disciples fleeing Jerusalem, fleeing the City.
walk along the road together, to Emmaus.
They encounter a man unknown to them —
a person who, much to their astonishment,
apparently knew nothing of the events
that had taken place those past few days.
They presume to teach him
until their journey comes to a close.
They approach an inn and he is prepared to walk on.
But instead, they invite him to join them.
At table.
Theirs is a profound act of hospitality, courageous hospitality.
Two frightened disciples
invite a stranger to sit with them at table
— break bread with them —
in the midst of their grief and fear,
their hurried flight from trouble.
He, the stranger, the resurrected Christ,
takes that bread, breaks it.
And they recognize him.
Immediately they recall their roadside conversation
marked by the same pattern
in which they thought they’d teach him,
but instead he had
“opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”
And here again, today.
In the heart of the city.
Opening their minds,
opening our minds
to understand the scriptures.
And taking,
breaking bread.
Holy people.
A holy conversation.
A holy meal.
It seems like a terribly simple thing.
Until we sit down with someone we don’t know.
It seems like a terribly simple thing.
Until we sit down with someone we dislike.
It seems like a terribly simple thing.
Until we sit down with someone who is gravely ill.
It seems like a terribly simple thing.
Until we sit down with someone captive to prejudice.
But that’s the thing about this food.
This table.
This bread.
This meal is always ready to feed more,
which means strangers show up,
who do not know the things that take place here,
and who agitate our patterned ways
with questions and new ideas.
This meal is always ready to feed more,
which means we may meet an adversary at this table.
This meal is always ready to feed more,
which means we may meet people here who are not well,
people whose struggle with mental or physical health unsettles us.
This meal is always ready to feed more,
which means we may meet people who have deep-seeded
preconceived, perspectives
about us; or we about them.
This is my body given for you.
Does not offer the easy comfort of a singular you.
But the inescapable insistence on the plural.
A great diversity.
All nations, as Saint Luke puts it.
Gathered like grain one scattered on a hill.
If you’re looking for the narrow few,
the body of Christ gathered and broken at Table isn’t it.
“Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”
Means their,
our,
experience at Table with Jesus,
is one that does not shy away from the hard things of life.
But goes directly to them.
To prejudice.
Fear.
Other.
To illness.
Even to death.
Where God declares and saves and proclaims the promise.
The promise of all of scripture:
This is my body.
Bread broken
For reconciliation.
For restoration.
For nourishment of mind, body and soul.
For peace.
For any table where Christ Jesus sits,
hard truths can be spoken.
And trust restored.
At Table where Christ Jesus sits,
enemies can take but a bite or two.
And share a way forward.
At Table where Christ Jesus sits,
even the ill are not feared.
But receive welcome and prayers for healing, and calm.
This is no lavish feast.
But a feast of lavish and unrestrained grace.
Unending hospitality.
Unmerited forgiveness.
Unrelenting presence.
Offered by Christ.
Offered by all of us who come to see Christ face to face.
Touch Christ to our very bodies.
Our palms and our lips.
Power from on high.
O, how our world
—our world where suspicion of the other,
where fear of Ebola could lead to spiraling panic,
where hate of enemy is too often seen as a virtue—
O, how our world
needs
more holy people,
more holy conversations
more holy meals like this.
Tables where injustices can be recognized.
And humanity restored.
Tables where death itself is present.
And life is restored.
That’s what the Scriptures point to.
Anywhere there is hardship.
Anywhere there is sorrow.
Anywhere there is a hard heart.
God is there.
To break bread with us and for us.
For all of us.
You — you — are witness of these things,
God says in Isaiah and in Saint Luke’s Gospel.
Witnesses in our own lives.
And in the lives of others.
Witnesses to power of forgiveness.
Witnesses to the power of healing.
Witnesses to power of resurrection.
Witnesses that it sometimes takes a while.
But that God is with us.
With us when two or three are gathered.
Witnesses
that sometimes our misunderstanding eyes need to be opened.
And that God does in fact open eyes.
To see what once was clouded.
To dream new dreams.
See new visions.
Witnesses that sometimes we may not know the other.
But that God helps us to grow and learn and cherish,
those who once were strangers,
for we ourselves were strangers once.
Witnesses that even our beloved dead.
Are with us even as they are with God.
For the body of Christ is gathered together
not simply from all the ends of the earth,
but in this and every place.
And throughout time.
This road.
This table.
These witnesses that we are.
Here.
Here where we hear.
Here where our minds are opened.
Here where our body is nourished.
Here where our soul is touched by God.
Here, this Table.
Shapes every table we ever sit at.
An echo of that Emmaus table.
And echo of that Passover table.
That last table.
Which is actually the first.
The first of many tables which change our world.
For they change us.
And everyone who ever sits at them.
In this life and the next.
“Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”
This isn’t the first time Jesus has done such a thing.
And, for the sake of this dying but rising world of ours,
for all our sake,
it is certainly not the last.

Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York
DAY OF SAINT LUKE, EVANGELIST (transferred)
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Isaiah 43:8–13
Psalm 124
2 Timothy 4:5–11
Saint Luke 1:1–4; 24:44–53