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Easter 3B        April 14, 2024        Luuke 24:36b-48

 

One of the things Jesus does in our Gospel reading today is something we don’t expect. He tells them he is hungry and he asks his bewildered disciples for something to eat. And when they give him a piece of broiled fish, they watch as he eats it in their presence. This is such a simple act, but, surprisingly, something shifts because of it. Something becomes possible that was impossible before. As Jesus eats, the disciples lose enough of their fear to be open to his unbelievable presence in their midst. So open, in fact, that they actually listen to what he is saying. And their receptivity allows Jesus to get them to understand how all the things foretold in the scriptures needed to happen in just this way. By the end they are no longer feeling frightened and hopeless, they are bold “witnesses of these things.” Simply by expressing hunger, inviting hospitality, and accepting nourishment, Jesus turns table fellowship into communion.

 

Liikewise, I believe something powerful like that happens when we “break bread” together and share hospitality with one another. When I was growing up, we would often go to my dad’s family farm near Clayton, WI on a Sunday afternoon. The farmhouse wasn’t very big and I couldn’t imagine how they could raise eleven children is such small space. When you walked through the door, you walked right into the kitchen which opened to a large dining room table. And what always impressed me was that grandma made sure the table was filled with all sorts of food. No matter what kind of food you liked or disliked, there was something on the table you were going to enjoy. It was clear that no one was going to leave hungry and there would be leftovers to take home.

 

That same spirit of hospitality lives on when we have our annual Franko family reunion and food abounds beyond measure. We still experience the magic of a generous spread provided by open hands and loving hearts. It doesn’t matter how elaborate or ordinary the meal may be, somehow, when we are welcomed to the table, nourishment happens – nourishment of the body and nourishment of the soul. Eating together breaks down barriers and fosters intimate connections.

 

You have heard the last words I say every week before we start sharing the Lord’s Supper. I say, “The table is ready, Christ is present, and everybody is welcome. Come and receive.” When I say those words, I try to emphasize the word “everybody,” because I mean it so deeply. I don’t care what you believe or what you question. I don’t care if you are a member of the church or not. I don’t even care how young or old you are. If you put out your hand you will get the body of Christ. If you raise your cup, you will get the blood of Christ. Because this isn’t my meal, this isn’t the church’s meal, this is God’s meal – a gift of hospitality – a holy communion – offering resurrection and life to all.

 

Filled with fear, terrified and scared, the disciples were greeted by Jesus risen from the dead. And with the gentle request, “Do you have something to eat?” he reminded them of the role hospitality plays in the grand scheme of God’s plan for the world. And I wonder, do we need the same urgent reminder the disciples received? What if pushing past the fears we have – our fear of the stranger, or our inadequacies, or of rejection or failure – is the best way to reveal Jesus to others? What if practicing hospitality is practicing resurrection? What if more is at stake in a piece of broiled fish (or a cup of coffee, or a slice of pizza) than we have imagined?

 

When the disciples fed Jesus, he fed them in return. When they chose hospitality over their fears, their eyes were opened, death fled the room, and the resurrected Jesus came to life for them. Belief didn’t come first. Food did.  And in the food they offered, their minds were opened and they became “witnesses of these things.”

 

 

 

 

 

In the Breaking of Bread, by Steve Garnaas Holms

 

The prayers and doxologies are nice;

the creeds are splendid little things.

But sharing food is where we meet God.

Receiving what gives us life,

accepting it gratitude, wonder and humility,

blessing it, dedicating it to the goodness of life,

dividing it up so it will be shared and not kept;

this is how God is made known to us.

Not just in the bread,

but in the taking, blessing, breaking and giving of bread,

Word is made flesh.

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