The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Let's eat; let's walk. -- Luke 24:13-35

Grace and peace from God our Creator, hope in our Redeemer Jesus the Christ, and the promised gifts of the Holy Spirit are with you, always.

Imagine for a moment that you are one of those disciples on the road to Emmaus. You’ve been walking a while—slowly, because it’s pretty warm and you’re exhausted from the chaos of the last few days. The two of you were together the last year or so, travelling with Jesus and learning and teaching and spreading the good news. Just last week you were with him when he rode into Jerusalem for the Passover—what a day!

The next few days are where it starts to get blurry because everything happened so quickly. One moment you were all in the garden together, praying, and the next those men from the chief priests came and arrested Jesus, took him away. And it sort of seemed like your friend Judas had something to do with that, but, you and the rest of your friends can’t really figure out exactly what happened—all you remember is running.

You heard through the mess of the city that he was going to be killed—crucified!—on the hillside just out of town, so you went there, hoping to see him, maybe talk to him, maybe find your friends, maybe find a way to free him, even! But when you finally saw him, it was too late. There he was. Your teacher, your friend.

Even now, as you remember the scene, you try to cover your ears to keep from hearing the echo of the hammer and nails, the cries, the jeers from the crowd as they mocked him. When it was too much to bear, you left. You’re not even sure what you did the next day—wandered around Jerusalem, looking for a friend to travel with. You’ll go home, you guess. What is there to do, here, anymore? Jesus is dead. All of your work, all of your plans, everything has been ruined. The man who was supposed to bring about this kingdom of God has been wrenched from your grasp.

The two of you, walking to Emmaus, have been rehashing what you can remember and trying to fill in the blanks and the blurs. The weirdest thing is that your friend, Cleopas, with whom you’re walking, said that some of your friends, the women, went to Jesus’ tomb this morning and found it empty. They said they’d seen a vision of angels that told them Jesus has been raised from the dead! You can’t even begin to believe that. Others went, after the women had told them what had happened, and saw that the tomb was truly empty, but, what did that prove? Someone took his body away. You don’t even like thinking about that.

There are so many stories to hear and to tell, so many things to try to explain.

And that man you just met on the road, who was he? He was coming from Jerusalem just as you were, and yet, when you mentioned the things that happened, he asked, “What things?” How could you even hope to express to this stranger what you have been through? How could he possibly understand?

You explained, to the best of your ability—even mentioning the thing about the women believing Jesus to be resurrected—and he had the audacity to tell you that you should have been prepared for this, because if Jesus really was the Messiah, like everybody said he was, it had to end this way. And then he talked about scripture, the whole rest of the way to Emmaus. It was stories you knew about your people’s history, and Jesus had told them to you a hundred times. It was a little bit like he was telling them to you, again, then, through this stranger on the road.

Not knowing where he was headed, you invited him to eat with you. Jesus was always inviting everyone to the table, so you felt it was the right way to remember him, today.

Lo and behold, in the breaking of the bread, it is him! Jesus the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, your friend, your teacher, your God. There at the table where he had always made God’s love known to you and to your friends, he made himself known, once again.

And isn’t that the way it always works? We venture out into the great unknown, disciples of Jesus to the best of our abilities—which, fortunately, we have a great example set by the 12 of doing a very poor job of following Jesus perfectly—and encounter God in the most expected and the most unexpected places.

Y’all might know of Sara Miles, an Episcopalian here in the city—she feeds people over at St. Gregory of Nyssa. She wrote a book that’s mostly about food—kind of like the Bible. She wrote a few chapters about her sudden and slow encounter with God in the Eucharist, and how it extended to pretty much all food. She worked in some kitchens and was around an abundance of food (and food waste) and then, as a journalist, she covered the civil wars in Latin America in the 1980s, where food was very scarce.

Once she’d experienced the eucharist at St. Gregory’s, she spent the better part of a year trying to figure out how this food and faith connection worked.

About that process, she writes these great words: “Poking around in the Bible, I found clues about my deepest questions. Salt, grain, wine, and water; figs, pigs, fishermen, and farmers. There were psalms about hunger and thirst, about harvests and feasting. There were stories about manna in the wilderness and prophets fed by birds. There was a God appearing in radiance to Ezekiel and handing him a scroll: ‘Mortal,’ God said, ‘eat this scroll,’ and Ezekiel swallowed the words, ‘sweet as honey,’ and knew God.” Hmm.

And Jesus by no means abandons that medium! She keeps writing that “in the New Testament appeared the astonishing fact of Jesus, proclaiming that he himself was the bread of heaven…. he said he was bread and told his friends to eat him.”

And when we talk about Jesus' “friends”, remember who those friends were. Nobody fancy or important by their societal standards. Jesus made a point of eating with whoever was at the table, whoever would invite him to their table, whoever had never received an invitation to a table, before. Like Sara, I love how ordinary Jesus’ work was. That Jesus simply and radically ate with people, walked with people, talked with people. She even writes about this walk to Emmaus, and how it was in the breaking of the bread that his friends could recognize him.

Where is it that we recognize Jesus? Where are we being fed and where are we feeding others that serves as an encounter with the face of God? Certainly here in the Bay Area, bustling with people and noise and trains and taxis and bicycles, there are endless faces to see. But do we? There are stark contrasts in this city and in this nation between those who are seen and those who are unseen. Here at St. Francis I know that y’all have a history of making unseen people seen. A history of speaking the truth in love to our dear ELCA, and facing the consequences. It is in these acts of radical hospitality that you have provided access to the table for those who had never received an invitation, before.

At this table, there are no restrictions. If you’re in this room, you’re invited to eat. Jesus the Christ sets the table for us, welcoming those who see themselves as the least to take their place at the head of the table.

At this very communion table, and at the table of God’s grace in the world, you may find yourself sitting next to someone you didn’t really want to see, thank you very much. It’s very easy to make a list of who should not, in fact, be welcome at the table. Or maybe, it’s very easy to find yourself on someone else’s list of the unwelcome. Truth is, Jesus’ mandate that we sit with sinners guarantees my right and your right to be at the table, too.

When we emulate Jesus’ open-table practice, we break down barriers between friends and strangers, and open ourselves to addressing issues of one another’s injustice. When we join together at this table, we tell and retell and retell the story, reigniting those encounters with the crucified and resurrected Christ. Once we’ve eaten together, we can walk together. So let’s eat, and then let’s walk.

Amen.

#YesAllWomen

"The pivot of hope," Walter Brueggemann