April 25, 2011

Recognizing Christ

                Resounding “alleluias” and the scent of lilies filled sanctuaries yesterday in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.  At my church, we ran out of “orders of worship” at both services—a nice problem!  ( O we of little faith…) Easter brings the living and the dead closer together as we acknowledge the possibility of continued communion because of Christ’s triumph over death.  No longer can death end the promise of life; life can now be transposed into an eternal key through relativizing the threat death holds for humans.

The story of the journey to Emmaus, a traditional lectionary text for Easter Evening, is a treasured reflection on one of the resurrection appearances of Jesus.  The narrative is full of suspense, intrigue, and mysterious presence and absence.  The climax of the encounter is at the evening meal: “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…” (Luke 24:30-31).  Luke places before the reader a very deliberate pattern, the same pattern described in Luke 22:19ff at the Passover meal Jesus celebrated prior to his betrayal.  Had Cleopas and his traveling companion received this hospitality of Jesus before, and hence the familiar action alerted them to his identity?  Students of Luke’s Gospel know that table fellowship is a sign of the inbreaking of the reign of God in the ministry of Jesus.  His actions at table regularly put him at odds with those more concerned about purity than redemption.

The breaking of bread continues to illumine Christ’s presence in our midst.  The Baptist tradition in the larger Body of Christ does not recognize the presence of Christ through particular reference to the bread or the cup; rather, we recognize the Risen Christ in his gathered community.  Our prayer should continually be that Christ take us, bless us, break us, and give us as bread for the world in mercy broken.  We long to be useful instruments of grace in the world; we long to be sources of nourishment for the spiritually hungry.  We believe that Christ can multiply the impact of our lives as he blesses us for such service.  Through our ministry as christophers, Christ-bearing believers, others may come to recognize him for themselves.  Alleluia.

Molly T. Marshall

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