Easter Remembrance – Br. David Vryhof
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The gospel tells us that two followers of Jesus were walking and talking as they made their way to the village of Emmaus, a distance of about seven miles from Jerusalem. Only a few days had passed since the tragic death of Jesus, and the confusion, fear, disappointment, and grief of that time still weighed heavily upon them. Some of those closest to Jesus had contributed to the tragedy; he had been betrayed by one of his own disciples, denied by another, abandoned by his followers and allies, who had fled for their lives. Furthermore, the body had apparently gone missing! Some women who had visited the tomb had reported a strange encounter with “two men in dazzling clothes” who had greeted them with the amazing news that Jesus was not there, but risen! They had reported this “dazzling experience” to the disciples, but the disciples took it to be “an idle tale” and sent them away.1 And now, as these two were walking along, they were trying to make sense of all of this, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, trying to work through their grief and confusion, trying to find some point of light to illumine the darkness and despair that had overshadowed their hearts.
And just at this moment, they were joined on the road by a mysterious stranger who claimed to be unaware that these things had taken place, and yet seemed to possess deep insight into their significance. They were so taken by his interpretation of the events that they invited him to join them for a meal, and at once he became known to them “in the breaking of bread…” They knew immediately then that it was Jesus, but he disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as he had appeared, and they were left trembling with disbelief and joy.
That is the report, as it is remembered in Luke’s Gospel. I think this story has been remembered, not because it makes for sound, historic testimony (though it may well be literally true), but because it is experientially true. The story rings true because followers of Jesus, down through the centuries, have known crises and confusion and maybe even the death of faith. They have known times when – to speak symbolically – Jesus has been taken away, when his presence has been absent or unrecognizable; times when they have been blinded by their grief or sorrow or despair, lost in the tragedy of their own circumstances. And then there has come a moment, perhaps a surprising moment and yet equally undeniable, when their eyes have been opened and they have perceived that Jesus was there, with them. That is why this story has been remembered in Luke’s Gospel: because others down through the centuries have had this experience of Jesus’ becoming known to them in surprising, unexpected ways – not in ways that one would expect, but in everyday events and encounters, as simple as breaking bread together. And maybe this has been true for you as well.
We celebrate this Eucharist today, as always, “in remembrance of [Christ].” At various points in life, drawing on our memory is essential in finding our way ahead. Can you recall the experience of being in some place familiar to you when the light is taken away, when you lose the light, quite literally; perhaps when the power has gone out? You cannot see… and so you have to draw from memory, from the eyes of your mind and heart, to find your bearings and make your way.
This may be such a time for some of us here. Because as we try to make our own sense of the report of the resurrection, we have not only this record from the Gospel according to Luke to read and ponder, we also have the record of our newspapers, which day by day give us confusing and troubling accounts of what is going on in the world around us, and the sometimes confusing events and circumstances of our own lives. Not unlike the two disciples in today’s gospel lesson, you may be having your own “post-resurrection” conversations these days as you make your way, trying to make sense of your experience and of what is taking place around you. If you are having trouble recognizing Jesus’ real presence in the moment, there may be a real grace in drawing from your memory, using the experience of your past to guide you down the path of life into God’s future. What we do here this morning, we do in remembrance of Christ.
Jesus became known to the disciples in today’s gospel story in the breaking of the bread – that is, in a time of feeding. I imagine that most all of you know something about that. There is a kind of feeding we experience here in Holy Communion, something which may have sustained you down through the years. Hasn’t that been true for you? You may have secured in your memory the experience of Christ’s real presence in Holy Communion during an exceedingly joyful time: some rite of passage – a birthday or anniversary, a baptism, a wedding, a time of taking on a new responsibility or a time of giving up an old responsibility. Or perhaps it was the setting that made the celebration of the Eucharist so meaningful at some point in your experience: some church or chapel, a scene along the seaside or in the mountains, a place called “home” or a place far away from “home,” and Jesus’ real presence in the context of this “eucharistic feeding” was so clear and real for you there, and that has made all the difference. Or maybe some other kind of feeding recalls Christ’s gracious presence for you: maybe at your grandmother’s table which was like “Babbett’s Feast;” maybe a kind of “feeding” through the grace of a friendship or the kindness of a stranger; maybe through the sensory experience of the fragrance of a flower or the aroma of baking bread, or the glorious spectacle of the setting sun, or the gentle nuzzling of a favorite pet, or in the gazing at a beautiful icon or painting. Perhaps Jesus’ real presence has been made known to you in some other way, in some kind of “feeding,” literal or symbolic, and perhaps more than once, maybe even many times. And in that context how and where Jesus was really present in your life was as clear as the daybreak… and that has made all the difference for you. The remembrance of Christ’s meeting you, feeding you, may be essential as you grope your way into God’s uncharted future.
I imagine many of us here would also know about recognizing the real presence of Christ not just in the bread itself but in the in the breaking of the bread. At times in life (maybe now) we are aware of something broken in us, or in someone we love and carry in our heart. It may have to do with a diagnosis or disease or death. It may have to do less with your sense of being fed than it does with your sense of feeling starved (starved for hope or help or comfort or courage or whatever…). And somehow in this breakdown in your life or in the life of someone close to you there is some kind of breakthrough by Christ, in ways in which you could not have anticipated. Your memory can bear witness, perhaps in the sorriest and most desperate of times, of Christ’s real presence being made known to you in the breaking of something, something which you would never have chosen but cannot deny. The remembrance of Christ meeting you, his brokenness meeting your own, may be essential as you grope your way into God’s future down what may seem to be a very uncharted path. Your memory of Christ’s real presence in your past may be essential as you move ahead “in faith” into areas where you may not be able to see clearly. You may recall that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen….”2
Given everything you have had to face in your life, how in the world have you made it? Draw on that memory, and the memory of God’s presence in the past to inform your faith in the future, that you may know Christ and make him known in a world dying to know his love.
Lord Jesus: Be known to us in the breaking of the bread.
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When I’m overly concerned with personal situations, I look for Jesus on the road. Sometimes I find him waiting for me, sometimes I have a hard time seeing him. But I am assured with writings like yours that he is there waiting. Thank you.
Thank you, Br. David, for this great sermon. It brought to my memory the time in 1996 when on a trip to Israel with a group of W. MO clergy led by our Bishop John Buchanan, that we had the Holy Eucharist on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. What a wonderful experience it was!
You mentioned the movie “Babette’s Feast.” We are in a stewardship campaign at our church now. How appropriate that film would be at this time! The sad fact is that, in my moving ten years ago, I lost or misplaced my copy of it. I actually had not thought of it in years, so am so glad you mentioned it and gave me the chance to remember seeing it. Thanks!
These comforting and compassionate words really spoke to me this morning. Thank you Br. David.
This sermon is reassuring and gives me encouragement and hope . I need this as a mother who is concerned for her children especially for one son who I feel needs all the encouragement that he can get at this moment of time. I pray that he finds that Jesus is always with us .
For oh so many Easters… this IS the Easter Experience… lost in the tragedy of my own experience with the suddenness of Jesus’ breaking through the darkness of my heart… drawing on memory while in my blindness, mapping mental constructs of the present out of fragments of the past.
Having sounded in resonance, each of the Easter ‘struggles’ with the Resurrection of Jesus… Peter’s doubts, his shame, the crushing of his pride to look into the eyes of Our Risen Savior. The DNA testing, testing, testing, Thomas who has just one more intellectual hurdle to conquer…
THIS Easter… THIS Easter! it is the quiet tranquility of Mary’s Easter who is looking forward to the magnificat of the promises yet to come… she is again pregnant for the birthing of the Church in the womb of her heart enlarged to the upper room. The more I am able to let go of ‘my’ Easter and let it be in Mary’s Easter Joy that these 50 days unfold… how often have I lingered in Holy Week! As profound as all this is, The Blessed Trinity declares… there is more! more love! the church! the cradle of Pentecost, gathered together in community… The community will experience the Ascension, the community will experience the Out Pouring of the Holy Spirit… the community…. the Church… birthing of Church …
Mary’s mantle spreads wide…
TY Br David for your words of hope and comfort. I am praying for a troubled family member and your theme of remembrance gives me reassurance of God’s presence and healing.
This story is encouraging when I find myself in a situation which is dividing the family and I try to remember that Jesus is walking with me strengthening as I am helping/supporting family members rather than pursuing my own goals.
While memory may be a rather fickle condition, knowing God is walking with us is not. Even when I forgot this, I know God remembers
Thank you for this reflection. I lead a communion service in a seniors’ care home tomorrow, their Easter communion service. I had decided to use the Road to Emmaus for the Gospel reading, wanting “a little distance” from Easter morning since it was over 2 &1/2 weeks ago. You have given me much from which to draw for my short “message.” tomorrow. Again, thank you.
Today, I had surgery which involved the removal of a degenerative disc at the level of C6-7 in my neck. I was very frightened at the prospect of the risk of paralysis or death as a result of this surgery and I had requested the prayers of everyone I knew. Immediately, folliwing surgery, all of the pain I have been suffering in my shoulder, back and arm for months was gone! Skillful surgeons, for sure; Divine and Human! Amazing! Thanks be to God!
Whenever I lose sight of things and wonder why I’m in a certain place other than where I’d really like to be I feel Christ’s presence reassuring me .
Thank you .
Thanks for inspiring words
Reading the story again I notice that Jesus didn’t introduce himself to the walkers but met them where they were in their grief .He didn’t remove their grief but enabled them to travel through it looking to the hope that is seen in the scriptures .So he makes his presence known through the scriptures- Ministry of the Word.
Then he makes Himself known in the Breaking of Bread – Ministry of the sacrament . Consequently the Eucharist is a constant reminder to us of the Presence of Christ though of course his presence is not limited to the sacrament ,all life can be sacramental.
Thanks again. I do a Bible study with Seniors ( over 80-95) today so reading your clear comments will help me suggest that they remember their past experiences. I remember being absolutely certain of jesus when i was 10 years old.
Thank you, David. I have had such an experience and it gave me strength I didn’t know I possessed. Knowing that it happened once has given me the courage to believe it will happen again – that certainty of the presence of God in a time of great need.
In the fall of 2010, I went to Cursillo as a candidate. It was through my wife encouraging me that I did so. I had left the church 15 years prior through circomstances of my own making which I will not go into here. Several weeks prior to my Cursillo I had decided not to go. Then one night I had a dream. I was standing in a corner of a empty room. Directly across was an open door and several people, Priests, Ministers and Bishops were standing there. I could not see their faces but knew who they were. They said two things to me. “Go!” and “Come”. I took their words to mean “Go to Cursillo.” and “Come back to the Church.” So I did Go and I did Come and what a difference it has made in my life since then. But oh since then there have been other trials and tribulations in my life which have affected my life to it’s very core. But I keep moving ahead knowing the Christ Jesus is always with me even in the bad times and good times. I am still on a new path with Christ Jesus as my partner walking with me on that path to Emmaus.
Thanks & Love
Memory has always played an essential roll on our progress whether moving forward or retarding our progress. Affording Christ a place in our memory allows hope to play a role in our lives and gives encouragement to those that have been caught in the negative grip of memory.
This meditation is powerful and real to me — in the “gifts” that we get daily when we are called back to God through little ‘miracles’, through rememberances, theough insights, through ‘callings’ and memories. Spending time in the early mornings when the dawn is fresh or any other time when we are open to seeing and hearing, God drops by.
I remember leaving a town via airplane after dealing with the remnants of my parents’ estate, and my only surviving sibling/brother’s death, that the ribbons of dawn rose to greet me in the east, and I saw and felt the remnants of the past grief, anger, and pain drop from my shoulders like down and feathers. God was with me, and it was a new day, a new beginning. Amen
Thank you again.
Thank you. that was lovely. I realized that I did see the presence of God several times in the past few days.