Our lives, broken and shared

The Risen Christ is recognised when he takes bread, gives thanks, and shares it; just as when we take our own lives, give thanks, and feed others. (Listen.)

They recognise him when he takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it away. He has always done this. When he was born, he was laid in a feeding trough. When he grew up, he catalysed picnics and ate at sinners’ tables and barbecued fish on the beach for his friends. He took bread and wine and made them special: and those who ate with him knew an abundance and a welcome they had never known before.

‘I am the bread of life,’ he said, and he took that bread and gave it away. He gave his life to feed others: that is how he is known.

We live under the myth of scarcity. At the merest hint of threat, we grab all the bread and all the rice and all the toilet paper, and we hide them away for ourselves. Once upon a time, Mr Rockefeller was the richest man in the United States. He was asked, ‘Mr Rockefeller, how much is enough?’ ‘Just a little bit more,’ he said, ‘just a little bit more.’ Like Mr Rockefeller, we might feel like we never have quite enough. Whether it’s energy, affection, clothes, bedrooms or toilet paper, we’ll be happy, generous, and able to serve once we have just a little bit more. And when shutdown’s over and things are back to normal, we’ll definitely have time to pray.

Here’s the thing: That’s a lie. For our faith tells us we have everything we need—time, money, possessions, affection—and it is all gift. And those who understand this and give thanks for their life can give their life away; and they find that life is returned to them in overflowing abundance.

This is the impossible possibility, the mystery of our faith: Guest becomes host, and host becomes bread, and bread feeds everyone at the table. Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and shared it—and then he ate, too. He was fed by the bread, fed by his life, fed by his self-giving love. For, given away, love only grows; there is no scarcity in God’s economy.

Perhaps this is what the stranger said to the disciples on the road; perhaps this is what set their hearts on fire. Perhaps it wakened a hunger in them: a hunger for love, a hunger for truth, a hunger for a way of life beyond fear and scarcity. Perhaps it inspired them to go back to the city, and to feed others, too.

Right now, everything around us is screaming at us to bunker down in Emmaus, take shelter, look after number one. This is not the time, we are told, to be talking about politics, or advocating for the poor, or doing anything beyond self-care. And shutdown is hard. We’re juggling work and kids and study and gender roles and loneliness like we’ve never juggled before. But if Jesus is the way, if his life is truth, then bunkering down will leave us with nothing more than a cold and empty shutdown heart and a garage full of toilet paper.

So hear the good news: We don’t need to wait until after shutdown to be praying, loving, forgiving, or generous; we don’t need to wait until any given Sunday to study the Scriptures and have our hearts set on fire; we don’t need to wait until we meet in the flesh to experience the Eucharist again.

Jesus is present when we gather around the table and share bread, yes; but this table is embodied whenever we, too, take hold of our lives, give thanks, then give our lives away. For whenever we invite Christ in to grow in us and flow through us and feed other people, then Jesus is alive, his spirit is with us, and we, too, are generously fed. Thanks be to God. Ω

A reflection on Luke 24:13-35 given to Sanctuary, 26 April 2020 (Easter 3A) © Alison Sampson, 2020. Image credit: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.

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