Blessings and Breakings
I speak in the name of one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
“And they told them what had happened on the road, and how He had been known to them in the breaking of bread.”
What do you do when you feel like you’ve hit your breaking point? How do you know when you’ve even hit that moment?
I think it might help to define a “breaking point.” This is the time when a person can no longer accept or deal with a situation because of too much pressure or stress.
The time when a person can no longer accept or deal with a situation because of too much pressure or stress.
There are many things that can bring us to our breaking points. But to my first question, what is it that we do once we’re there? There are plenty of tools to help us in the physical sense: breathing exercises, mindfulness, and even meditation.
But what about in a spiritual sense?
What do we do when we can no longer accept or deal with a situation because of too much pressure or stress when it comes to our faith?
In today’s Gospel, these two disciples are leaving Jerusalem when Jesus joins them and asks what they are speaking about. Cleopas calls him a stranger for not having heard all the things that have happened recently.
If I had to take a guess, Cleopas is probably thinking “Seriously? Has this guy been living under a rock or something?” Or perhaps laid behind a stone? :-)
Cleopas then goes on to describe Jesus’ fate to this unrecognizable stranger, saying “Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty.” And “[but] we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
This past tense used by the disciple Cleopas shows us they have hit a breaking point. These disciples have just witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, their hope, their salvation, they had hoped that he was the redeemer. More specifically, the one they had hoped would be their liberating Messiah, to cast off the oppressing Roman occupiers during their great feast of liberation, the Passover.
Hopeless would have been an understatement, feeling disillusioned and dejected might be a better way to put it. These disciples are leaving Jerusalem, lost in what they have just seen over the last few days.
Furthermore, Cleopas continues that some women of their group astounded them with claims of angels proclaiming a resurrected Jesus. Their faith had been rocked, tested, and maybe even shattered. Perhaps they felt like they didn’t know what to believe anymore.
Feeling like your faith had been rocked, tested, and shattered beyond repair.
Only some time ago was this how I described my own faith. For some context, I moved to Maryland in 2021, which is when I first started working for any sort of church. I was settling into a new chapter of my life. I had begun the process of making this new place somewhere to call home.
In my time serving the church, my own faith had been put to the test. I began discerning a call to ministry, and dove into a journey of immersing myself in church workings of every facet. This was when I noticed a shift beginning to occur.
It wasn't until the stress of work started to bleed into my personal and family life, to the point where frustration, anger, resentment, and possibly even hatred, were following me home and into my conversations at the dinner table, that I realized something did not feel right.
I held on to these feelings for some time, letting them sit and brew within me. Feeling consumed, overwhelmed, and controlled by these emotions. I could not handle it anymore. I had reached my breaking point.
The life that I had come to know within the church, the relationships fostered with individuals and families, had been infected by the disease known as “hate.”
Much like the disciples, I didn’t know what to believe. Everything I had been told about The Episcopal Church, everything I had come to know; how we should behave, act, treat one another, and love one another, had been turned upside down. What I believed in and what I saw did not line up. Essentially, I felt as though I were broken. And so, I walked away. I had hoped for something better, and that hope was now lost.
I can kind of relate to how these disciples felt on this part of their walk. Maybe you can too.
Jesus continued along the road, and the disciples urge him to stay with them, as the day was ending. When they went inside, it says that Jesus TOOK bread, BLESSED it, BROKE it, and GAVE it to them, and suddenly their eyes were opened. Once he was revealed to them, he vanished from their sight. The disciples acknowledged their burning hearts when he read them the scriptures of him and went back to Jerusalem to share what had happened.
Notice these important words from this Gospel, "Jesus TOOK bread, BLESSED it, BROKE it, and GAVE it to them, and suddenly their eyes were opened. Once he was revealed to them, he vanished from their sight.”
Why is it that Christ waited until this moment to reveal himself to the disciples? Why not earlier? And once he finally was recognizable, why would he vanish from their sight?
Jesus was waiting for the invitation to come in. And once he was invited in, he broke bread with them. It was then that their eyes were opened. Like us, Jesus must be invited in by us, for us. When we come together in the breaking of bread, we invite Jesus in. We can see him clearly, and we know who he is.
When Jesus vanished from sight, the disciples knew that he was still present. Because amid their breaking point, Jesus became known to them in the breaking of bread.
When I left the church, I had no idea where I was going, what I had witnessed, how I felt, or what to do. I shared my story with others, but nothing brought me the satisfaction I had been looking for.
I was walking down my own Emmaus Road, feeling lost and hopeless. I had hoped that my spirit and soul would find peace, but there was nothing that I could recognize that would allow me to heal. That was, until I found myself in a pew of a small church on a hill, known as St. Peter's.
It was your welcoming embrace that helped me realize that there would be another shift about to occur in my life: one that would offer the opportunity to reconnect, heal, and continue growing.
Pushed to my breaking point, I realized what was required to happen next: it was my turn to invite Jesus in to allow me to heal faithfully. Like the disciples, I had no idea that Jesus would be so close to me, walking along with me down my Emmaus Road, and ready to help. He had been waiting for the invitation the entire time.
In just a little bit, each of us will have the opportunity to come to the Lord’s table and break bread with each other. I ask that we consider the following: what parts of us need healing? How will we invite Jesus in, and be able to recognize him when we TAKE the bread, BLESS it, BREAK it, and GIVE it?
Perhaps it is in our own breaking that we see Christ clearly and in the breaking of bread that we invite Jesus into our hearts. To restore our hope, to heal faithfully, and to love as He loved us.