Take, Bless, Break, Give
I was reading the other day about a young man.
His name is Caleb Ferguson, and last year he was skateboarding back from a class at Florida State.
But Caleb fell very hard backward and hit his head so hard that by the time he was taken to the hospital, he was in a coma.
Caleb’s mom, who got the call from the hospital, recalled this in a news story.
She said: “They made it sound like you need to make it here before he dies.”
Caleb had suffered horrible brain damage.
The doctors didn’t think there was anything that they could do.
So the family prayed.
And Caleb hung on in that coma.
And friends began a campaign on social media asking everyone to fast something — to give up something, even a Diet Coke — each day to remind themselves to pray for Caleb.
There was A LOT of prayer going on.
And the next day, Caleb awoke from the coma.
And within about two weeks, he was back home celebrating Christmas with his family.
Caleb is perfectly fine.
And the medical team cannot find any scientific reason why Caleb should be alive today.
I know that for many people, they hear stories like these and say, “Well, something happened, but we can’t say for certain it was supernatural.”
But then again, you can’t say it isn’t supernatural either.
In an interview with National Public Radio on the miracles that Mother Teresa was said to have performed — curing horrific, deadly and incurable diseases in India during her ministry — Dr. Jacalyn Duffin — a hematologist and self-proclaimed atheist who was charged to investigate the so-called miracles — had this to say about Teresa:
"To admit that as a nonbeliever, you don’t have to claim that it was a supernatural entity that did it, you have to admit some humility and accept that there are things that science cannot explain.”
Duffin called the healing “miraculous.”
In the Bible — both Old and New Testaments — we see miraculous healing all the time.
Jesus heals the blind, the lame, the deaf, the bleeding, and even the dead.
So do Peter and Paul.
And in the Old Testament, we see the Prophet Elisha healing Naaman. Sarah and Abraham had a baby in their very old age.
And although I’ve mentioned miraculous healing, we know of dozens of other miracles in the Bible too numerous to recount here today.
Yet we look at the Scriptural miracles — part of the foundation of our faith — as something that we accept in faith, but maybe don’t believe happens today.
But I do.
Take, Bless, Break, Give
We can witness something supernatural today.
In fact, in a few moments, we will be a part of the supernatural .
In a few moments, we will take the bread that’s on this table, break the bread to remember how Jesus’s body was broken for our own brokenness, then give it to one another.
Some people think that when we do this, it’s simply to remember Jesus’s gift for us, and in doing so, it’s nothing more than symbolic.
But I’m here to tell you something different.
While we are called to remember what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are also called into Holy Communion with Jesus, with all the people on earth, and all those in heaven.
In other words, this act of taking, blessing, breaking and giving makes us one with each other, one with Christ and one in the ministry to all the world.
Not as a metaphor. But in reality.
We ask the Holy Spirit to be “poured” onto us here today.
We ask for the supernatural to happen.
Do you believe this?
We do it whenever we break bread…
The Taking of the bread is the receiving of the gift Christ gave to us.
But not just a memory of receiving it; we are receiving that gift now.
The Blessing is our thanks and remembrance for that gift.
The Breaking of the bread shows how through one loaf that we eat together, we become one.
We all carry within us part of the whole.
And the whole is the body of Christ.
And finally, we give.
We give the bread to one another, but we also give thanks for how Jesus gave himself for us.
And in being given Christ, we are able to give Christ to the world.
That’s what Communion means. With-Union, In Union. In sharing…
Road to Emmaus
In today’s reading — this perennial Eastertide reading called the Road to Emmaus — we see something miraculous, something supernatural happening.
It is later in the same day that the disciples found the tomb empty.
Mary Magdalene and some other women saw Jesus appear, but the men don’t believe them.
Then Peter sees Jesus…
And this is just before Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room, which we talked about last Sunday.
And two men, Cleopas and another, who are followers of Christ, are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and suddenly Jesus is walking with the men, although they don’t recognize that it is him.
And Jesus casually asks the men, who clearly are depressed over the crucifixion, “What are you discussing with one another while you walk along?” Verse 17.
The men are almost too sad to even answer, but Cleopas sounds a little incredulous asking Jesus if he’s the only person in Jerusalem who hadn’t heard what had happened…
The scene is almost comical.
Jesus asks them “What things?” and the men begin talking about how they thought this man, Jesus, was actually going to save them and all of Israel from the persecution of the Roman Empire.
And Cleopas even says that some of the women found the tomb empty and said they saw a vision of Jesus alive…
Yet, we can see in this passage, given the sadness of these two men, they don’t believe the women — that Jesus actually arose from the dead as he and the prophets said he would.
And it’s right here I think about Mother Teresa’s miracles.
I think about Caleb Ferguson and the hundreds of stories of medical miracles I’ve heard in my life.
I think of the unlikely births of my own to sons after doctors told me that the chances of having children after my cancer surgery were very low.
Did Cleopas and his friend leave any room for the miraculous?
We have to ask ourselves, what was their faith based upon?
And likewise, do we leave any room in our lives for the miraculous?
And what is our faith based upon?
If we come to this table thinking the elements are just symbols of the body and blood of Christ, then why do it?
Just to remember?
Or are we coming to this table with the faithful expectation that through this sacrifice, we too can become what Christ calls us to be — a Holy and a Living Sacrifice — in this world?
Can we come to this table today with the expectation that when we share in the loaf and the cup, are are literally united with one another here on earth as brothers and sisters?
And we are united with Christ?
And if we are united as brothers and sisters, then how are we becoming a living sacrifice to them?
In other words, how are you treating your brothers and sisters right here in the church and all those outside of the church?
Jesus calls us to be a living sacrifice to them.
Holy — set apart as God’s own children;
And Given — sacrificing ourselves — to them for the One who commanded us to do so in his own sacrifice for us, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Turn off your minds.
And open your hearts.
Because what is happening here when we Take this gift from God;
when we Bless each other as God blesses us;
when we Break this bread to share with one another and become one with one another;
and when we Give thanks and Give of ourselves,
we can’t do it half-heartedly.
Otherwise, we are truly dismissive of what Christ did for us.
We are being really casual about Jesus’s dying for us in great suffering and horrific violence.
And so let Communion remind us all of Take, Bless, Break and Give.
Because it’s not only at this table that we experience it.
It’s in everything we do for Christ and everything Christ does for us.
What happens with two men on the road to Emmaus?
Jesus is walking with them and — although they still don’t recognize him — he gives them a lesson.
Verse 26: Jesus asks, “Was it not necessary that the Messiah suffer all these things and then enter into his glory?”
In other words, “Are you taking seriously what Jesus gave to you, or has your weakened faith been further distorted by a circumstance?”
They wanted to keep Jesus around, so they ask him to remain with them.
It was getting late.
And Jesus remains.
And as they’re about to eat, Jesus Takes the bread, blesses it and breaks it and gave it to them.
When he did this, their eyes were opened. Verse 31.
It was in this Communion that they recognized Jesus.
Likewise, it is our breaking of bread and sharing this cut that we too recognize Jesus.
This is where Jesus is made known to us.
Jesus saw young Caleb fall from that skateboard, then fall into a coma.
And Jesus took Caleb’s body into his own hands, as a parent takes a child in theirs.
Jesus heard the prayers, saw the fasting, and he blessed Caleb.
In his blessing, he broke Caleb free of that coma and then gave Caleb back to his parents.
It’s the same way Jesus cured the sick, the lame and the blind that we see in Scripture.
Take, Bless, Break, Give.
It’s the same thing we witness in Holy Communion.
Take, Bless, Break, Give.
When we break
I wish I could say we see that with every illness — physical or mental.
I wish I could say that we see it with all the pain in the world, with the brokenness in our political systems, our global relations and our social maladies.
Does it mean that we’re not faithful enough?
No, I don’t tend to think so.
But I do believe with all my heart that this model — Take, Bless, Break and Give — doesn’t only provide for the outcomes that we describe as miraculous, but in the outcomes that we don’t see as well.
Because, Lord knows, we find ourselves on the opposite end sometimes.
When we don’t get the promotion we so badly needed to help our family’s finances.
When are slowly losing our capacities to function — sight, hearing, or physical ability.
When our marriage falls apart and we cannot reconcile no matter how hard we try.
When we lose someone close to us that we have prayed fervently and ceaselessly for.
We put all our faith into those miracles, and still the outcome doesn’t swing our way.
And we’re left stunned.
I think this is what the men on the road to Emmaus must have felt like.
And like those men — and all the disciples — sometimes what we want isn’t always what we immediately see.
It takes a long time — an all-day walk with Jesus, a daily walk to Emmaus — to finally see how Jesus Takes, Blesses, Breaks and Gives.
We want what we want, and my heart is broken when my prayers don’t seem to be answered, and I’m heartbroken when yours aren’t either.
But Jesus reminds us that despite this sorrow, there is something more.
That, yes, despite we mourn now, that the promise is that we always will be together because nothing can separate us from the love of God.
That no matter what the situation brings, we’re not defined by it; we’re defined by God’s love for us.
Because God’s only begotten Son was given to us so that we will be in perfect happiness
— with all those who have gone before us;
— free from pain and suffering;
— unleashed from the things that bind us hard to this world;
— and released from the brokenness that we experience as humans.
God’s promise is that we are eternal beings — made for an eternity with God.
Jesus reminds Cleopas and his friend of this, just like he did with Mary Magdalene and the other apostles:
What does he do?
As soon as Jesus breaks bread with them and they are truly able to recognize him, he vanishes from their sight.
He leaves them!
Yet are they forlorn?
No, in fact they are overjoyed.
The promise is true — Christ is risen. And that means we will rise, too.
And they are able to carry Christ in their hearts always — even when he’s not right there physically with them!
And it’s the same for us because of the power of the Holy Spirit.
And they shared this good news.
Verse 35: “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how (Jesus) had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Every time we come to this table, my friends, we should come with joy.
Because God came through with a promise.
A promise of life-everlasting.
With proof of this in the raising of Christ from the tomb.
That same promise goes for you and all who love Christ.
We remember this when we break this bread.
And here is where we can truly know Jesus.
Open your hearts to let it be more than just a remembrance.
Because it’s not only things past;
It’s now. Today.
And it’s a promise of what’s to come.
More on Caleb’s story: http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2016/12/23/story-full-miracles-coma-conqueror/95608246/
More on Teresa’s healings: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/08/31/491937448/how-the-catholic-church-documented-mother-teresas-two-miracles