A thought for Easter 3 by Father Jim
“… he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him.” (Luke 24.30b-31a)
At the time of the First World War, the principal morning service in most Anglican churches in England was Matins. This proved to be a problem for the Royal Army Chaplains Dept and its chaplains in the trenches who were trying to bring the presence of God into those mud-filled, blood-filled holes in the ground. It was a problem because many of the young men in uniform were unchurched. The glories of the Te Deum led by a parish choir, however humble, had not become a window on to faith for these boys. But more fundamentally, with the exception of the Psalms, Matins didn’t speak to the soldiers’ situation where suffering and death were all around, fear and despair endemic. What did speak to them was the Eucharist. The men didn’t need to be familiar with the liturgy, for they soon came to recognise God in a body broken for them and blood poured out for them. Communion brought them the comfort of God’s real presence and hope for life even there where death seemed to rule.
What about us? We aren’t fighting in trenches nor do we live under an occupying power. Or do we? Isn’t that a perfect description of sin? An occupying power? And are we immune to doubt and despair? Clearly not. We walk the road to Emmaus on many a day of misgivings, when more bad news on the world’s scene, especially this pandemic, makes us question if God’s in his heaven, when reading our scriptures brings God no closer and our prayers can ring hollow.
Sometimes our hearts are filled with the kind of complaints that concerned the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like them, we are tempted to tell each other all the terrible things that have been happening to us in the last few days. In our case, perhaps, being stuck in doors not being able to get out, the loneliness of life — and all these things so fill our minds that we fail once again to recognise Jesus.
This is why the Eucharist is such a miracle of grace. It has the power to lift us off the wearying Emmaus road, to still the questioning, to place our troubles at the foot of the cross, as we hold out our hands for the bread of heaven and the wine of the new covenant.
So yes, we can lose sight of Jesus in our questioning, in our reading of the Bible But gather round the Lord’s Table for bread and wine and there is the defining moment of our discipleship. We know Jesus lives, not because a scholar has told us, not because of rumours of resurrection appearances, not because of all the work we’ve done in his name, but because, quite simply, we meet him where he’s always been, in the broken bread and shared wine. Even though at this time we have to do it in virtual streaming, Christ is still there in the bread and wine bread. In the trenches of our fear and despair he is there — if only for a fleeting moment. But it’s a moment that can sustain us through the coming week.