Saturday, May 10, 2014

Taste and See

Sermon for Year A Easter 3
May 4, 2014


I am one of three children.
I have an older sister and a younger brother.
I am the proverbial middle child.

One of our great joys growing up 
was going to visit and spend the night with our grandparents.
Because for a few days we each got to be an “only” child.
I loved every minute.

I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina
and my mother’s parents lived about 30 minutes in away
in the small town of Wendell.

My grandfather was a carpenter and he built their house.
It was not fancy or big
and did not have a guest bedroom.
I slept on the living room floor,
on a pallet of quilts my grandmother had made,
all stacked up, one on top of the other,
to make a soft-ish bed. 
For me it was absolutely divine.

In the morning we would get up early
and go in the kitchen
and sit next to a tiny oil stove--
their house had no central heat--
and have breakfast.

My grandfather always made me a cup of coffee.
Now since I was only about 8 years old,
my coffee was about 1/8 of a cup of coffee, 
the rest milk and then about as much sugar as he could pour in the cup.
It made me feel so grown up--having my cup of coffee.

And then we would make what my grandfather called
You took a hot homemade biscuit,
punched a hole in the biscuit by sticking in your thumb,
put in a pat of butter in the hole
and then filled the rest of the hole with black-strap molasses.

You waited a few minutes and let the butter and molasses
soak into the biscuit and then...
oh my!
Talk about heaven on earth.

I probably have not had a soaky-roaky for well over 50 years
but somehow,
if I were to make one tomorrow morning,
even making one in my kitchen in Shelburne, Vermont,
that first bite
would make me think of my grandparents,
especially my grandfather.
His presence would be there at my breakfast table.
Right there.

This is what happened to the disciples as they travelled from
Jerusalem to Emmaus.
Actually it happened when they stopped for the night.

They invited the mysterious stranger who had travelled with them
to stop and have dinner and stay the night.
This stranger.
At first they had wondered if it might be a spy.
How could he have not heard about what had happened to Jesus?
Surely everyone had heard that news!

But they changed their minds as they walked together.
He began to talk about scripture
and there was something about the way he talked
that set their hearts on fire.
where had they heard someone teach like this before?
It was strangely familiar--
but they couldn’t quite place it.
Who was this stranger?

So they sit down together at the table
and the stranger takes the loaf of bread
and blesses it
and breaks it 
and gives it to them.

And they know.
They know without a doubt
that this is Jesus.

Yes, they know it is impossible
but yet...
they recognize him 
in the breaking and the sharing of the bread.

They know that Jesus was crucified and died.
But they also know, beyond their rational minds,
that Christ is present 
in the breaking of the bread.

Now you may remember that on Easter Sunday
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb
and it was not until she heard this strange man there 
call her by name--”Mary”--
that she knew.
She knew from his voice--

Christ was alive and present in her life still.

And last week,
Stan preached a marvelous sermon about Thomas
hearing his “master’s voice”--
and again,
Thomas knew.
We were reminded 
that sometimes our ears 
see better than our eyes.

Today we discover that sometimes we taste and see.

Jesus becomes present in the breaking of the bread.
And the disciples know.
The disciples remember.

Just as we remember--
every time
the bread is taken, blessed, broken and shared.

This eucharistic action is what 
Anglican Benedictine monk and liturgical scholar 
Dom Gregory Dix calls the “heart of our worship.”

As Episcopalians,
it is what happens at the altar, at this table
that is most important to us.
that binds us together--
with God
and with one another.

We care deeply about the Word, 
the scripture readings,
the preaching--
but it is not the pulpit or the lectern
that is the centerpoint in our worship spaces. 

It is the altar, the table, 
where we remember
who we are
and whose we are.

Gathered around a small green formica table
in Wendell, North Carolina,
I held in my hands a hot, buttery, molasses-drenched 
soaky roaky biscuit
and came to understand 
in a deliciously tangible way,
the love of my grandparents.
Taste and see.

Gathered around this altar
here in Burlington, Vermont
joining with others gathering around thousands of other altars 
around the world,
we hold in our hands 
the bread and the wine of the Eucharist--
taken, blessed, broken and shared--
the body and the blood of Christ
and we come to understand 
in a deliciously tangible way
the immense and unconditional love of God.

We taste and see.
We remember.
We give thanks.

And we are invited--
to ponder and to pray--
how might we share bread 
with an oh so hungry world?

How might we share
so others might see
the face of Christ?
So others might be fed
as we are fed?

How might we share bread
more fully, more widely, 
more lovingly,
more openly,
more generously?

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