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    Entries in Baptist Life (2)


    Then Their Eyes Were Opened :: A Lord's Supper Meditation

    New Testament Reading: Luke 24:13-35

    Today we celebrate the Lord’s Meal. Earlier, we celebrated Christian baptism. In the Baptist tradition, we understand the Lord’s Supper and baptism as the two primary acts that Jesus instructed his followers to observe. These two practices are often referred to by Baptists as ordinances. An ordinance is, by definition, “a prescribed religious rite.” We believe that these two ordinances are a powerful means of remembrance, and bring to our mind central aspects of the biblical story, particularly regarding Christ’s death, resurrection, and the eternal kind of life that can now be experienced as citizens in his kingdom.

    Our reading this morning is from Luke 24. It is the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. We’re going to think carefully about these two individuals. Before we do, I think it is important that I note that this text is not the first that comes to our mind, as Baptists, when we gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

    For many of us, the first text that comes to our mind is found in 1 Corinthians 11. In that passage, we are reminded to celebrate the meal in a reverent manner. We are to come prepared, having repented of our sin. We are also to remember that Jesus celebrated this meal with his disciples on the night he was betrayed, that the bread symbolizes his broken body, and the cup brings to our mind his blood, poured out for us, that through him a new covenant has been established, and the forgiveness of sins has been enacted.

    We would do well to continue holding those truths in our mind. If any come burdened with sin, confess, repent, and lay your burden down. If any come taking the meal for granted, remember the majesty of God, and let us worship.

    But our reading for today, I believe, is appropriate for this moment in time. We are on a journey between places, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. We have things to discover, together.

    Luke’s story of the two disciples takes place on the 3rd day after Jesus was crucified. These two disciples, one named Cleopas, the second--perhaps his wife, but we are not entirely sure--set out on a journey, and found themselves in deep discussion concerning all that had happened in Jerusalem in those recent days. They were reviewing the headlines, you might say, and asking what all these things might mean.

    As they walk, a third person comes alongside them. Luke tells us that it is Jesus. At first, Cleopas and his fellow traveler are kept from recognizing him. We know something they don’t.

    Jesus asks them what they are discussing.

    Luke tells us that when the question is asked, Jesus’ new travelling companions stood still, and appeared downcast, saddened. Cleopas finally speaks up, asks this stranger if there is anyone more oblivious regarding current events than him. Cleopas thinks this is a “put on.” Jesus, baiting Cleopas, asks, “What things?”

    Cleopas then gives the standard account. Let’s join him for a moment. Let’s assume we do not know what we know. Let’s assume we were in their place. In the first century, a dead messiah was a failed messiah. Resurrection wasn’t a new idea, but the notion that one man would be raised in the middle of history, making possible the resurrection that is to come--that was quite new.

    Cleopas and his companion were trying to make sense of these things. Jesus had given every sign of being the Messiah they had hoped for. The kingdom he announced had seemed so promising, and it even appeared to be breaking in. And the women, their story was so strange!

    Why would this have been the case?

    Luke’s story telling is so brilliant. Let’s again step back for a moment. What Luke has given us is the earliest pilot episode of the hit reality show, “Undercover Boss.” Luke has let us know this is Jesus all along, interacting with his followers. We know, and they do not. When Cleopas finishes his story, Jesus has them right where he wants them.

    And the lesson begins!

    Jesus says, “How foolish of heart and how slow to believe all that the prophets have written!” And from that point forward, Jesus teaches them from Moses and all the prophets what the scriptures said concerning himself, that the Messiah must suffer and die and then enter his glory.

    I would’ve liked to have been there. So much is packed in that one little sentence. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”

    Luke then proceeds to tell us that the two disciples reach their destination. Jesus feigns an attempt to keep moving.

    I can’t get over the playfulness of Jesus.

    The disciples want him to stay. To join them for a meal. To rest. Also, they probably thought to themselves that a strange weekend had just gotten a lot stranger. Whatever insight this man might offer, they wanted to hear it.

    So Jesus enters, and joins them at the table. And Jesus breaks custom. It is the host’s responsibility to bless and to break the bread. Jesus is good at defying convention. He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.

    When Jesus fed the five thousand, he took, blessed, broke, and gave.

    When Jesus fed the four thousand, he took, blessed, broke, and gave.

    When Jesus celebrated his final meal with his disciples, he took, blessed, broke, and gave.

    And just three days before Jesus met these two disciples on the way to Emmaus, it was Jesus, taken outside the city, so we could be brought in. He was cursed so we might be blessed. He was broken so that we might be whole. He gave his life so that we might live.

    The bread of life. Broken for us.

    When Jesus took, blessed, broke, and gave the bread, Luke tells us, “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight.”


    One more detail. Very small. But very significant. I can’t help but think that Luke was careful in saying, “Then their eyes were opened.”

    In the garden, when the first man and woman take from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and eat, we are told, “Then the eyes of both were opened.”

    In the garden, this moment is one of separation and sin and fear.

    In Emmaus, this moment is one of union and salvation and hope.

    Where the first human beings failed, Jesus, greater than Adam, has been faithful.

    That is only one of a multitude of reasons that I think the two disciples then said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us!”

    I love that line.

    Then, the disciples were so enthused, so excited, that they immediately set out on the road to return to Jerusalem, to tell the Eleven what had happened, and to share the story of how Jesus had been made known to them “in the breaking of bread.”

    As we gather to celebrate this meal, may we remember the meaning of the bread: that Jesus’ body was broken, for you, for me, for us.

    May we also remember the meaning of the cup: Jesus’ blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sin, ratifying a new covenant, and making possible eternal life for all who place their faith in him.

    May we remember that the meal tells for us the story of salvation.

    By remembering, may we see Jesus, for he is here even now, and he will be with us always. And by seeing him, may we be so energized that we cannot help but to go forth and tell others of his marvelous grace.


    [Given Sunday, February 9, 2015. University Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas]


    Hauerwas, Literacy, and Baptist Life

    I enjoy reading and listening to Stanley Hauerwas, and this entire interview is provocative, worthwhile, intellectually stimulating, and deeply challenging.

    But his final words to Baptists (beginning around the 1:08 mark), specifically to those leading Baylor University, are worth putting in print. Here's what he says to Baylor University and their responsibility to educate literate citizens:

    One of the things that our current public discourse reveals is the absolute failure of the university to be responsible to its duty to produce literate citizens. I don't know that we're going to be able, I mean, I can't speak for universities to be able to do that while universities, but I sure as hell can say to Baylor that they have, as a university, the obligation to produce literate Baptists. That's going to be a miracle. But, it is absolutely crucial.

    Southern Baptists have the Bible and now, and that ain't enough. And you're going to need to be reconnected to the great catholic tradition if you are going to survive as a university, to be the kind of literate people who can produce ministers who are not idiots. And you've got a ton of them. So, exactly how Baylor sees as its task to produce people through the education you receive here, to know that Augustine's Confessions are crucial for how we learn to live as Christians, and to rejoice in that, is absolutely part of the future responsibility of Baylor University.

    I was educated at Baylor University. And I am a minister. I hope I'm not an idiot. And the degree to which I am not, I owe to Baylor University.

    Hauerwas also speaks more broadly on other matters pertaining to the university, race, the Eucharist, war, and the college football playoff. Take a look.