Sharing the Path

Luke 24:13-17/Acts 2:43-47   

As you can see, the light is growing on our path here in the sanctuary.  We continue to follow the path to Christmas, approaching the light of Christ.  Last week we focused on getting started on the path, on setting aside time to stop and breathe in the midst of the typical flurry of activity in these weeks leading to December 25.  To put that into practice, a group of us spent an hour yesterday morning on a yoga practice that invited prayer, paying attention to our bodies and souls.  This morning we focus on sharing the path.  Who do we share it with?  We share the path with God’s Holy Spirit, with people, with all of creation.  In what ways do we share the path? There are multiple ways that the path can be shared with others—spending time with one another, supporting one another through difficult times, going through common experiences, whether pleasant or unpleasant.  And there are multiple ways that we share the path with God. God is with us, we know that from the psalmist, who experienced God’s presence while traveling the valley of the shadow of death.  We know that from the name given to Jesus, “God with Us”, or Emmanuel.  We know that from Jesus’ promise at the end of the gospel of Matthew— “I am with you always, to the end of the earth.”  Everywhere, on every path, God walks with us whether we acknowledge it or not. 

Although there are many ways to share the path, this morning and through the coming week, we are focusing on cooking and eating together, something we all love to do!  And I mean cooking with people and with God, eating with God and with people.  Yes indeed.  I trust you are smelling the wonderful aroma of the baking bread this morning— just the smell can make our mouths water and our stomachs growl.  Memories of other delicious smells flood our brain, because smell (whether pleasant or unpleasant) can be a trigger to remind us of an event or experience in the past.    This morning I invite you to allow the smell of bread baking to be for you a call to the Lord’s table, an answer to Christ’s invitation, a sharing of an experience with this community and communities of faith the world over.  Let the bread be a feast for your senses (and yes, if you are in the sanctuary this morning, you will be invited to touch it, smell it and taste it—taking COVID precautions). When we eat it, we eat it together, sharing in bread and cup which symbolize God’s life-giving gift of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Bread is a staple, a filling food to keep hunger away.  As we share in the Lord’s Supper, the bread is one of the two special symbols for himself that Jesus leaves us, for indeed he is a staple in our lives, the one who fills us with nourishment called grace and love and peace. 

As we heard the text from the gospel of Luke, we did not get to the end of the story.  It is the story of two disciples forlornly walking home from Jerusalem after Jesus was crucified, buried, and then disappeared from the tomb.  We simply read about their walking together, talking together, supporting one another in their confusion, grief, and fear.  They were walking a road of sadness, walking through the dark valley.  And it was in that place of darkness that they encountered Jesus.  He showed up as a stranger, walking alongside them, asking “What are you talking about as you walk?”  They fill him in on the recent events and he fills them in on the scriptures which pointed to these events.  When they reach their home, these three sit at table together, and it is only there, at the table, watching him break the bread, that the disciples’ eyes are opened to see that their walking companion is Jesus. 

Breaking bread together can be an energizing, encouraging, and fulfilling way to share the path with others.  There are five guys who share a house.  Each one used to shop and prepare his own food according to his own schedule. They decided to try an experiment to save money and time.  Each night of the week, one of them is responsible for the meal—for purchasing the ingredients and preparing the food. Then the entire household sits down together at the same time to eat it.  That is a feat in itself in this busy world we live in. The added happiness and stronger bond built between them that has come from this experiment is priceless.  Schedules may not permit this pattern long term for a group of 20 something young men, but even after a few weeks, they have already realized what a difference it makes to share the path with others around a table.

My brother and sister-in-law recently went to a friend’s house to make Christmas goodies.  Together they melted chocolate, caramelized sugar, and mixed in peanuts or pistachios or craisins.  They learned new recipes.  The results were delicious, with goodies to enjoy and to give as gifts to other family or friends.  But the best outcome was the sharing of the experience.  Have you ever noticed how much more fun it is when you have someone else to cook with?

You may not have consciously tried this, but there are ways to intentionally use cooking as a meditation.  Whether we live alone or with family, we do have someone to cook with!  Think of it as cooking with Christ!  I can cook with Christ any time I slow down and take a few moments to focus on where my ingredients come from, on who has worked hard to get those ingredients to the grocery store shelf, on why I love to cook, or on who I am cooking for—whether it is a loved one, a whole family, or just me, for I too am beloved by God and I deserve a home cooked meal!  Stopping to remember any of these steps to getting food on the table can elicit gratitude: gratitude for others, and gratitude to God.

I encourage you to join Carmen Harman in a cooking and meditating experience this coming Saturday.  It will be on zoom, not in person, but how about if you find a friend to share the experience with?  Get together in one of your kitchens, make sure you have the ingredients available (the list is in your Advent booklet and in the email this Thursday).  Then, with Carmen’s help, you can prepare mashed potatoes and either salmon or chicken with salsa criolla, Dominican style.  This cooking show will be different in several ways.  First, it will be bi-lingual.  Janice Sabb will translate from Spanish into English so we can all understand. Second, it will involve practical suggestions for you to try cooking as meditation or mindfulness.  Cooking with Carmen becomes cooking with Christ as you stop to give thanks to God for the ingredients and for the hands that caught it or harvested it or transported it so that you can have it in your kitchen.  Cooking with Carmen becomes cooking with Christ when you take time to pray for those who will sit at your table to enjoy the food you prepare, or to pray for those who can not join you.  Cooking with Carmen becomes cooking with Christ when it becomes a time of prayer for those who do not have a full pantry or refrigerator, who will not sit down to a delicious meal.  Cooking and prayer certainly go together.

The first Christian community was formed in Jerusalem after the amazing miracle at Pentecost.  They held everything in common, making sure all needs were met.  They shared meals together, they supported and cared for one another in ways that were new.  For the first church, the breaking of bread seems quite connected to prayer, to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship.  They ate together with glad and generous hearts, praising God.  Eating a communal meal, giving care and encouragement to one another, giving thanks to God.  They were not taking their shared meals for granted, but saw them as a gift from God.  What a model for us to use!  I know that sometimes we eat on the run.  I know that many times our schedule does not allow the time to slowly and mindfully prepare a meal, much less eat a meal where the entire meal is a prayer of gratitude in itself.  Perhaps you set yourself a goal to try it once a week until Christmas.  See how it goes.  How do you feel during and after the meal preparation?  During and after the meal?  Who knows, you may find that you want to make it a regular practice going forward.  There is a simple meditative eating practice described in your Advent booklet for this week, and it will be put on our church website as well.

At the very least, we can turn our monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper into a more intentional meditative practice.  When you receive the piece of bread in your hand, notice how it feels.  Is it light and airy or dense and heavy?  You can do this at home as well.  Take a moment to smell it and appreciate it.  Before you place it in your mouth, consider the hands that made it possible for you to be given this bread.  Consider the Christ who made it possible for you to have eternal life because he is the bread of life.  Where would you be without bread?  Where would you be without Christ’s sacrifice for you?  As you eat the bit of bread and drink the sip of juice, savor it.  Don’t gulp it down.  Let the flavors of the bread rest on your tongue before you start chewing.  Then chew slowly, breathing through your nose to enhance the flavor.  As you chew, take a moment to look around you—in your home or right here in the sanctuary.  Who is near you this morning?  Who is missing?  Whether we can see each other or not, we are together the body of Christ, eating around the table of our Lord.  Let’s take a moment to call the names out loud so that those of you at home know who you are eating with and those of you in the sanctuary know who you are eating with.  As you savor your bread and your cup, stop to give thanks for those around you or those who are not, to pray for the one who is hurting in some way, to seek Christ’s healing presence for anyone who needs it.

Sharing the path of life is essential for human beings.  Of course, we all need our own time, we need our own space, we need to develop skills and talents as individuals.  But we also need others to accompany us on the way.  As you plan for your Christmas celebrations this year, why not share your meal with a person who lives alone, or a family that is grieving, or a person who is hungry?  Listen to the wise words of the Preacher, from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12– “Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up the other, but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one.  A three-fold cord is not quickly broken.” I understand that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit braided in with those who walk the path with us, creating a strong, strong bond with each other and with Christ.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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