Preached on the Third Sunday of Easter. Edited.
Before I begin my sermon today I want to say some words in solidarity with my LGBTQ family in the United Methodist Church. This past week, the Judicial Council of that church ruled that the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto, who was the first openly lesbian bishop in that denomination, violated church law. Even though she was elected and called faithfully by the people she served, her sexual orientation and marriage to a woman deemed her “unfit” to be a bishop – because the UMC declares that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. That same council also affirmed in separate rulings that two different conferences of the UMC must abide by church law and inquire about the sexuality of candidates for ministry.
I want to say, first and foremost, to my LGBTQ family, to the many queer Methodist pastors and clergy to be that have inspired me in my own ministry, that I love you and your lives, your calls, your work, is valid and sanctified by God.
I want to ask all of us in the Episcopal Church to stand by our queer Methodist neighbors and let us continue to remind not just the UMC, but all institutional church bodies that we do not proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ when we tell people their ministries are not valid because of who you are.
We are not sending Christ-like messages to LGBTQ youth in the pews when they hear and see that clergy like them are dismissed or punished for being open about their lives.
In a sermon just a few weeks ago, Bishop Oliveto named how often the institutional church condemns LGBTQ folks to spiritual death – but Jesus, like he did with Lazarus, calls us to come out. Come out of our tombs. In solidarity with her, let us continue to come out of our tombs and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.
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I love food. More specifically, I love sharing food with other people – especially folks I care a lot about. I love finding an excuse to have a dinner party and I get excited when I get to cook for an impromptu guest. I love being able to cook someone a meal that I grew up eating like arroz con gandules and pollo guisao and share with them what these foods mean to me and my family.
There’s a lot of sacredness in the room when I sit down with a friend and have a meal with them. I think back to the first meal I had with my intentional community – we had all finished moving in, and my housemate Lily made two big pans of fried rice. We gathered around our dining room table, ate, and began getting to know each other. The awkwardness of living in an old, creaky house with six strangers began to lift, and we laughed and shared stories. In that simple dinner, we were bringing our fullest selves to the table and laying the groundwork for deep relationships that last to this day. We have since had many meals like this but that’s a memory I will always cherish in my heart.
When we turn to the Gospel for today, we’re reminded of how often Jesus revealed to himself to his disciples through breaking bread—sometimes in grandiose ways like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and sometimes in simpler ways like the Last Supper. In this case, two disciples are taking a journey when they’re approached by their teacher and friend, freshly risen from the dead, but the scripture tells us that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him”. We don’t get much other detail than that – we don’t know if perhaps God simply veiled their eyes or maybe they were in disbelief at seeing someone who looked so much like the Jesus they saw arrested and killed just a few days before. Indeed, after they tell this “stranger” about everything they’ve experienced, Jesus says that they are “slow of heart to believe”. Still, they don’t see him.
It’s only until they invite him home that things begin to fall into place. “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” I could imagine that this particular meal they were about to share was not unlike many meals these disciples probably shared with Jesus. Perhaps they began to notice a familiar feeling. It’s in that moment, with his hands holding torn halves of bread that they see Jesus. “Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.”
This meal that we share together is not unlike that meal that the disciples shared with Jesus in Emmaus. We often don’t see Jesus in the strangers we encounter in our day-to-day lives, or even in people we know. We don’t immediately recognize their own Divinity; we don’t know their stories. It’s only when we’re able to connect with them, perhaps over a meal, that we’re able to able to see them for who they really are.
The Rev. Emmy Kegler, a Lutheran pastor who is also the editor of an online encyclopedia called Queer Grace, has this quote that I absolutely love: “God is not so mysterious as to not be found in something as simple as bread and wine.” We can often feel like God is beyond our comprehension and reach – but each and every time we gather together for this meal of bread and wine, God is revealed to us. When we’re celebrating the Eucharist, we are simultaneously connecting with the Divine and everyone gathered around this table. This meal of body and blood, broken open and poured out for us, restores us all to wholeness by connecting us with That which is forever whole and complete. In this way, we confirm our relationship with God and with each other – and it enables us to go out and share God’s love with others, just as the two disciples did after that meal with Jesus.
At this table where we receive broken bread, we can bring our fullest selves. It doesn’t matter who you are, or who you think you are. You can bring your doubts. You can bring whatever shame or guilt you’re holding on to. You can bring your fears. You can bring your joys. You can bring your hopes. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were carrying these things too in their encounter with the risen Christ. When we take the bread and wine, God will be revealed to us, in love, in reconnection, in peace, in forgiveness. We are transformed each and every time we partake. So let Jesus, present in this bread and wine, meet you on your road energize you to do God’s work in the world.