JESUS CHRIST LOVED YOU TO THE END OF THE ROAD!
And that is the same way my parents loved me. Now I don’t know about you, but the one thing I tend to miss the move in our modern high paced lifestyle – in which we are always going from one thing to another with no time to even slow down – is how rarely Penny and I actually stop and take the time to sit at the table and break bread together. Even when we are eating at the table, we (mainly me) tend to be preoccupied with all the other things going on around us. My responsibilities, my duties, my studies, all seem to get in the way of our just stopping and sitting together at the table and really sharing a meal; to be really present with one another as we break bread.
Now that’s not the way it was when I was a child. My parents were always working – they were no less busy than I am. My father would work all day at the prison, then he would work late into the night repairing friends and neighbors cars to help make ends meet. So even when my father was physically there at home, he wasn’t able to be really there for us. And my mother was a stay at home mom, but she worked every bit as hard to help make ends meet. She would babysit many of the other children in our neighborhood, she sewed for neighbors and friends and made many of our clothes by hand, she gardened and raised chickens to reduce our grocery bills. My mom – though she was physically there are home – was seldom able to be really there for us. But all that changed at the end of the day. My father would come home from work – literally coming to the end of his road – and would come inside and would sit down at the table. My mom would have dinner ready to serve and she would call us all to the table. And for that short period of time each and every day, everything else in their busy lives would stop and they would really be there for us. My dad would tell us about his day at work (or as much of it as was appropriate to tell children) and my mom would talk about her day, and then they would stop and listen to each one of us talk about our day. They would patiently sit at that table until each of us children shared all we had to share with them and, until we were done, nothing else in the world mattered to them. For that time at the table as we broke bread, my parents were not just physically present with us, but they were really present with us and in doing so, they made us a family.
There’s a big difference between being physically present and being really present and there is a big difference between being a bunch of people living together and being a family. Now in order to be really present, you must first be physically present, but being physically present is not all there is to being really present. You see, there is much more to being a family than simply living together. As a family, you must be more than just there with one another, you must become a part of one another; you must be really present. To be really present, you must be there, yes, but you must also set aside all of the other demands on your time and attention; you must set aside your own priorities and your own needs and desires; you must set aside everything else to be really present. In order to be really present for us at dinner meant that my parents had to love us to the end of their road.
Now when Jesus joined the two men on the road to Emmaus, He was physically present with them, but for these men, Jesus was not really present, for their eyes were kept from recognizing them. Jesus walked with them, and talked with them, and taught them about Himself, but in none of this was Jesus really present with them, He was simply physically present. It was not until they came to the end of their road that this changed. The two men “urged Him strongly saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is evening and the day is now far spent.’ So He went in to stay with them. When He was at table with them, He took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him.” It was at the table in the breaking of the bread that Jesus was more than merely physically present, in the breaking of the bread, He became really present for these two men. And it is in the breaking of the bread that Jesus becomes really present with us.
When we come to the table and break the bread and bless the wine with the Word, Christ is really present. And when we take the really present Body and Blood of Jesus Christ into our bodies, we take into ourselves the real presence of Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus Christ becomes really present in you, changing you from within, making you into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ really present in this community. Jesus Christ does this in order that He might love us to the end of the road, but I’d like you to notice something. Look out the window. This is not the end of the road.
When you came to worship this morning, you turned on this road and drove down it and turned into the church parking lot, but this sanctuary does not sit at the end of the road, but in the middle. No matter what direction you came from, you had to stop at the middle of the road to enter here. And when you come to this table and share together in the breaking of the bread, you are not at the end of the road, but the middle. When you get up from this table, you will get back on that road and drive down it until you come to the end of your road. And this is appropriate, because Jesus loves us to the end of the road, not to its middle.
When we come to this table and eat and drink, we come as just people sharing this place as we worship. But as we get back on that road and journey down it to the end of our road, we do so as the family of God, bringing with us and through us that really present Jesus Christ loving our neighbor to the end of the road. It is Christ’s love that held Him to the cross, it was Christ’s love that laid Him in the tomb, it was Christ’s loved by the grace of God that raised Him from the tomb, making Him physically present with us, it was Christ’s love that saved us from the power of sin and death, and it is Christ’s love that changes us into the Body of Christ at this table. This morning, in this worship in the middle of the road, you will come to the table and in the breaking of the bread and the blessing of the wine with the Word, Jesus Christ will be really present with us and in His love at this table, He will change you from people sharing the same space into the one family of God; the one Body of Christ and you will take that real presence of Jesus Christ with you when you leave here and journey to the end of your road.
JESUS CHRIST LOVES YOU TO THE END OF THE ROAD! WILL YOU? Amen.