Broken Bread

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-by Maria Ross

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. – Luke 24:28-35

Today’s Gospel has spoken “deep acceptance” to me three different ways on three separate occasions.

On Brokenness — Not so recently, some people broke my heart. They didn’t mean it. They were doing the best they could with the emotional tools they had available. At the time, I didn’t realize this, so I was deeply hurt and confused. The question that occupied me for months was, why did they break my heart? The answer came to me in baby steps along my spiritual journey. Because I let them. Because my own emotional tool box needed some heavy sorting.

Before I got to that place of understanding, I spent a lot of time angry and sad. And then I attended a youth workshop and had a conversation with the chaplain. We were discussing options for my future with the Church and I said, “I’m too broken. They won’t want me.”

His eyes got wide and he said, “We’re all broken. Jesus was broken on the Cross. He had to break to share his love. And remember that passage in Luke? They recognized him in the breaking of the bread. A beautiful loaf of bread is useless until it’s broken and shared.”

The next day, he preached a sermon on this passage to a room full of youth ministers, and my eyes weren’t the only ones filled with tears. My broken heart wasn’t the only one mended that day and every day we receive Holy Communion.

On Theology – Shortly after joining my new church, a retired priest/member preached a sermon on the importance of sharing scripture and she quoted the above passage from Luke focusing on the part where Jesus explains scripture to the two he met on the road to Emmaus.

First, my heart leapt at the recognition of this passage on brokenness, and then I settled in to absorb her message on how Jesus was recognized, not only in the breaking of bread, but in the act of teaching. I knew that Jesus wants us to emulate him in breaking of bread and in sharing meals and our gifts with others.

But I didn’t think I was qualified to share my own thoughts on theology. The message I had received for years was, you are an uncredentialed, stay-at-home mom. Therefore, you are not to be taken seriously, except to pat you on the head or get annoyed when you disagree with my outlook.

Later, it so happened that at the beginning of the first faiths against gun violence meeting sponsored by my new church, another retired priest/member read aloud this passage from the back of the Book of Common Prayer:

“The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.” Catechism 855

Boom. Mic drop. Credentials galore in that one, baby.

On Bread –Today I focus on how the Resurrected Christ used bread as a symbol of himself, and in that moment allows himself to be recognized. Jesus traveled a long, long way so that he could return home to our hearts. I seem to have traveled far, too:

Four years ago, when I started writing about saints and their recipes for spiritual living, I was particularly drawn to St. Francis of Assisi. He is my birthday saint, and in him I find the courage to be crazy in love with Jesus. More than animals, more than poverty, Francis loved Holy Eucharist because it connects us directly to Jesus breaking and sharing himself with us on the Cross. St. Francis highly respected those charged with the sharing of these gifts, and spoke often on the gifting of bread as a symbol of friendship, almsgiving, and Christ’s love for us.

When I tried to actually bake homemade bread myself, I failed two or three times in great frustration because I kept accidentally killing the yeast. Then I got it. And I wrote about my mistakes and what I learned from them. I studied, cooked, and wrote some more.

And so, I moved forward and over many boulders on my spiritual path. Eventually, I landed at my new church which serves homemade whole wheat bread for Communion and had an open spot on the team of bakers. I get to devote myself to the baking of bread to provide for the Sunday Holy Eucharist once a month and then experience the joy of receiving a piece of this same bread as a gift of love from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

My heart is full.

Many times, spiritual journeys, or awakenings, are launched via heartbreak. This is usually because you are already starting to change and people around you don’t like it so sometimes they lash out. Has this happened to you? Are you afraid to take that first step because of others people’s potential negative reactions?

Along with community and supportive relationships, I’ve found DARING GREATLY by Brené Brown to be a helpful and insightful read when I’ve needed guidance. What is in your emotional toolbox – books you’ve read, prayer practices you’ve used, songs you’ve sung – that has helped you during these times?


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