Isn’t it fascinating how much of our lives revolved around food? I think one of the activities I’ve missed most since the beginning of the pandemic has been getting tea or coffee with you, or eating lunch with you or one of our community partners and friends. Before the quarantine, I could be found eating and meeting at Neuhaus Café down the street from the church several times a week. I even knew several of the servers by name. But, sadly, I haven’t been in a restaurant in over a year and I miss it so much.
My friend, Sean Henry, who is the owner of Houndstooth Coffee cafes and Jettison, a watering hole in Oak Cliff, told me that the golden age of restaurants is now over as more people are cooking at home or ordering online and getting it delivered in. The experience of eating in a restaurant is something many of us haven’t done in a very long time and may not do as regularly ever again.
We’ve missed a lot of the connections we used to experience when dining with one another. Many of the holidays and big events in our lives revolve around food. We haven’t had a chance to eat Carly’s food on Wednesday nights this past year. We missed Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and family festivities. We’ve missed David Doom’s Easter breakfast between the Flowering of the Cross and the Easter Worship service. And although we aren’t able to celebrate Ramadan with our Turkish Muslim friends in Vickrey Hall, we will still have a Ramadan event on Zoom and you can pick up a free Turkish meal at the church. Check out the website for more details and to make a reservation.
Food is a key component of community, isn’t it? During Jesus’ life, he broke bread with those who were broken. He shared a meal with those who were rejected. He poured wine with those who had nothing left to give. All of the rules and regulations around eating and who was important and who was or wasn’t invited were thrown out the window. Jesus set a table where everyone could sit and where everyone could be nourished. He didn’t play by the rules or follow all of the religious customs. Food was about inclusion. Food was about acceptance. Food was about presence.
Which leads us to our Gospel lesson for today. Cleopas and another one of Jesus’s disciples were exiting Jerusalem, running away from the horrific scene of Jesus’ trial, torture, crucifixion, and death. They were going seven miles out of town to a village named Emmaus. The news of Jesus not being in the tomb had started to spread and these two men said that the women, who knew what had happened, told them that Jesus wasn’t there and had risen to glory. This news astounded these two travelers and they talked about this fanciful story while walking the lonely road.
Well, we all know that story of the Road to Emmaus. Jesus showed up, in the meal, in the breaking of bread, at dinnertime, and the two disciples recognized Jesus. And then he vanished from their sight. The two men booked it back to Jerusalem to tell Peter and the rest of the disciples what they had seen and experienced.
And then we get to our scripture for today. While Cleopas and this other disciple told Peter and the followers of Jesus what they had just experienced, Jesus showed up again in the midst of them, like an apparition, a ghost, a phantom presence. Everyone in the room was freaked out. And of course, if you saw a ghost you might be terrified too. So, Jesus’s first words to these scared friends were, “Peace be with you.” Jesus wanted to ease their fears, to help them not be afraid. Because once they could overcome their fears, they could’ve then overcome their doubts and the disbelief that this was Jesus, the one whom they’d just seen executed. The disciples needed to believe that the presence of Jesus was indeed there with them. The disciples needed to believe that the doubts that arose in their own souls, those doubts of them not being up to the job, the job of taking a hope-filled and life-changing message of acceptance and reconciliation to all the world, were indeed buried and gone, that now confidence and hope was alive and resurrected.
And we, like those disciples, have struggled to overcome our fears, haven’t we? We spent a whole Advent Season, Epiphany season, Lenten season, and now Easter season exploring things that make us afraid and how we might move beyond our fears. These disciples thought Jesus was a ghost, but also that his movement and mission was dead and gone. They felt defeated. And so, Jesus offered words of peace and assurance to bring them back into the present moment.
Then, once they had pushed through their fears, these Jesus followers needed strength for the mission, food and energy for the journey. When I think about Jesus asking for something to eat in this story, I wonder if Jesus was telling these overcome and overwhelmed disciples to slow down, reconnect, spend some time grieving, but also gathering strength, new purpose and renewed power. Sharing a meal is how we truly see one another, whether it is a first date, an anniversary, a birthday, or a holiday. The fellowship around food helps us connect and build strong relationships.
But I can’t help but wonder if Jesus was more than just hungry for food and fellowship. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus was hangry. Have you heard that term before, hangry? Hungry and angry? I am well-acquainted with hangry people. There will never be a meal missed in the Gregg house. I’ll often skip breakfast, maybe even lunch, not really paying attention to what I’m feeding my body. But not my girls, they keep us on a regular meal schedule and let us know they need food with their complaining and really big emotions. I wonder if needing to eat is not only about the nutrition we are putting into our bodies but also the connection we create over meals and during mealtimes.
In my research on this scripture passage of Jesus eating broiled fish before he did anything else, I came across a sermon by Rev. Debie Thomas entitled Scarred and Hungry. That’s where the title for my sermon came from. I think “scarred and hungry” speaks clearly to Jesus’ situation, the feelings of the disciples, and our own condition today. In fact, I would say that my entire life as a minister and a pastor has been a combination of being scarred and being hungry. There were many days I felt the pain of the injustices I was seeing in Dallas, knowing that others were experiencing scars far deeper than anything I have felt or will experience. White supremacy, sexism, violence against children, poverty, depression, loneliness, loss. The scars in us run deep.
But even with the possible scars and wounds we experience while doing justice work in Dallas, I was equally as hungry. I was hungry not for a BLT, but for a us to A.C.T, act and change the lives of our neighbors. I was and always will be hungry for resurrection, for bringing the reign of God, the kin-dom of heaven, to earth, right here and right now. I know we all have scars. I know this city has scars. I know this nation has scars. I know that humanity has scars. And God, by becoming Jesus couldn’t escape the scars of rejection, the scars of anger against him, the scars of the whips and the nails and the thorns, the scars of deaths clinging grip. Jesus, too, was scarred.
And so, isn’t it amazing that Jesus showed his followers his scars, those places where he was broken and abused? Jesus knew that the disciples would know he was alive because he was revealing himself as wounded, as human. Rev. Thomas says, “What’s remarkable about Jesus is that he chooses the most revealing aspect of himself to share first. His hands and feet bear unmistakable signs of his crucifixion, his defeat, and his vulnerability. They’re not mended and manicured; I imagine he winces when his disciples poke the jagged nails and mangled musculature. His are fresh wounds, still raw and gaping.” What would it be like to admit that we are hurting and that even in our hurts, a suffering and crucified God is so very near to us.
And not only do we see the scars, but we also see that Jesus was hungry. To prove that he wasn’t a ghost, that he was right there with them in their own scars, in their own fears, and in their own pain, he asked for food. He sought to reconnect with his followers and friends. He wasn’t out of this world or out of touch. No, he too was scarred and hungry. And, as Jesus ate, the disciples knew that Jesus was not only just like them, but remained with them, comforting them, connecting with them, in their own scars and in their own hunger.
Several months ago, for Pastor’s Book Group, we read “Take this Bread” by Sara Miles. For those who’ve read the book, Sara Miles is a self-described “blue-state, secular intellectual; a lesbian; a left-wing journalist with a habit of skepticism.” She wrote about what happened to her when she wandered back into a church one day and “ate Jesus.” She was scarred and hungry. She was thirsting for righteousness. She wrote that she found God, connection, and belonging again “at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine, poured out freely, shared by all. [She] discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the despised and outcasts are honored.”
For Miles, although scarred and hungry, she found transformation at the communion table. This transformation “eventually led her to start a ministry centered on real food, real hunger, and real bodies. She opened food pantries all over San Francisco, feeding hundreds of people each week — people from all walks of life. As she describes it, her work led her to meet ‘thieves, child abusers, millionaires, day laborers, politicians, schizophrenics, gangsters, and bishops,’ widening what she considered her community in ways both scary and exhilarating.”
Friends, what does it look like to follow Jesus after Easter? Is it scary? Is it exhilarating? How might we function in the world when we are afraid, disconnected, hangry? I think we begin by seeing Jesus. We see Jesus telling us to not be afraid. We see Jesus eating a piece of cooked fish. We see a savior who is scarred and hungry. That is the Jesus I want to follow. That is the Jesus we hardly talk about. That is the Jesus whom we should continue to emulate and obey as we, the scarred and hungry people that we are, help other scarred and hungry people.
It’s ok if we are scarred and hungry today. Even when we are scarred, we are holy and lovely in God’s sight. Even when we are hungry, we are holy and lovely in God’s sight. We don’t have to be perfect in body and spirit to do the work of love and justice. I wonder what an Easter world might look like if we push through the places where we feel inadequate, knowing that we are a resurrected people, helping others be resurrected people; that we are a healing people helping to heal others; that we are a hungry people helping others be filled; that we are a tired people helping others find holy rest; that we are, indeed, scarred and hungry
But, in the end, so was Jesus, the Word made flesh. And so is God. This is what it means to be an Easter people, that we would be ok knowing we are scarred and hungry. Jesus is alive, even though he was scarred and hungry. May you find a life that is purposeful, powerful, and persistent, even in your scars and even in your hunger.