5/29/2014 sermon: Break me open

Location: Goodwin House, Alexandria, VA
Text: Luke 24:44-53
Ascension Day, Year A

Break me open

I don’t know about YOU, but I often pray that Jesus will “fix me up.” I ask Jesus to make me a new creation, in body, mind, or spirit. You know, a skinnier person, or that various body parts will work the way they were intended to work. Today’s gospel lesson, though, is about the opposite sort of thing. The lesson is about breaking us, about breaking us open for Jesus to use in the way that God wants. So let’s jump right in there.

In theological circles, there is a very famous liturgical theologian called Dom Gregory Dix. Gregory proposed that there are four basic actions that shape the Eucharist:
Take, Bless, Break, and Give:

  1. Jesus TOOK the bread at his Last Supper.
  2. Then he BLESSED the bread.
  3. Next he BROKE the bread.
  4. Then he GAVE the bread to his disciples (the gift he keeps on giving).

Maybe you’ve read or heard Dom Gregory Dix’s explanation of the Holy Eucharist, or perhaps you’ve “sussed that out,” figured out this understanding of the Eucharist from our Maundy Thursday readings each year. Take, Bless, Break, and Give.

Even though there is no Eucharist in our gospel lesson today, I was reminded of Gregory’s summary of the Eucharist when I read our lesson. There is something very Eucharistic going on.

The scene, of course, is the day that Jesus physically departed this earth, leaving his disciples behind to carry on his mission. So this is Jesus’ farewell to them, his final instructions to them and to us. Here’s what Jesus DID:

  1. Jesus TOOK his disciples.
  2. He BROKE open their minds and hearts with scripture.
  3. He GAVE them a mission: to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins—
    in his name—to absolutely everyone.
  4. Then he BLESSED them for that mission.

Hmmm. These are the same basic actions that are involved in the Eucharist, just in a different order: Here they are TAKE, BREAK, GIVE, and BLESS. The difference, apparently, between the holy meal that is Christ’s body, and our holy actions in the world is that we need BREAKING OPEN sooner.

I’ve given this some thought. Presumably, Jesus’ mind and heart weren’t closed like ours tend to be. Jesus was the author of love—which, after all, is the great softener of minds and hearts. So Jesus didn’t need breaking open to activate him in his God-mission. Instead, Jesus was broken, given, for you and for me. WE, on the other hand, need our minds and hearts broken open to the love that is Christ Jesus. So preparing US to be the bread of the world require earlier preparation, earlier breaking open to get us to even begin God’s mission.

So those are the ACTIONS involved in us being Jesus’ hands and feet (and minds and hearts) in this world. We need to turn from asking God to fix us up, to ask that God keep breaking us open.

You might say, “Jo, I have long been Christ’s body in this world since before you were even born. I have been TAKEN by Christ, BROKEN open to his teaching, I have been BLESSED, and I have been GIVEN to the world. So how can this lesson possibly apply to me today?”

Well, our gospel lesson tells us, “So stay here in the city until you have been clothed with the power from on high.” Luke tells us that this power is the source of great joy and our impetus to worship God. I trust that each of you have been given Christ’s power and Christ’s Spirit. Undoubtedly this is the very energy that has fueled you throughout your lives for Christ. Perhaps, though, we who are nearer to the ends of our lives than to our beginnings, can understand Jesus’ instructions as preparation for the next phase of our God-mission:

We are to use scripture to break our minds and especially our hearts open to this next phase of our discipleship; and we are to remain here in THIS city until we have been clothed with power from on high to ascend as Christ ascended.

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