“When he was at 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.” Luke 24:30-31 NRSV
My eyes of faith were dramatically opened one night at a revival. When I was 12 years old, a revival came to town and set up a big tent a block from my house on a large vacant lot next to Falstaff Brewery. On the last night of that revival I walked across the street and stood in the back of the tent to watch something I had never seen before.
I stood in the back of the darkened tent at dusk. No flood lights inside the tent were on. Yet I could see that the crowd seated on folding chairs which filled the tent. In the front sat an organist at the keyboard of an electronic organ. And right there center stage was a pine casket which sat on a table. Was this going to be a funeral service on the last night of the revival?
When all was still and dark, the flood lights suddenly illuminated the tent while the organist played a lively tune that encouraged the crowd to get up, clap, sway to the music and even dance. Then to the surprise of all, the lid of the wood casket flung open. Who appeared? The evangelist himself who jumped out of that casket and began an ecstatic dance to rival a jitterbug all the while shouting a language which I didn’t understand. But upon later reflection, it must have been the biblical “speaking in tongues.”
I stared at the sight of a revival at its celebratory peak. I had never seen anything like that before since I grew up in the Lutheran church where worship services had no one getting up to dance and the pastor never shouted out in a language I could not understand.
That night at the revival my eyes of faith were opened in a dramatic way to a new way of worship through a revival.
The room was dimly lit in the house of two of Jesus’ followers in the village of Emmaus. The followers didn’t know who had caught up with them on the road to their house and opened the Scriptures for them. He was only a Stranger. But it was late. Night covered the village and the two followers invited the Stranger to have supper with them.
As the three of them sat at the table, the two followers’ eyes were wide open to see more clearly who this Stranger might be. During the meal the Stranger who was the guest became the Host. He took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them to eat.
That was moment of revelation. That was when the followers’ eyes of faith were opened and they recognized the Stranger as the Risen Christ. Now their hope was rekindled. The sadness of seeing the Christ who suffered an ugly death on the cross had vanished just as quickly as the Risen Christ sitting at their table had vanished from their sight.
It was a dramatic moment of faith at a meal of broken and blessed bread by the Risen Christ which they would never forget and which emboldened their faith and witness. It was the crucified and risen Lord who overcame the power of death for the sake of the world where too much oppression and evil had taken hold. And at that meal with the Risen Christ as the Host with a loaf of broken and blessed homemade bread their lives and the lives of all of Christ’s followers would never be the same.
Today we call that meal by various names – the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther wrote that in Holy Communion we receive the “true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Lutherans believe in the “real presence” of Christ in Holy Communion. The theological term used by Lutherans for Holy Communion is “Sacramental Union” whereas Catholics use the term “Transubstantiation” and Baptists use the term “Memorial.”
So what are the benefits of this Sacrament as we eat and drink? Again in his catechism, Luther wrote that in Holy Communion our sins are forgiven and we have life and salvation. That is the grace given as we faithfully eat and drink at the Lord’s Table.
Isn’t communing an eye opening experience of faith since Christ promised to come to us in this sacrament? Christ promised to give us His own self. Christ has the last word in Holy Communion to guarantee an encounter with Him with His grace.
Several years ago Catholics and Lutherans jointly published “From Conflict to Communion” which speaks to the similarities of Holy Communion between these two church bodies. Both believe in the “real presence of Christ” in this sacrament. In fact, when I had to resign from my pastorate due to illness and then later recovered, my wife and I worshipped at a local Catholic church. We were so glad that the priest of that parish invited us to receive the Eucharist with his congregation. He told me, “We both believe the same thing.” So we communed with Catholics joyfully and gratefully receiving Christ’s body and blood with the bread and wine for forgiveness, life and salvation. Now that was an “eye opening” faith experience for us!
A couple of friends told me that during this pandemic their churches offered “virtual communion” because their congregations could not physically gather. On the livestream platform, these friends watched their pastors consecrate the elements. Then their pastors said to commune at home using crackers, bread, wine, grape juice, etc.
Have you heard of this? Was this legitimate? Efficacious? Did it “work” so to speak? Can the body and blood of Christ somehow be present through the internet? Opinions and beliefs vary. We are in a new age. Could it be an age where our eyes of faith are opened in ways we never saw before?
The two followers of Jesus had their eyes opened when they walked home and Jesus, the Stranger, opened their eyes of faith to the meaning of Scripture about the Messiah. When at the table in their home in the village of Emmaus, Christ the Host revealed Himself as their risen Lord. Their spirits were lifted. Their faith came alive. They walked back to Jerusalem and told the disciples what happened to them on the road and at table with the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread.
Our faith is enlivened, too, whenever we partake of the victory of the Lord in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Our faith and witness is stronger like the two disciples from Emmaus.
Let us keep our eyes open as the Holy Spirit works in our lives in dramatic ways or in subtle ways with a still, small voice all of which draws us closer to our Risen Lord, strengthens our faith and sends us into the world to witness to His love.
And let us keep our eyes of faith open for a revival big or small.
Thanks be to God!
(Photo of Rembrandt’s Supper at Emmaus, 1648, Public Domain, wikiart.org)