Eating Together (Luke 24:13-35)
1. When I think about “eating together,” I remember the evening of March 11, 2011. The ground and buildings in the Tokyo Metropolitan area shook a great deal, though it turned out to be small compared with the fall damage of the East Japan Disaster of the Great Earthquake and the Tsunami, including the atomic reactor accident. Tsunami information, which was not quickly shared because of power failures in the afflicted areas, arrived one after another, and we gasped at the seriousness of the disaster. You also probably were afraid at that time.
There were two people at the Hongo Student Center. One was Ms. Etsuko Sakai, who was in charge of office work at the center. The other was Mr. Toshiyuki Masujima who was preparing for an interview with Mr. Eric Hanson, a missionary. That program was going to be held on March 13th. The center was in the middle of spring vacation.
2. There was no television on the first floor. I was engaged with collecting information through the radio and the Internet, and making sure of people’s safety. We had trouble connecting by phone and text message. At last I had information about the people I was concerned about. I knew that there were people who were safe but had difficulty going home; who worried about their family and relatives who lived in the Tohoku area and had no means of contacting them; who was sad at the death of a family member on the same day. I was in charge of business of the eastern district of JELC, and I was making contact with the local churches in the afflicted areas. I was waiting for information from the Sendai Church. I received offers of support from all over the world, and I shared the information with the people concerned. I also thought about our help activities for the afflicted areas. We were frightened at hearing urgent news of aftershocks, and worried about the coming of another great earthquake. A few days after the earthquake, I got an e-mail from Ms. Keiko Yada. It included the following message:
“It may be called prayer to realize that it is the best thing to do nothing, and to realize that one can do nothing, and to restrain oneself from feeling one’s own achievement, and to make effort to fight against worry caused by doing nothing. I am not a religious figure, but I have never thought about prayer so deeply as at this time.” Though I am a pastor, I remember that I could find no words except “God.”
3. At that time, a family, a mother and two children, in the neighborhood came to the center. She told me that they were afraid of being alone and wanted to be together with us until her husband came home. So those three, Mr. Masujima, Ms. Sakai, and our family had our evening meal together. That meal consisting of pickles, tsukudani (food boiled down in soy), and cooked rice was very simple. They were very quiet during the meal, speaking about almost nothing. We realized it was the best thing to do nothing. It was the time like “It may be called prayer to realize that it is the best thing to do nothing, and to realize that one can do nothing, and to restrain oneself from feeling one’s own achievement, and to make effort to fight against worry caused by doing nothing.” Eating together eases our fear and worry, and makes us have sympathy with more seriously afflicted people. It really encourages our life, even though it seems to be small. The father of the family came home on foot late at night. He also ate together.
4. God created human beings, who need to eat to maintain life. So we sometimes are attacked by food crisis or famine. And tremendously many people are experiencing the sorrow of having lost chances to eat together with their family members. But we have to eat. Basically, we need others and are needed by others. At the same time we are given hearts to think about the meaning of living together with thanks.
5. It was very difficult for Jesus’ disciples to accept the news that Jesus was alive. They followed Jesus at the risk of their own lives. So they were at a loss. Two of the disciples were walking downhearted to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. Either of the two must have had a home there. Another person joined them and walked together. But they could not understand that he was Jesus.
6. Three people walked and talked together. Two disciples talked about the incident in Jerusalem. Jesus must have talked earnestly about what was written in the Bible. But they could not understand he was Jesus. We know that it is difficult for us to understand God’s words and resurrection. We know that time and process is necessary for understanding that clearly. The Bible tells us as Jesus told the disciples. We cannot believe God without asking questions to the Bible. Through the process we know God dimly. We have to repeat the process. We understand the clue of knowing God through today’s text. Jesus would not make us believe like a magician.
7. But they understood their relationship with Jesus through one incident. It was the time when they sat at the dinner table. We do not know why, but Jesus acted the host and prayed, broke bread, and delivered it to them. At that moment, they understood he was Jesus. They remembered the table with Jesus, and remembered his love toward them. Eating together made them aware that Jesus was alive. Then they stood up and went out. They were filled with consolation and joy, though they had been hurt by suffering and remorse. They went to their colleagues who had been hurt by suffering and remorse. The disciples began to live their new life. Eating together encouraged Jesus’ disciples thoroughly. Jesus works for us through a very routine life, that is to say, eating together.
8. By the way, did the disciples really eat together with Jesus? When we examine the Bible, it does not say that they ate.
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:30-33)
I think that they got up at once without eating a piece of bread.
9. Eating may mean chewing. We are given life through it. But eating together means something more broadly. It includes the preparation of making bread. Someone does it. Sitting at the table and praying together is done before we really eat. Eating together includes all of them. Eating together includes thinking about others who are not present. It also includes delivering food to those who are in need and sharing food together. Eating together includes renewing fellowship with others. We can start new life through the fellowship, bringing joy to those who are sad. Jesus’ work after his resurrection is surely realized in us through the fellowship of eating together today and tomorrow.
(This is the English translation of Rev Nobuo Yasui’s sermon which is to be preached at Hongo Church on May 4, 2014)
(Translated by Toshiyuki Masujima)