St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

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Sermon

April 26th Homily Easter 3, 2020             John Marsh

(Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-25)



I retell this story as I am still surprised by it, shocked by its exclusion:


Many years ago, amid the conversation about unconfirmed children receiving, I participated in the baptism of my niece. The priest asked if I would assist with communion and, given the blessed bread to distribute, I began communion. At one point, several children came forward and kneeling, raised their hands to receive. I gave them the bread. Coming to the end of the rail, I saw the priest, coming along behind, removing the bread from their hands and I thought to myself, ‘Do you have any idea what you’re doing to them?’


~


Fullness of life, perhaps the glory of god – Irenaeus stirs¹ – requires that certain sacred stories, in fact all of scripture, be read to guard against the piety police, that constabulary of convention always tempted, often succumbing, to set belief, prescribe faith, to formulate the parameters of practice by means both subtle and overt.


While it is not the case that anything goes, it also not the case that there is any group of people endowed with the ability to announce that anything is nihil obstat (literally meaning ‘nothing hinders’ or, if you will, the official ‘okey dokey’) or empowered to give their imprimatur (permission to print).


With life, we can neither let go of the reins nor hold them too tightly…


Life requires greater flexibility and sensitivity, a certain poetic touch…


The road to Emmaus is certainly a story one should approach with flexibility, open to sensing something beneath the surface…


At the risk of moving too far ahead, too quickly, the usual, standard interpretation of Emmaus is one in which the risen Christ teaches the meaning of the resurrection and demonstrates the Eucharistic truth of the breaking of bread which we hear, perhaps not surprisingly, from within the prism of our usual practice…


Perceiving in such fashion, we hear the text confirming our practice and, by extension, confirming ecclesial prescriptions of practice, hearing the story of the breaking of the bread as the risen Christ endorsing our way as his way…


To be clear, my point here is not to decry all ecclesial practices – although no practice is above critique – but to say that we cannot, must not understand our interpretations as hermeneutically self evident or self confirming…


If we pause, perhaps we can hear the story as an encounter with a stranger, one strange with other experiences, other view points, other ways, as a story of the offer of hospitality – the ‘stay for supper’ echoing Abraham’s invitation of three strangers to a meal (see Genesis18:1-15) – of a meal shared, of an alternative perspective revealed in the breaking and sharing of bread…


That the story speaks of the risen one disappearing with the dawning of an awareness is enormously suggestive. It suggests that awareness, experience, points but does not contain; it points to the possibility of other repetitions, other iterations of hospitality; it points to a god known in the stranger, of a god known in hospitality offered as opposed to concepts of divine sovereignty and our commitments to an all-powerful, master god.


It points, hinting that all tables have a possibility of being eucharistic tables…


It points, hinting that lurking within all meals, sometimes very deeply buried, is a possibility of a eucharistic meal…


It points, hinting that a eucharistic sensibility lurks within hospitality, within openness to the stranger, the other, other people, other ways, other understandings²...


It points, hinting that within any eucharistic celebration, despite prescriptions, is the uncontainable, the unknown and the unknowable, that within any meal, hospitality may lurk, that at any table, the stranger may be welcome, the other may be heard…


Consequently, I must ask, remembering that to ask is but to inquire not to make a statement - Do we hear a eucharistic echo in our virtual meal this day?


~

A story of practiced hospitality:


Within the social housing project, hers was a door always open, a place to come, talk or rest; hers was a table at which you were always welcome, a table at which whatever food there was, was shared daily. She was one of no discernable ecclesial faith but one who lived a deep and profound hospitality, possibly one fully alive, perhaps an incarnation of that which we name as god…


~

An incredibly mundane story:


Many years ago, during my teenage years, I went with my friend and his younger brother to see a movie.

As the movie began, I offered my friend some of my popcorn. As he took a handful, I said that he should offer some to his brother. He passed the popcorn to his brother who took it and, to my surprise, proceeded to eat the entire bag.


As I look back, I suspect he simply misunderstood the offer.


Perhaps such misunderstanding is the risk of sharing, perhaps an early lesson of the unpredictability of hospitality.


A mundane story… yet?


~

A Truck Stop Covid 19 tale:

Truckers are part of the country’s essential workforce who don’t have the option of working from home, even during a crisis. An estimated 70 per cent of goods in Canada are transported by truck. But most of the roadside comforts they rely on have been closed due to COVID-19, leaving many drivers without a way to fill their stomachs along their routes. Because of this, a Nova Scotia woman is offering truckers free meals out of her truck stop in order to support the workers keeping Canada’s supply chain running during the pandemic.

Crystal Blair has pledged to keep her truck stop open no matter what in order to help these unsung heroes. “It’s a lonely old road out there today,” said Blair. “And they don't even know where they can stop and use the washroom.”

Blair is keeping her rural operation running with food donated by her neighbours. Every day, she cooks up meals to offer to drivers passing through — and she’s not charging them a cent. From the meals to baked goods to drinks, everything in her truck stop is now free. Blair knows how important it is for drivers to have a place they can count on along the road. She said, "They're living in their trucks, some of them are out for weeks at a time, some of them can't go home because of where they've been.”

The appreciation goes both ways. Solidarity between the truckers logging long days on the road, and the truck stop owner working dawn to dusk. One trucker who visited her truck stop said, “Nice spot to come to, good food, nice people, we really appreciate it. She’s an angel.”

Blair replied that her establishment is “just one small little truck stop in the little town of Glenholme, Nova Scotia. ³”

Or, perhaps, dare I say it, a truck stop on the road to Emmaus?

Certainly, an ordinary story in which something extraordinary is astir, perhaps many things…




 ¹ Remember Irenaeus said, “The glory of god is humanity fully alive”.

 ² Truth be told, it also hints that there is a possibility of danger, of hostility inherent to hospitality and openness to the stranger. Hospitality is a wager acknowledging risk.

 ³ Adapted from a CTV News feed, March 28th, 2020.