Sunday was my first go at leading Post Oak & Liberty in the sacrament of Holy Communion. It was really enjoyable to be able to guide the congregations in confessing sin and repenting, declaring the good news of forgiveness in the name of Christ, and expressing tokens of reconciliation as Christ would be present in the meal we shared together.
As I am in the midst of a series on “New Beginnings,” I read the Scriptural text of Luke 24:13-35, where the story of the walk on the road to Emmaus is recounted. Jesus joined two disciples who were walking along still puzzled by the events that had taken place, primarily of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus and the alleged report that he was alive again. The new beginning for these disciples was that Christ led them out of confusion into clarity of the identity and mission of the Messiah, who had to suffer before entering into victory (24:26).
But even as their eyes were beginning to open and their hearts were burning within them, they still were unable to fully recognize Jesus until they had invited him to share the evening with them and after he took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them.
This notion of invitation is central to this passage of Scripture as well as the liturgy of Holy Communion. When we hear and read the story in Luke’s Gospel, our ears and eyes are alerted to the fact that the disciples urgently invited Jesus to stay with them in Emmaus and have fellowship rather than continuing on the road without them (24:28-29). But while the text speaks of their invitation, in reality and underneath the surface we can read that Jesus was inviting them all along. He met them on their road of confusion, disbelief, and despair, and opened the Scriptures (and their minds) to the reality of the suffering Messiah who would conquer death by death in order to bring the hope and promise of the resurrected life. That long walk down the road when Jesus revealed to them the nature of his Messianic role of rescuing us from the grip of sin & death was preparing their hearts, minds, and eyes for what they would behold later that day in the breaking of bread.
This is a great example of what John Wesley was speaking about when he wrote of prevenient (or preventing) grace. That is, God’s grace goes before any response or action we take in inviting Christ into our lives and living out his mission in the world. We love because he first loved us. We invite because he first invited us. “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another…”