Breaking Bread

The Road to Emmaus: O ye Slow of Heart

The Road To Emmaus story hinges on the question: what do you see? This is a story of the times we fail to see God right in front of us. This is a story of how we miss the blessing right before our eyes. This is such a common story, even for the followers of Jesus, maybe especially for us. And this is the story of how we learn to open our eyes. The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread. What do you see?

The question really begins early with a troubling line in this passage, one that does not resolve easily. Luke tells us, “they were prevented from recognizing him.” That sentence has an object, but no subject. Who, or what did the preventing? Who stopped the disciples from recognizing Jesus? Was it God?

I tend to think not. I think the better case here is social pressure. These disciples are following the common wisdom. Everyone knows the dead stay Cleopas and the other disciple don’t believe the women. They don’t believe Peter, who says he saw and empty tomb. They don’t believe the supposed words of the angels. They believe what society tells them they must.

Jesus responds, and he says something in the original language our translation just doesn’t capture. Jesus doesn’t say “dull minds” he says, “how slow are your hearts.” What is keeping these followers from seeing what is right in front of them? The slowness of their hearts.

Now, I need to give a caveat: in New Testament Greek, the division between heart and mind wasn’t so clear. In our postmodern world, we tend to talk about a voice inside our heads. Consciousness, can be physically located among the neurons of the brain. Ancient Greek linguistics didn’t have this distinction. Thoughts came from the heart, just like feelings. Interestingly, in Hebrew, you think with your gut. This is all to say, for Jesus and his followers, the division between thinking and feeling wasn’t so clear. Their inmost thoughts, they believed, came from a bit lower in their bodies. The word heart can mean poetically what we mean when we say heart. It can also mean mind. It can also mean soul. Still Jesus is saying to them, “catch up.” Change your mind. Move your heart. Move your soul. Don’t just let society tell you what to believe. Open your eyes. But first, open your hearts.

This has been a painful week in Missouri.

Again our state made national headlines for all the wrong reasons. This week, in Kansas City, a black teenager was shot for ringing the wrong doorbell. This wasn’t the only story of someone using a gun on a person who was at the wrong house or in the wrong driveway. But in Missouri, this story hit home. Because a black teenager didn’t encounter the help he needed but a gun.

This has been a painful week. Our attorney general issued a regulation which, if implemented, would make our state the most restrictive in the nation when it comes to healthcare for trans youth and adults. Several of us have come to Jefferson City this season. We’ve heard Christians with painfully slow hearts testifying that they can’t believe what the doctors, parents, and trans people are telling them.

This language from Jesus, “how slow are your hearts” has been helping me this week. It’s too easy to believe that my fellow Christians are slow of mind, to call them ignorant, or stupid, or backwards. Doing so really doesn’t help. As best I can, from here on out, I’m going to try to use “slow of heart.” People are failing to recognize what is right in front of them. Christians are failing to open their hearts, to love their neighbors. Gosh I wish Christians weren’t so well known for being slow to love.

As you get to know the LGBTQ+ community in this state, you see so much love. Depth, and humor, and resilience too. As I’ve gotten to know some of the trans kids in our community, I see so much bravery, and tenacity, and hope. In another Gospel, Jesus tells his followers, they will be known for their love. I have to say, I see so much more love, so much more acceptance, such wider hearts among LGBTQ+ people and their allies than I do among so many Christians.

The church must play catch up. You’ll not be surprised, but there is an ask here. This week, a group of interfaith clergy got together to respond. We decided we want to stop giving so much air time to slow-hearted members of our government in Jeff City. We need to turn outward, toward the LGBTQ+ community. The clergy are starting to raise money for a media campaign. We’re imagining billboards, yard signs, social media, all with messages to trans, gender-expansive, and LGBTQ+ Missourians saying: you are healthy, you are strong, you are beloved.

You can join in. Right now, we’re asking for donations. You can head to and read more and make a donation. Soon we’ll have ways to get yard signs, and hashtags to use on social media. In the weeks ahead, we’re asking you, show love to the LGBTQ+ community. Respond to hate with love. Respond to slow-heartedness with open-heartedness.

Breaking Bread and Sharing

For those of us who are Christians, this story of the walk to Emmaus is one we need to come back to again and again. When we come to this table, we bless bread, break it, and share. We Episcopalians do Eucharist every week, every week. Every week. Frankly, friends, it is because we Christians need practice.

Christianity is a faith which seeks to find the sacred in the mundane. Our central symbols, on their own, don’t look like much. We are a people who gather to celebrate babies taking a bath. We are people who read together from a book. We share bread.

I’ve celebrated Eucharist with a beautiful handmade loaf of bread, so pretty I almost didn’t want to tear it. But for Christians, bread is just bread until it is broken, and shared. We tear our central symbol open. We break the perfect. What may at first seem broken is more whole because it has been shared. The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking.

Being a Eucharistic people means finding God in the crumbs. We practice coming here and looking for Jesus to show up in the most mundane act you could imagine, sharing a meal. Now, we try our best to hide the ordinariness of the holy. We wrap the table in silk, cover the plates and candles in silver and gold. We dress it up, but if you scratch the surface there is no hiding. Our faith asks us to practice seeing God in the simplest of substances and in the breaking open.

There should be no room for Christians to pretend we can be perfect. We say that this act helps us to remember how Jesus’ body was broken open for us. We are the people with a wounded savior. We are the followers of a scarred God. Perfection is a myth. God is found in all that is broken, all that is torn, all that is crumby. This is because God is very human. God is real. Jesus asks us to practice breaking.

The Eucharist is the practice which should teach all of us who are slow of heart. Because each week we have to share Jesus. There is no VIP line in this church, there is no first class meal. Everyone gets the same Jesus’s.

I am grateful to celebrate this sacrament in a church like Holy Communion. Too many churches are full of people who all look the same. Here I get to say, “the body of Christ” to young and old. I say “the body of Christ” to people from every letter of the lgbtqqia+ alphabet. I say “the body of Christ” to rich, poor, and middle income. “The body of Christ” to black, white, bi-racial, and multi-racial people. Each week I say, “the body of Christ” to women, men, and nonbinary folk. To Spanish speakers, “el cuerpo de Cristo.” I say to neurotypical and neurodiverse, able bodied, and disabled, “the body of Christ”. To democrats and undecided folks, communists, Green Party, and even to Republicans “the body of Christ.” We all hear the same words. We all eat the same bread. Our faith isn’t about wishing away diversity. Here we practice knowing in our hears that all our differences somehow fit within the love of God which gathers us as one body.

We come back to this church week after week, and we try and let our too-slow hearts catch up to the wide love of God. Ours is a faith that wants to help us see. We practice seeing God in the everyday stuff of life, in what is broken and shared. Each week we practice seeing Jesus in our neighbors, even those our hearts have been slow to love. We even call our church, “Holy Communion” because we are committed to this practice, this practice which teaches us to see.

My prayer for us this week, Holy Communion, is that our eyes may not be kept from seeing God, right in front of us. My prayer each week is that Christian slowness of heart doesn’t keep anyone from recognizing God’s love. Amen.

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

2 thoughts on “Breaking Bread

  1. Follow-up: I sent this “message” to both our current rector, Janine Schenone, and Martha Anderson, who has been a priest at St. Peter’s, Del Mar, and is now in the choir at Good Sam as well as occasionally “subbing” for Janine.
    Both of them were very impressed and Martha wrote that she would share it with others.
    Blessings and big Good Sam hugs, Verdery

  2. Dear Mike, many thanks for this thoughtful, forceful sermon. As the godmother of a trans man (Miles Margrave. I don’t know if you were here when he was a member of Good Sam. He moved up to the Bay Area a few years ago. He had grown up in a neighborhood populated by people who, from how he described the situation, looked down on, if not totally rejected people who were “different”, shall we say? It was to the point that he rejected Christianity, or at least the Christians he knew, though he believed in God. Granted, he gravitated to some of the pagan religions, but I for one don’t really blame him, under the circumstances.
    He and I somehow hit it off, and he told me how he came to Good Sam. One day he was standing across the street from the church, waiting for the light to change, when God spoke to him, saying “I want you to go to that church across the street.” I have a hunch Miles told God what He could do with that idea, but I don’t know for sure, but God said “I won’t let you move until you agree,” and sure enough, Miles couldn’t move until he gave in.
    When he got to Good Sam, he found people who welcomed him, gave him bread and wine and coffee and hugs, and somehow got to know some of the folks in the choir, including yours truly..
    For some reason or other (OK, God certainly had a hand in it) we really hit it off and he started coming to the Wednesday morning services as well, which I attended and served as Altar Guild and occasionally led Morning Prayer if a priest, (Chris Chase at the time) wasn’t available. The folks at that service were welcoming, too.
    We’ve kept in touch off and on, mainly via Facebook, since he moved up to the Bay Area and a couple of years ago Arthur and I were in that neck of the woods and had a lovely visit with him.. He still has occasional bouts of uncertainty and even the occasional unsteadyness (if that’s even a word) but I keep him in my prayers and hope for the best. It’s good to know that there ARE folks who welcome what might be considered the “stranger” with open arms.
    Keep up the good work! If we ever get to your neck of the woods, we’ll be sure to come to your church and listen to you in person. And probably give you a Good Sam hug to boot!
    Fondly, Verdery

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