For much of my life I understood the Eucharist, the Lord’s supper, simply in terms of reflection upon Christs’ acts on my behalf. This was wrapped in an imagination that placed my personal status before God as the primary goal of Jesus’ self-sacrifice. While my personal status is important to both me and God, there are more ways to imagine Communion that might help us better engage the irreducible Other.
Luke 24 recounts an Easter evening encounter in which Jesus meets and walks with two men on the road to Emmaus. As they walk and talk, the men discuss the death of Jesus and the recent happenings in Jerusalem. As Jesus questions them, Cleopas responds, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” (Ironically, Jesus is the only one who truly knows what has taken place.)
Later in the evening, as the three men were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then, Luke tells us, the men’s eyes were opened and they recognized him. This, I think, has much to tell us about the Other and the stranger in our midst.
Here the church is met on the road by a stranger who opens the scriptures to them and is revealed as the risen Lord. This revelation, however, does not happen on the road, it happens when the stranger is invited to join them at table. Not only is the stranger invited to stay with them and join them at table; he is permitted to break the bread and bless it.
This is a much different imagination than those who want to wrap Christianity around them like a Teflon blanket of protection against the people that are “not like us.”
Could it be that the resurrected Christ is inviting us to welcome, embrace and trust the stranger?
Could it be that by resisting the Other and the stranger we are in fact missing Jesus Himself?
Could it be that Jesus, the God-man Himself, comes to Earth as a stranger and a foreigner to our territory, and is calling us to openness to the stranger because He is the stranger?
In the stranger and the Other is Jesus Himself!