Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, April 23, 2023

YEAR A 2023 easter 3

Easter 3, 2023
Acts 2:14a,36-41
1 Peter 1:17-23
Luke 24:13-35
Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

My favorite rubric says: A period of silence is kept.  More on that later.
In the Episcopal tradition, when a person is ordained a priest, they make a vow:  “I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.”  And you may ask yourself, what exactly are the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church?  Well, not surprisingly, they are three books.  The Bible is the doctrine, the Canons are the discipline, and the Book of Common Prayer is the worship.  Bible, canons, and prayer book are the doctrine, discipline, and worship.

This is a promise every ordained person makes, whether bishop, priest, or deacon.  And you can see why it’s important.  You don’t want your clergy preaching things that are contrary to the Bible.  You don’t want them breaking the rules set forth in the canons (which are like the Ohio Revised Code of the Episcopal Church).  And you don’t want them just making up stuff at will on Sunday mornings when it comes to worship.  These are promises we make for the benefit of God’s people, and to preserve good order in the church.

So, why do I bring all that up on this Third Sunday of Easter?  Because I want to talk about one of my favorite topics in the whole world.  THE RUBRICS!  In the Book of Common Prayer, the rubrics are sort of the instructions that you see in italics throughout the service.  They’re called rubrics—from the Latin rubrica, for red chalk—because they used to be printed in red.  Those small italicized instructions tell the people and the priest what to do as we worship together.

As a layperson, you follow the rubrics because you are a member of this church, using this book that we’ve all agreed to follow.  But as a priest, I have made a promise before God, the bishop, and the people to conform to what this book says I should do.  Essentially, I’ve made a vow to do exactly what the rubrics say to do.  Twice in fact, since I made the same vow when I was ordained a deacon.  I do what the book says because I promised to do what the book says.  And I am telling you all of this because I want to focus on that one sentence I said at the beginning:  “A period of silence is kept.”

Throughout our Eucharistic service, there are subtle but important distinctions in what the rubrics say.  Right off the bat, a hymn may be sung.  The Celebrant may say.  When appointed, a song of praise may be sung.  Then the people sit for the readings, stand for the Gospel, sit for the sermon, and when we get to the Creed it says, On Sundays and other Major Feasts there follows, all standing.  Which is a tricky one, because it means we must say it on Sundays and major feasts, but we do not say it on Wednesdays that aren’t feast days.  All of which is not your concern, I know, but as I said, rubrics are one of my favorite topics.  Which is why I am such a hit at parties,

So as you go through the service, you have things that must be done, and things that may be done.  And here comes my actual point this morning:  If you look carefully at the rubrics in our Communion service, you will see that every period of silence is optional.  What we call a “may rubric.”  They all say, a period of silence may be kept, except for one. 

The only required silence comes on page 337 in Rite I, and on page 364 in Rite II where it says:
The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread.
A period of silence is kept.

That’s the only place where silence is required in the entire service.  Silence is not even required before the Confession of sins.  It’s only here.  So why is that?  Why is silence required in that one place, and only in that one place?  After the Celebrant breaks the consecrated bread, a period of silence IS kept.  Why?  Well, we can find the answer in today’s gospel reading from Luke:
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.

They recognized him; and then he vanished from their sight.  Isn’t that the strangest thing?  It’s like as long as they think Jesus is some stranger who hasn’t heard about what has happened, he is with them physically.  As soon as they recognize him, in the breaking of the bread, he disappears . . . .
Now granted, it sounds a little trippy and all, but it’s almost as if the bread becomes his body, isn’t it?  They can see Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  They recognize Jesus in the bread.

And when they get back to the other disciples, they tell what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  But there’s an interesting thing that is left unsaid in this whole story.

When Jesus meets the disciples on the road, they are heartbroken and confused.  At no point in the story does it say the disciples became happy and understood.  At no point does the text say that Jesus made everyone live happily ever after.  It’s not as if the presence of Jesus replaces or ignores our sadness and pain. 

Jesus comes to meet them on their walk, in the midst of their sorrow and pain.  And yet their hearts are burning within them as he opens the scriptures to them.  Meeting them where they are; not judging them in their blindness.  And in the breaking of the bread, they recognize the risen Lord who has been with them all along.

Jesus does not take away pain and sadness.  Jesus introduces hope and comfort.  The promise of the resurrection brings hope.  The presence of Jesus, made known to us in the bread, brings comfort.  Can we have hope while still being sad?  Oh yes!  Can we experience comfort while still being in pain?  Most assuredly.  And in the bread and wine, the resurrected Christ is made known to us, no matter our present circumstances.

I would like you to hear today’s Collect again:
O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work.

That period of silence after the bread is broken is the absolute pinnacle of the Eucharistic service.  In that silence, we are bringing their experience into the present.  Jesus is made known to them—and to us—in the breaking of the bread.  All the other silences are optional; this one is required.  Because this is the moment when Jesus is made known to us in the breaking of the bread. 

 Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand.
The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread.
A period of silence is kept.

Lord Jesus, be known to us in the breaking of the bread, as you made yourself known to the disciples.


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