From broken to broken – God’s grace at the holy meal

Yes, indeed this chapter is typical of the Lukan narrative style.[1] Because the story is resolved and reaches its climax around a dinner table, around a meal.

One of the stand-out activities of Jesus’ ministry throughout the Gospel of Luke is eating. I’ve mentioned this before, that there is some kind of reference, or at least implied, to “eating” in every one of the twenty-four chapters of Luke. And Jesus is at the centre of it all. 

Some notable examples—Jesus is born in a feeding trough for animals.[2] Jesus is accused early in his ministry of being a glutton and a drunkard.[3] What is worse, he eats with all the wrong people![4]Then, he shares the Passover meal with his disciples the night before he died.[5]

So, it’s instructive that in the resurrection story about the walk to Emmaus[6] that, in the end, it’s not Jesus’ teaching—significant nonetheless—that opens their eyes. It’s not his physical presence—significant nonetheless—that opens their eyes. It’s Jesus’ breaking and sharing bread with his friends.[7] It’s his blessing of food. In this sharing of bread at an ordinary table, we catch a glimpse of “Jesus’ transformative kingdom.”[8]

It’s when Jesus takes what he is going to eat, breaks off a piece, and shares it with everyone else gathered at table. It’s like he’s taking the conventional expectation—that when someone comes to the table, they’ll keep for themselves the food placed before them. Jesus, again, turns upside down everyone’s expectations. There’s this self-giving, from a heart of love, that offers not what is perfect but what is broken. To everyone.

Which is not how I instinctively operate. If I’m going to share something, especially food, I want to make sure I’m offering my guest and those whom I serve the best pieces, the biggest, the best-looking off the grill. In other words, I’m looking to give the very best of what I can give. 

But not Jesus. Jesus does not exercise his mission based on performance and perfection. Jesus’ action invites us, maybe challenges us, first to receive and accept what is less-than-ideal in and around us.

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St Peter meets him at the pearly gates.

St Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man said, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says St Peter, “that’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

“Terrific!” says St Peter, “that’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

“Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.

“TWO POINTS!!” the man cries. “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

St Peter says, “Come on in!”

God is gracious and merciful, despite our imperfect efforts to catch God’s attention and despite our belief that we have to earn our way into God’s favour.

From broken to broken. From broken—meaning despised and rejected, what Jesus suffered himself on the cross—to broken; meaning, touching what is broken within us. In the holy meal, Jesus touches what is broken in our lives and in need of healing and in need of being made whole again. Bread broken. The Body of Christ given—broken—for you. And everyone else.

The Holy Communion magnifies the truth of grace, a truth that we don’t ‘see’ in each other normally in our compare-and-compete world. Jesus takes the initiative to find us on the road—on our journeys—and approaches us because we are beloved children of God. Not because we have accomplished something grand. The disciples on the road felt as failures; the past three years were all for nothing, it seemed. But despite their, and our, brokenness and even because of it, Jesus approaches us with love.

Within our historic Christian faith, we affirm that all humanity bears the imprint of the Divine[9], that we are made in the image of God. This is the starting point for drawing forward our sense of dignity. This is the intrinsic value that is ascribed, not earned, based on our essence in reflecting a good and loving God.[10]

When we start with the grace of resting in our dignity—despite what is broken within us— then the truth of our identity flows forward to embrace those around us. We re-spect them, the word ‘respect’ means “to see a second time”[11], to take another look. To see the good.

A colleague who teaches a two-year confirmation class concludes the program by announcing a final exam. Each student must take the three-hour exam after which the pastor takes up the answers with each student.

As you can imagine, the students get quite anxious and nervous leading up to the exam. All kinds of reasons are presented why some can’t participate. The pastor gently but firmly persists and insists. With a twinkle in his eye. This moment will define and determine the student’s standing in the church and with God for the rest of eternity!

At first the students are shocked when after the written test is completed and handed in, the pastor in dramatic fashion rips up the paper without even looking at any of the answers written down, and unceremoniously deposits the shredded pieces into the recycling can.

Grace doesn’t demand perfection as a condition for belonging to God’s reign. Grace doesn’t insist on getting it right before you receive the gift of Jesus’ life in yours. Grace doesn’t put conditions on anyone coming with an outstretched hand to the table.

Our lives begin and end in the love and grace of God. Whatever our good efforts, and however we try to get it right, this will make a difference and open up ‘airspace’ for God’s grace to flood in. But we can’t control the outcome. And sometimes we need Jesus to break in when we can’t break out when we are stuck, likely more often than we think. In the end it is the freedom of God’s agency to show mercy and open the eyes of our heart.

You are welcome to partake of this Holy Meal. And next time you connect at the table in person or by watching online, take a good look—and maybe a second look—at who is there beside you also receiving the gift, the grace, also a beloved child of God. Will you ‘see’ them with renewed vision? As beloved children of God?

[1] Luke 24

[2] Luke 2:7

[3] Luke 7:34

[4] Luke 5:29-31 “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

[5] Luke 22:1-23

[6] Luke 24:13-35

[7] Luke 24:30-31

[8] Eric Barreto, “Commentary on Luke 24:13-35” in (23 April 2017).

[9] Genesis 1:27

[10] Christ Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth (Grand Rapids Michigan: Zondervan, 2017), p.17

[11] Richard Rohr, “Everyday Pilgrims” in Daily Meditations (, 10 March 2023)

From broken to broken’ sermon for Easter 3A (Rev. Martin Malina)

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