In the Episcopal Church we look to the Baptismal Covenant as a way to articulate our faith. This is because on one hand it is largely creedal, so that in it we are recalled to the historical faith which we have received from the Church. But at the same time, the Baptismal covenant also draws in both Scripture and tradition to form a kind of rule of life for living into the Christian vocation.
One particular statement in the Covenant is one which I think we can get a lot of mileage out of—“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”
Now, obviously this is a vow, because we immediately understand the difficulty in zeroing in on the presence of Christ in others. This is especially true for really difficult people. But this vow speaks directly to our belief that our faith is incarnational.
So, just as Jesus is the incarnation and embodiment of God, we as the Church are then called to incarnate and embody God’s redemptive love in Christ to the world.
What I think is interesting about our response to this calling is that most often we don’t easily find Christ in others. Instead, what we get is a pretty good reflection of who we are—especially with difficult people. Because depending on how honestly we live out our call to love our neighbor, we may find that Christ’s presence isn’t all that clear in us either…
But I think it is this mirror that humanity provides to us that (if we are paying attention) can call us back to faithful living. Not that we nail it every time, but that we are at least aware of who we are and who we represent.
All the same, somehow in the mystery of the Imago Dei—the Image of God that we claim—we find a more perfect picture of ourselves. At the same time, somewhere in-between the interactions we have with the “other,” we are also able to get a fuller picture of Jesus Christ.
In today’s Gospel reading, we find two disciples who I’m willing to bet were not expecting to meet Jesus. What we see, however is how they can’t stop talking about the news of his resurrection. Just in that instant, Jesus approaches them—perfect in his resurrected body, and perfect in his otherness. In response to their discussion, this “stranger” Jesus reveals all of the mysteries of the history of salvation beginning from Moses to his own resurrection. And while all of this makes sense to them, they still don’t recognize him.
The story ends, of course, with these disciples inviting Jesus in to share a meal. We can guess that they at least know him to be some kind of teacher, because he’s the one who offers the blessing. But it’s when Jesus breaks the bread that it all comes together—and the disciples immediately know who he is…
As disciples of Jesus today, we probably don’t believe that we’ll see the resurrected Christ on the road, either… But then maybe the lesson we’re meant to learn in our baptismal calling is how to not miss Christ in the stranger. And if we’re able to see Christ in the stranger, perhaps even the Christ in ourselves and in the breaking of the bread will be more fully revealed.