Category Archives: Setting the Table for Communion

an unexpected walk to Emmaus



She asked if we could take an extra lap around the ball field at recess. I didn’t mind. Some conversations require an extra lap … or two.

Her heart is so tender, so easily touched by these morning, God-conversations we’ve been having for the past 148 school days. Today was no different. During our Bible story time, I’d planned on covering the Walk to Emmaus, but we never made it there. Instead, we got stuck right in the middle of Mary Magdalene’s arrival at the empty tomb (John 20), the two angels book-ending the place where Jesus’ body used to be, and (at the urging of my students) a detour to the book of Exodus 25 to look at a possible connection between the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant and the seated angels in Christ’s tomb. I watched their eyes engage with the correlation. My baker’s dozen pondered the possibilities and accepted the mystery and beauty of God’s Word. They (perhaps better than most adults) are still warm to the things of God and more easily moved into a posture of acceptance.

“It’s flawless, boys and girls. From beginning to end, Old Testament to New, God’s Word is flawless. This is your history – your past, your present, your future. This is your story, and these are your people. Learn it well. Live it forward. This has become your trust to keep and to tell. Who will tell the next generation coming up behind you if not you?”

I’m not certain they all received my admonishment in its fullness, but I do know that a few of them did. Only God can take these planted seeds and grow them for his kingdom. I may not be around to watch them blossom, but I am at peace with and fully trust in the planting that’s being done.

And so, she and I took an extra lap together at recess to discuss the things of God – our own Emmaus walk of sorts. Two hearts burning as we talked about Jesus and her desire to know him more. Further still, her deep, soul-aching desire for her family to know him more. She carries a burden for them, for kindness and love and reconciliation to rule the day.

“If they could just love Him like I love Him, Mrs. Olsen, things would be different. I pray and nothing changes. I thought God would answer, but it doesn’t seem like he’s listening. Is it me? Am I doing something wrong?”

And therein began my reassurances to her of God’s listening ear and man’s wandering heart – the free will built into all of us – the gift of individual choice and God’s great hope to be chosen. That she cannot choose for her family but that she can choose for herself …

To love God. Know God. And then out of that knowing, lead others to know the same.

My calling. Her calling. The singular calling for all of us as disciples of Jesus Christ.

She can be a light, pointing in the right and very good direction. I tell her it will make a difference in the end, and she’s willing to believe me because I am her teacher and I have earned her trust over these past 148 school days.

These aren’t merely words to calm an anxious spirit. These are words to live by. Why? Because God has proved them over and over again to me. I’ve seen them at work in the lives of countless others, and I’ve watched them come to fruition in my own journey of grace.

A single flame can spark a fire. A lighted candle can lead a heart safely home. And an extra lap around a ball field can ignite a soul with enough hope to fuel godly desire for a season longer.

This was our Emmaus Road – hers and mine.

This is forever kingdom privilege.

And this, dear friends, is one of the more sacred punctuation marks added to 148 days of hard labor and obedience.

This is my story; these are my people. By God’s grace, I’m learning it well. I’m living it forward. This is my trust to keep and to tell. I will tell the next generation coming up behind me. I pray you’ll do the same. As always …

Peace for the journey,

To learn more about Elaine’s books, Peace for the Journey and Beyond the Scars, click here.

Setting the Table for Communion (part six): A Worthy Proclamation

Setting the Table for Communion (part six): A Worthy Proclamation

For a final time (at least as far as this series is concerned), please read our Scripture focus, Luke 24:13-36. May God bless the reading of his Word as only he can.

“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” (Luke 24:33-36).

The Wailing Wall – Jerusalem

What do you do with Truth?

You’ve walked toward Him. You’ve boasted in Him. You’ve listened to Him. You’ve invited Him to share your table, and finally, you’ve received from Him the feeding that fills and the truth that lasts. What then, do you do with that Truth?

Responses vary. Perhaps you contemplate Truth for a long season, harboring him within and treasuring him as your own. Perhaps you are quick to hide Truth for fear that his exposure would warrant the world’s disapproval. Perhaps, you reason Truth away because the world’s version of truth is an easier swallow and requires less of a voice. Perhaps, you reject Truth. Some would argue that you can’t, but it doesn’t line up with Scripture and with the living witness of a societal soul that prefers to stumble along with a lie, even though Truth has voiced his portion.

For all of the possible responses that could be proffered for Truth’s revelation, there is one and only one appropriate response to the tasting of God’s eternal and living witness. Again, we look to our spiritual ancestors in Emmaus for an appropriate response. What did they do with Truth?

They pushed away from the table and took to the road. Why?

Because Truth is meant to be shared. Not harbored or hidden. Not silenced or shrouded, but rather exposed. Released. Disclosed and distributed.

And for two hearts that burned with the Truth of Easter’s resurrection, the telling of that Truth became paramount. So much so that, despite the weary of an earlier walk from Jerusalem, they commenced a seven mile hike back to its borders. Back to the place of their seeded desperation and hopelessness in order to till the soil with the truth of a tabled communion in Emmaus.

Can you picture them as they went? Can you feel their sense of urgency? The joy that spurred their steps in a hastened obedience toward that upper room, where many were cloistered in confusion? When have you known a similar compelling? When has the truth of Jesus been the overwhelming penchant of your heart, so much so that you were willing to push away from the table and voice your proclamations with the words of God’s eternal witness? To run back to the place of cloistered confusion and to shatter the chaos with the Light of Easter’s revelation?

What, friends, do you do with Truth?

It is a question that I am asking of myself this day as we bring this series to a close. In many ways, the journey we’ve taken over the past two weeks has mirrored an Emmaus pilgrimage. We’ve walked to the table with intention. We’ve boasted in Christ’s name. We’ve opened up the Scripture together and allowed Christ to teach us. We’ve urged Him to stay and to dine with us around the table. We’ve watched Him break the bread and have received a feeding from his hands, the taste of which has stoked a burning fire within for Jesus and his truth.

And now we come to a final obedience in our journey. We come to a crossroads, where a choice must be made. We can push away from the table, fully fed and well satisfied, and nap away our life as usual. Or, we can push away from the table, fully fed and well satisfied, and move into a deeper obedience that requires and charges us with the responsibility of feeding others from the overflow. Either way, we’ve been fed, and that, alone, is a very good thing.

But the great thing…the better and more sacred path…would be to share God’s Bread with a world whose hunger remains empty and deep and terribly void of eternal sustenance. To stop short of the telling of God’s Truth is to stop short of our part in the Great Commission. We limit Christ’s work in us when we refuse his work a voice through us.

It’s a selfish choice. A less than choice that always ladles partial rather than full—almost, but not quite complete.

I don’t know about you, but I am after my completion. I want God to fully use me up, and then I want him to carry me home to heaven. I don’t want to leave this world napping. I want to leave this world walking and talking and living the Truth of Easter’s resurrection out loud, boldly and with the firm conviction that the Truth who burns within is in fact…

The Way. The Truth, and the Life.

I want the last words from my lips to mirror those of my Emmaus friends so long ago.

It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to me.

In the end, there is no finer Truth that can be ladled. In the end, there is only one Truth that is of consequence. His name is Jesus, and he has painted my wretchedness with his lavish portion of Calvary’s grace. He’s allowed me forever. He’s given me his peace, his presence, and his constant and abiding love that will carry through my now and over the threshold into my next.

Nothing else matters. Nothing. And for that, my friends, I will push away from my tabled communion and take to the road just as Jesus did. He didn’t linger long in Emmaus. Once he revealed the truth of who he is, he left. He took to the road, and he charges us with the same journey. And when we walk forward in such sacred submission, we will find, even as the disciples did on that resurrection evening, that our Father goes with us…goes ahead of us, and meets us on the other side of our obedience.

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”

Let Peace be your guide. Let Peace be your portion, and as always, let there be Peace in your journey. He is so worthy of our steps, and thus I pray…

Thank you, Father, for this time around your table. You are worth my obedience. You exceed my expectations, every time. I cannot fully imagine what it must have been like to walk that Emmaus road with you on your resurrection morning, but I’m trying…to imagine…You…even now as we walk this road some 2000 years beyond that moment. It still feels fresh. It still voices truth and peace and sears into my heart with the burning revelation of your lasting witness. Give me the strength to carry your Truth, the boldness to speak your Truth, and the wisdom to choose your Truth, despite the bombardment from the world’s version of truth. Let me live it like I mean it until you carry me home and I finally see the Truth whom I now so vividly taste. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the abiding and living Holy Spirit. Amen. So be it.

post signature

What a joy, friends, to close this series with you and with a fresh taste of Truth in my mouth and heart. I’ve walked and written it, even as I have lived it–with obedience, even when my flesh cried out for a nap! Thank you for walking this Emmaus road with me. I’m not sure what’s next, but whatever that “next” may be, it will be done with Jesus, for he is my peace in my journey. God be with you, be real to you, and be found by you each and every time you set the table for communion with Him. He is worth the walk and every hard and difficult step that you take to get to his feet. How I love Him and consider it a privilege to love you because of Him. Shalom!

Setting the Table for Communion (part five): A Worthy Meal

Setting the Table for Communion (part five): A Worthy Meal

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:30-32).

We urged Him last night.

Asked Him to come and to stay with us awhile around our tables at Bible study.

He did, for he is faithful to entertain our invitations for his presence. Where two or more are gathered in his name, he is there among us, and last night was no exception. Bible study always brings an Audience with it. We may not see him, hear him, touch him or be able to feel him, but rest assured that if he is earnestly sought, we will always taste him.

Jesus Christ, the Word—Logos—is the bread of heaven.

And while others may prefer chips and salsa with their meal, my palate prefers the loaf.

I am a bread girl. Always have been. It was a staple at our table throughout my youth and has followed me to the table in years since. I’ve grown accustomed to its presence, and I miss it when it’s not there. Mealtime doesn’t feed the same in the absence of bread.

Bread comforts. Bread fills. Bread completes a table in a way that only bread can satisfy.

Jesus—the Bread of life—completed a table in Emmaus on his day of resurrection. It was fitting that one of his first acts of revelatory fellowship would include a loaf, blessed and broken and given from his very hands. It mirrored an earlier memory, one that included the same Bread who was broken with a different purpose in mind.

Earlier, prior to the cross, the Bread was broken to redeem. On this day, following the cross, the Bread was broken to reveal. To announce truth and to sear truth’s shield over the hearts of two who burned internally from the sacred flames of its heated embrace.

Jesus revealed the truth of his identity to his followers around a table and through a loaf of bread.

Not much has changed in 2000 years. Jesus is still in the business of revealing himself. Often around a table, and always through the giving and receiving of his bread. And lest you think I’m speaking solely about our reverent act of the occasioned sacrament, let me assure you that communion with Jesus exceeds our managed and calendared attempts of remembrance.

If we depended on church protocol for our feeding of God’s Bread, we would starve. That being said, it is good and fine and perfectly right for us to collectively remember Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. He has commanded us to do so—to remember his body that was broken and his blood that was shed on our behalf for our redemption.

But what do we do with this second table of grace? This time of further communion with Jesus in our Emmaus moments, when the focus is no longer the forthcoming cup of redemption, but rather ladles with the revelation that love’s redeeming work has been accomplished. Finished. Completed and written down as history rather than as a prophetic yearning yet to be fulfilled. What do we do with this second feeding of Bread?

Could I be so bold as to suggest that this second table of grace is where we are to live in our today? If we linger at a last supper’s loaf, we linger in possibility. We level our faith at a yet to be realized redemption. But when we move beyond the Upper Room, when we walk the truth of Calvary’s embrace and Easter’s resurrection, we no longer linger in possibility.

We live in promise.

We walk to the table knowing that the Bread who awaits us will comfort us. Will fill us. Will complete us in a way that only his Bread can satisfy. The Bread of remembrance doesn’t feed the same as the Bread of revelation, and if we stop short of this second table of grace, hunger will be our constant and abiding portion.

God doesn’t intend for us to walk away from his table hungry. He means for us to walk away well satisfied from the sacred feeding of his hands. He made us to be a people of Bread, both as partakers and as sharers of his abundance. To limit our “intake” is to limit his intention for our lives. Why would we limit Him? How have we arrived as such a pitiful conclusion about our Father’s capacity to feed us? Have we not yet tasted his bread?

Have we only…





Have we stopped short of partaking from his hands? If we have, then we’ve missed the point of his resurrection. To come to the table and to refuse the feeding is a choice to live hungry for the rest of our days. It is a foolish choice—a poorly reasoned choice—yet, one that we make every time we neglect our tabled moments with him.

I don’t know about you, friends, but I’ve grown weary with my foolish and childish thinking. It is time to move on. To fortify my frame and my flesh with the faith that walks obediently to the table, knowing that the Bread Who awaits me will fill my stomach full and feed my heart to overflow.

“Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’” (John 6:35).

And, perhaps, somewhere in our “coming” to this second table of grace, we too will recognize our Jesus for who he is and echo the stirred pulse of our spiritual ancestors…

‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

I want a heart’s stir for always, and thus I pray…

Feed me, Father, with the bread of heaven. Push me past my refusal, and instead, open wide my mouth for the feeding. Let the filling from the world’s table be the starvation that leads me to yours. Burn in me a daily desire for your bread—a desire that leads me to my Emmaus table and that keeps me there until I reach the shores of my forever and dine with you face to face…at the table of grace, for always. Amen.

Copyright © September 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

post signature

In my next post, we will finish up this series on Luke 24:13-35. Until then, shalom.

Setting the Table for Communion (part four): A Worthy Invitation

Setting the Table for Communion (part four): A Worthy Invitation

“As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.” (Luke 24:28-29).

When was the last time you urged Jesus to come and to stay with you?

Urge. Parabiazomai in the transliterated Greek meaning, “to employ force contrary to nature, right; to compel by employing force; to constrain one by treaties.”[i]

It’s a strong word carrying with it, in this case, a strong invitation directed toward Jesus. Not to perform miracles. Not to soothe their ache with comforting words of untruth. Not to diminish the happenings of the past weekend, but rather, simply…

to stay.

Stay. Meno in the transliterated Greek meaning, “to remain, abide; to continue to be present; to be held—kept continually.”[ii]

What they asked of Jesus is not unlike what we ask of him in our times of deepest sorrow and confusion. They urged him to participate in their suffering through the gift of his presence. To share more of his heart with them over a common meal. To break bread and to receive the words of life from this one who spoke so eloquently about the One on whom they had hung their messianic hopes.

Everything that had transpired along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus was ample fuel to warrant their desire for a further taste. And therein lies a truth for each one of us this day as we continue to set our table for communion with our Lord.

When Jesus Christ walks among us on our road to Emmaus and reveals the truth of who he is, a fire is fueled. Either a fire toward repentance or a fire toward rejection. If toward repentance, then our invitation for his lingering presence urges the same as it did for those disciples some 2000 years ago. If toward rejection, then our urges voice otherwise—in a safer, more sheltered direction that refuses the heat of the flames. But either way, when Jesus reveals…a fire burns, and a choice must be made.

Invitation or rejection.

The disciples chose well. They embraced the flames of this burning Truth that seared into their deep and dark with the penetrating light of Calvary’s victory. They didn’t scoff at the stranger’s words; instead they urged him toward further clarification in the matter. They didn’t dismiss him from their walk of grief; instead, they asked him to stay and to minister to their bleeding hearts and wounded confusion.

They didn’t come home empty-handed and empty-hearted. They came home with Jesus. Why?

Because our Savior is a kind a gracious Father whose agenda will never refuse an urgent invitation for his presence to be in our midst.

And so I ask you again, when was the last time you urged your Jesus to stay with you?

True and deep communion with Jesus…

Begins with an intentional walk toward the table (part one).
Continues with the worthy boast of his name (part two).
Deepens as the Word of God is revealed (part three).
Strengthens as an invitation for his presence is strongly urged (part four).

I don’t know where you are in your journey with Jesus this day, but as for me, I’m urging him for a deeper work. For more fire and more truth. Not because I desire the suffering heat, but rather because I know that God has ordained my refining process and to stop short of the flames is to stop short of my perfection.

I cannot always reason this walk between Jerusalem and Emmaus. Between spiritual blindness and sacred visioning. Between doubt and an absolute faith. Between rumors of his death and the reality of his resurrection. The struggle doesn’t make sense, especially since I’ve walked in God’s light for so long and tasted his truth at the deepest level of my being.

Still and yet, it is my struggle. But rather than walk away from God and hide in my confusion, I walk in obedience and with deliberate intention toward Him. With a worthy boast upon my lips and a worthy word within my heart because I know that my Father is faithful to come and to stay with me when my urging voices in his direction.

I’m urging Him today because he is my necessary and my very much needed. I long to sit by the fire and to break bread with him. Thus I pray,

Stay with me, Lord, at the table of my unbelief today. Linger long and with the words of truth that will reclaim my vision for all things eternal. Forgive me my doubts and replace them with the sure seeds of trust that harvest faithful and with the promise of your resurrection within. Let not my complacency be my satisfaction. Instead, stir my heart toward a greater conclusion in the matter…one that includes your magnificent imaginings for my life. Give me grace for the moment and hope for the ‘morrow. You are the sufficiency who keeps me in them both. Amen.


Copyright © September 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

post signature

Setting the Table for Communion (part three): A Worthy Word

Setting the Table for Communion (part three): A Worthy Word

Please read our focus Scripture before beginning: Luke 24:13-35.

“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’” (Luke 24:25-27).

Do you know what I love?

A human interest story. One that’s compelling and provocative and full of cutting edge drama. It will grab me every time, whether headlined on the cable news’ networks or on an internet website or splashed across the front page of the local newspaper. I’m a person who loves a catchy headline and one who will almost invariably lean in for a closer look.

Do you know what I love even more than a great human interest story?

A human interest story that is relayed to me by a live witness—a carrier of the truth as it was personally seen and, sometimes, lived out first hand. There is always an element of deeply rooted passion portrayed through an eyewitness account, allowing me a portion of an “in the moment” kind of understanding that cannot be gleaned through second-hand testimony.

I ran across one of these stories the other day. By the time I had finished reading, my heart was pounding and my tears were pouring. I clearly was in the moment as I read, understanding that I had been allowed a walk upon a small portion of sacred ground that belonged to someone I’ve never met, but someone who allowed me a window’s peek into her soul.

I love that, don’t you? Isn’t it a great privilege when we can walk away from a moment, realizing that we are better off because of the pilgrimage?

I think it’s a profound gift of God to be allowed such moments. And while there are always plenty of human interest stories to catch my attention, there are but a few that seed something further in me…something deeper and lasting, reminding me of my fond attachment to the human spirit that houses the eternal Spirit of the living God. When this happens…

I am changed for the better.

Life changed for the better for two people who took to an Emmaus road some 2000 years ago in search of some clarity. Some answers. Some thread of truth woven into the story they had just witnessed. They found the Truth. They didn’t recognize him, but they walked the better part of seven miles with him as they listened to his version of the truth.

He chided them for their lack of remembrance and asked them to recall a few prophetic things that had been said about him; things taught to them in their youth by the teachers of the Law and things taught to them in their maturity by this One who now walked alongside them in anonymity. Things about…

A serpent’s belly crawl and the heel splitting crush that would be exacted upon his head (Genesis 3:15).

A scepter that would not depart from Judah and about a donkey and a vine and robe dipped in the blood of grapes (Genesis 49:10-12).

A throne and a forever kingdom, floggings and an enduring love that would outlast the scorn of a whip and the disdain of a people (2 Samuel 7:12-14).

A virgin birth and a son named Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).

A Wonderful Counselor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, a Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7).

A precious cornerstone laid in Zion (Isaiah 28:16).

A tender shoot lacking beauty and majesty and summarily despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:2-5).

A new, inward covenant of grace to replace the old, outward law (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

A Bethlehem birth (Micah 5:2).

A Palm Sunday’s arrival (Zechariah 9:9).

A betrayal lined with thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12).

A criminal’s death (Isaiah 53:12).

A third day resurrection (Matthew 12:40; Mark 8:31; John 2:19).

A few things like that; partial and incomplete, but things I believe to be included in their conversation that day on that occasioned walk from utter desperation to renewed hope. Can you feel their pulse quicken even as you read? Can you feel yours?

You should, and here’s why.

These aren’t just idle words, my friends. These are you life (Deuteronomy 32:47). This is your history, spoken to you by an Eyewitness who was there. By One who partook of each and every occasion because In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1-2).

He was in the “then” as it was happening. He is in the “now” as we are reading and recalling the faith of generations past. His Word is alive and active and accomplishing his work in us, even when we remain unaware of its effectual power. His Spirit lives in us, testifying to the truth of all that has happened, and He is reliable because of his abiding presence in all of history.

He spoke the first Word of creation’s sentence, and he will punctuate it with his blessed and eternal Amen when he so chooses. And because He Is, his story levels as the most compelling human interest story that will ever be read. We don’t have to take someone else’s word in the matter. We can simply take his. Right now. In this very moment, as we walk to the table of grace to share in fellowship with our Lord.

A table set with the Word of God is a table set for deep and lasting communion with the Creator of our hearts.

I don’t know about you, but my heart is burning within for the truth of who my God is. He is compelling. He is provocative. He is cutting edge, and he is definitely worth my leaning in for a closer look. And whenever I’m allowed a soul’s peek into the sacred understanding of my Father’s heart, I am always and eternally…

changed for the better. Thus I pray…

Keep me to your Word, Father, and stretch my mind and my heart for a deeper embrace of your truth. Teach me my spiritual history by reminding me of all that’s been said about you through Moses and the prophets and the glorious revelation of the New Testament’s scripting. Thank you for your abiding Holy Spirit who enables me to understand you more and who puts voice to the witness of the story that has become my everlasting portion and my sure and final forever. You are the greatest “read” of my life. Amen.

Copyright © September 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

post signature

PS: For those of you who would like to read the “compelling story” that I spoke about above, please visit LauraLee at her blog LauraLee’s Lifesong and her post, “Remember Glory.” She is a fabulous writer, and this story is an incredible read. Shalom.