by Stacey Jutila

When looking for wisdom about relationships in the Bible, you might turn to passages about Sarah and Abraham, the wedding at Cana, and Elizabeth and Zacharias.

These texts speak of specific couples and God’s hope for them. But what if we also looked for a theology that could ground couples everyday? What parts of Jesus’ teaching offer guidance to couples about their relationship? How can the gift of faith be interwoven into the very fabric of their relationship?

As my husband and I looked for Scripture for our wedding, we wanted readings that would not only affirm our love for one another, but more importantly, guide us in faith practices and a way of life for years to come.

Jesus’ lavish hospitality inspires us in so many ways. We love to invite people to our home for meals and conversation and are committed to hunger issues in this world. And within our busy lives, we cherish the time in the day to sit down for a meal together. We knew that we needed to find a text that describes Christ’s hospitality for the sake of the world— and how we too could live such hospitality in our marriage.

We chose the “road to Emmaus” text found in the Gospel of Luke. This passage comes after the crucifixion.

In it we find Cleopas and a companion walking along the road, when a stranger asks them why they are so grief-stricken. They are shocked to discover that this stranger doesn’t know of Jesus’ death and how the women had discovered the empty tomb. The stranger continues to walk with them. As he is about to depart, they urge him to stay with them for the night and join them for a 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 talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:31–32)

Long before Cleopas and his companion recognize the man, he becomes their companion along the road and then their gracious host at the table. During the meal, they are able to see that it is Jesus and he offers them grace and sustenance in the midst of their grief. Jesus’ followers not only recognized him in the breaking of the bread, but they were bound to see one another and the world differently because of the hospitality he offered them.

Couples can also imagine themselves on the road to Emmaus and ask how this passage can support them in their relationship. Can you envision Jesus walking with a couple as they discern where they should live, whether or not they will become parents, or how to survive in the midst of economic uncertainty or a family crisis?

Sometimes in the busyness of our lives, it is hard to remember the importance of returning home and welcoming people to our table for conversation, a meal and prayer. What a gift it is that Jesus not only meets us on the road in the midst of our troubles and grief, but he also walks with us until we are settled at home, where we can be nourished and share freely with one another. It is in this place, where our eyes are opened to Jesus’ vision for the world.

It is not only Jesus that we see differently when we break bread together. We are likely to see our spouse and others at our table in a different way when we share a meal. If we ever feel like there is tension, stress or disagreement with our partner, we can use Jesus’ example of breaking bread together. In doing so, maybe we will refrain from saying, “I don’t even know who you are right now.” Instead we say, “I am glad we have taken the time to have a meal together, I understand and see you in a whole new light.”

A couple’s vows are not only on behalf of their relationship. They are also called as a couple to be a gift to the world. Some may think that the wedding registry for fine china is of utmost importance, but Jesus beckons us to consider the plans for our table fellowship and how we will commit ourselves to lives of hospitality to both the stranger and our most beloved.

When we break bread together, our eyes may be opened to see that we are not alone in our fears or doubts or in our deepest hopes and prayers. We are not so different from the one who sits across from us at the table or lives on the other side of the world.

Joining together as a couple does not occur once we have fully perfected our communication skills or can get through a week without any differences.

Jesus loved the two people on the road to Emmaus long before they could see him.

Our life in marriage continues, despite our inability to see. The gift of this Scripture for couples is that their union is not founded on the couple getting things right, but on God’s nourishment provided in bread and God’s covenant to us.

Renita Weems states in her book, Listening to God, “to keep a vow is not to keep from breaking it, but to keep trying to discover its meaning.” If we depend upon our ability to get things right in our partnership, we will come up short. But if we turn towards God’s desire to enter in and offer us lavish hospitality, our relationship will grow and flourish. Just as we need to eat for sustenance each day, so too are we invited to discover God’s meaning in our relationships each day. May you find grace and love in the breaking of the bread and walking with God along the road of life.

The Rev. Stacey Jutila serves as a chaplain and pediatric bereavement coordinator at Advocate Christ Medical Center and Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. She enjoys baking bread and breaking bread with her husband, daughter, and others.

Discussion Questions
1.  How do acts of hospitality and the sharing of meals inform and transform you as a couple? How does offering hospitality and sharing meals transform and energize you as a single person?

2.  In what ways do you give thanks for your marriage?  If you’re single, how do you give thanks for your many nurturing relationships?

3. What Scripture passages do you turn to for foundation and guidance in your partnership/marriage? In your singleness?