October 7, 2012
I had worried for two days about what to wear. She told me it wasn’t a fancy occasion- that I could just wear jeans, but I wanted to make a good impression, so I put on a plaid skirt and a green sweater to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner. My dad had starting dating my step-mom several months before and he and I had been invited to the family Thanksgiving gathering. Cindy has five brothers and sisters all of them married, each couple with children. My dad and I would be the only Protestants at this large, Catholic family gathering. I was fourteen, an only child, self-conscience and not exactly sure what to expect. This was more than a meal- this was an introduction to my soon to be extended family.
We drove about an hour and a half to her parents’ farm house where all kinds of surprises waited for me. There were the good surprises- that the family welcomed me and my dad like we had always been a part of the group, the fact that my future grandparents hugged me the instant they met me and from that moment I have never called them anything but “grandma and grandpa.” There was at least one bad surprise- when baby cousin Joe (now in college) vomited on his plate while sitting right next to me at dinner. But all in all, the day was wonderful, the family was welcoming and my dad and I were accepted from the moment we entered the farm house.
My stepmom and Dad were married the next summer, which now makes me the oldest of the 16 cousins; my little sister, Charly the youngest. That Thanksgiving was so much more than the meal served, that day was about us becoming family. The day was about hearing family stories, and playing with new cousins and being introduced by my grandpa as his, “future granddaughter” even though Dad and Cindy weren’t even engaged yet. This meal changed my life forever in wonderful ways. And by the way, I’ve never again worn a skirt to a family gathering since! Sometimes, a meal is so much more than a meal.
All meals take preparation, even if you go out to a restaurant, or get invited to a friend’s house for dinner- someone has taken time to prepare the meal. Special meals take special preparations to make sure everything is ready. Jesus shared an incredibly important meal with his disciples. Luke tells us that during the Feast of the unleavened bread, which happens near the time of the Passover meal, Jesus asked two of his disciples to make preparations for a special meal. The Disciples wanted to know where they should go to prepare the Passover meal. “He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
Jesus’ instructions left no room for doubt, they were very specific. Peter and John had no trouble doing exactly as Jesus told them. Scripture says, “They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.” They would have prepared the roasted lamb, bitter herbs as well as the glasses of wine and other elements for the meal. This special time in the life of the Jewish people commemorates the Exodus out of Egypt, when God delivered the people from slavery and began to lead them into their own land.
This sacred and holy meal would be the last official meal that Jesus shared with his friends. Jesus had made arrangements for them to share it together privately and Peter and John set the feast. Each week when we gather at the Lord’s table we remember this meal that Jesus and his Disciple’s shared with one another. Preparations are made each week. Behind the scenes, and without many accolades, our Deaconess’ prepare the elements we take each week to remember this holy meal. Our Deaconess’ are called to serve, just as were Peter and John. The meal does not magical appear on the table, but loving hands and hearts prepare it each week.
Preparing to share a meal with Jesus is not only about the physical preparation, but it is also about spiritual preparation. Christians have been remembering Christ for thousands of years by acting out this meal with one another. Receiving the Lord’s Supper is one of the most sacred acts that we share together as the body of Christ.
Before we receive the meal, it is fitting to take time to prepare our hearts and our minds to partake. In our tradition, it is up to each individual person to examine themselves as Paul reminds the Corinthian church to do. If we need to ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoing, the time to do so is before we come to the Lord ’s Table. The communion meal is a meal of remembrance, forgiveness love and thanksgiving, and so we should approach the table with these same things in our hearts and minds. We need to prepare ourselves for this most holy of meals.
After we prepare, it is time to share in the meal together. After Peter and John prepared the space, Jesus shared the special Passover meal with his friends. In the meal they shared they would have thanked God for deliverance from slavery in Egypt. They might have even laughed and sang as they celebrated the ritual together.
After dinner, the tone of the meal got more serious. Jesus shared with them that he strongly desired to eat the Passover meal with them before his suffering. He said to them, “For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God. ‘After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
In sharing this ritual meal with one another each week, we do as the disciples did. We listen to Jesus words and realize that all of them were for us. As we pass the elements to one another or line up to come forward and receive them, something wonderful happens. Christ is present among us. All of a sudden our sanctuary becomes the body of Christ. His blood for us, his body for us- his very life given that we might know his presence eternally.
The most exciting thing we remember on World Communion Sunday is that we are not the only place where Christ is present. Christ is present as the congregation across town breaks the bread. Christ is present as the congregation across the country breaks the bread. And Christ is present as the congregation across the world breaks bread. We are Christ’s body- all of us, as we share this meal together. In breaking the bread with those first disciples, Christ created a table of welcome for all believers. And when we share his meal together, we are reminded of exactly how connected we are. We are a part of an ancient and global tradition that spans time and culture. Christ’s table endures.
“Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said. He gave us this meal to remember him by. He gave us this feast of grace to remember that we are his beloved brothers and sisters and we are deeply loved. In sharing this meal we can more fully understand God’s gift of love that came in the form of his only Son. We realize that he was given for us- for each one of us as individuals and yet for every believer, everywhere across the world.
When we share in this meal together not only to we remember a meal, but we also anticipate another meal. Jesus told the disciples that he would not eat this meal with them again until, “it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.” As a Christian community we anticipate the day that we will see the Kingdom of God in its fullest form. In God’s Kingdom we will get to enjoy together a great feast, a Messianic banquet. Not only will we eat with the great saints who have gone before us, but Jesus himself will dine with us. This is the Kingdom we look forward to, the Kingdom for which we wait.
As we receive the Lord’s Supper today, may we be mindful of the new believer in Africa who is doing the same. We have a large Disciples of Christ presence in the Congo- and our brothers and sisters there are celebrating Jesus’ last meal with his disciples as well. May we remember those who take this meal who are not able to worship as freely as we do- without fear of persecution. May we remember the other Christians in Overton County, even if we disagree some of the ways they express their faith, this meal was given for all of us. Especially today may we be mindful of our neighbors in these pews. May we take this meal with loving and forgiving hearts, knowing that was the spirit in which it was given to us, to remember our Lord. We are the grateful recipients of Jesus Christ- his very life given for each one of us. Amen and Amen.
Sources Consulted for this sermon: New Interpreter's Bible (Luke/John Volume)