Friday, September 12, 2014
Come to the Table (I Corinthians 11:26-35) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel
Where do you go to renew your spirit? Where do you find spiritual renewal? What do you do to experience a moment of peace? I know where you don't go. You don't open up the newspaper and start reading the headlines or go to the television and turn on the news. You don't get into your car and head out for a tranquil drive on interstate 5 or 805. You don't go to the beach or the bay on the 4th of July.
45 years ago, this past July 20th, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made history in Apollo 11 by landing on the moon. You probably, those who are old enough, remember where you were on that historic day. Astronaut Aldrin sent a radio broadcast to earth asking listeners to contemplate the events of that day and to give thanks. Then, in radio blackout for privacy, Adrin read from the scripture: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit.” and then he and the others quietly partook of the Lord's Supper. Yes, on that historic day, they went to the Lord's Table.
Jesus invites us, he invites you, to come to His table. Now you should know that standing here before you, serving communion, can be risky for pastors. You are thinking, oh come on now, how can that be, its' risk free, but not so. I vividly recall in CO, when another pastor and I were leading a retreat for a group of churches and everyone was seated outside. It came time for worship and for the Lord's Supper. After I broke the bread, the other pastor picked up the cup and noticed a bee swimming in the wine. She tried to flick it out and it stung her on the tip of her finger. Since I am allergic to bees, I was intently watching the whole thing, and to my amazement, she continued serving and never lost a beat, even though it really hurt. I asked her later how she did it and she said - I just kept thinking about the supper representing Jesus' sacrifice and thought I can deal with a little bee sting.
The Lord's Supper is the sign and seal of Jesus' followers eating and drinking in communion with the crucified and risen Lord. During his earthly ministry Jesus shared many meals with his followers as a sign of community and as a means of grace. These meals strengthened the disciples not only physically but spiritually for their mission. They were times in the midst of the disciples’ arduous life, of following Jesus from village to village, as well as going out two by two ministering in His name, for renewal, refreshment and replenishment.
The Lord's Supper is a visible sign of Jesus' atoning sacrifice for our salvation. The Lord's Supper is Christ's gift for followers to experience His grace and presence. The Lord's Supper is God's seal on the promises of the gospel, such as “You did not choose me, I chose you,” and “Lo, I am with you always to the end of the earth” and “Come to me all you who are overburdened and I will give you rest.”
Jesus says come to the table, do this in remembrance of me. We come remembering Jesus' ministry: his travels to towns and villages and to the Holy City Jerusalem, his healing people and accepting outcasts, lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, and women by breaking the cultural stereotypes of the day, his teachings like the sermon on the mount, his conflicts and struggles with his enemies, his disciples who both listened and learned and deserted him. We come remembering his death on the cross as God's way of forgiving our sin, and yet, we remember the empty cross and Jesus' resurrection and His opening for us the promise of everlasting life.
We come to the table in the spiritual presence of the risen Lord. It is the Lord's table and the Lord's supper. Jesus calls you by name and invites you as his guest to this table. We gather around the table to eat and drink with one another and with the risen Lord. The broken bread and the poured wine are occasions of his presence. Christ is present as the host of this meal. Christ is present in our hearts as the indwelling Christ through faith. Jesus is personally and spiritually present at this table. We enter into spiritual union or communion with Christ and one another. We share a common guilt from sin and receive by faith a word of forgiveness by the risen Lord.
We come to the table and catch a glimpse of the future of our life together in heaven. The Lord's table is a foretaste of something we shall experience fully in heaven. We come knowing Christ is coming. Taking communion is like watching the preview of a movie that is soon to be released. It's not the whole movie, its a trailer for the coming movie. One writer said: “Don't ever forget that the meal we share together in once a month or so in the church, with a tiny piece of bread and a tiny cup is a foretaste of the heavenly feast of the Lamb that we will celebrate together for eternity.”
We come to the table to be spiritually fed by the Holy Spirit. Just like a meal feeds our bodies, this table is God's means of grace, it feeds our souls, it renews our spirits, it nourishes our faith, it overcomes our fears and brings courage to our hearts.
We come to praise God and give thanks. The Lord's Supper is also called the Eucharist a Greek word which means thanksgiving. This is a meal where we give thanks to God for God's gifts, for God's blessings, for God's forgiveness, for God's courage, for God's leading in our lives, for God's sustaining and strengthen us in the midst or ordeals and trials.
Someone wrote: “The Lord's Supper is a most ordinary and extraordinary experience all at once.” We don't come because we deserve a place or are worthy to be here or have earned the right to sit at the table. We come because by faith we know that Christ has declared us righteous before God, because Christ has pardoned us before God, because Christ has reconciled us to God, because Christ has made us worthy to stand before God,
Where do you go to renew your spirit? Jesus says, come to my table! Amen!