Friday, September 8, 2017

Come to the Table (I Cor. 11:26-35) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

In his book, titled The Gospel According to Jesus, pastor Chris Seay shares the following story:

"One week I was preaching in our church about God’s kingdom that is coming, and on the way out a young man grabbed me. He said, ‘Pastor, the Kingdom of God is already here.  I grew up in this neighborhood. I used to go to a bar called Emo's and I'd start every night with a drop of ecstasy on my tongue and wash it down with Bicardi 151. That's what I did Sunday after Sunday. Now I come to your worship service instead, and I finish the evening service with the body of Christ on my tongue, and I wash it down with the blood of Christ.  I love this Supper.  It reminds me that Jesus saved my life.’”

This supper is a reminder that Jesus saved our lives. Where do you go to renew your spirit?  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 read the headlines or go to the television or the radio or the internet to hear the news.  You don't get into your car to take a relaxing stress-free drive on interstate 5.

The Lord’s Table is one place we can go to.  Jesus invites you and me by name to His table.  Today, Jesus invites you and me to come as a community of faith, which includes baptized children.  During his earthly ministry Jesus sat for Seder meals many times with his followers.  This meal was a bond for their small community.  These meals strengthened Jesus’ followers not only physically but spiritually for their mission.  They were breaks, respites amid their travels with Jesus from village to village ministering in His name.

Jesus says: “Come to my table.” The Lord’s Supper proclaims the good news, that is, God’s story or gospel.  In verse 26 we read: “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death.”  The Lord’s Supper proclaims the gospel of God’s sacrificial love on the cross in Jesus Christ, the gospel of God’s forgiving love in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation. Jesus died for our sins and through repentance and faith we receive the gift of salvation.

Come to my table. The Lord's Supper is God's seal on the promises of Jesus: “You did not choose me, I chose you,” “Lo, I am with you always to the end of the earth,” “Come to me all you who are overburdened and I will give you rest.”  Like the wedding ring is a seal on your marriage vows the Lord’s Supper is God’s seal on Jesus’ promises to us.

Come to my table; do this remembering me.  What do we remember?  We come remembering Jesus' life and ministry: his travels to towns and villages, and to Jerusalem, his ministry of healing people, exorcising demons, his 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 the crucifixion as God's way of forgiving our sin, and yet, we remember the empty cross and Jesus' resurrection and the hope it means for us.  Memory plays an important role when you receive communion.

Come to my table, I am here!  Jesus is personally and spiritually present at 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 Christ’s spiritual presence.  Christ is present as the host.  Christ is present in our minds and hearts by faith.  We enter into spiritual union or communion with Christ and one another.  We share a common guilt from sin and a common word of forgiveness by the risen Lord.  We come to the table to be spiritually fed by the Holy Spirit.  As food feeds our bodies, this meal feeds our souls, renews our spirits, nourishes our faith, and brings courage to our hearts.

Come to my table and renew your covenant with me.  Jesus said: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  God established the Old Covenant with Abraham which promised land, descendants and blessings to the families of the earth.  God established the New Covenant through his Son, Jesus Christ.  God promises new life and eternal life and in this meal God renews His covenant with us and we rededicate our lives to God and one another.

Come to my table and catch a glimpse of our future life together.  The passage says – “Until He comes.”  The Lord's table is a foretaste of the supper of the Lamb which we eat together in heave.  Today is a glimpse of the Messianic supper in glory.  Taking communion is like watching the preview or screening for a movie that is soon to be released.  One writer said: “Don't ever forget that the meal we share together once a month or so in the church, with a piece of bread and a cup, is a foretaste of the heavenly feast of the Lamb that we will celebrate together for eternity.”  Yes, this meal says a celebration awaits us.

Come to my table with thanksgiving.  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 atonement for our sins on the cross, for relationships, for God's blessings, for God's forgiveness, for God's courage, for God's leading in our lives, for God's sustaining and strengthening 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.  Scripture says: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Table is set with a meal, a gracious meal, a free meal, for it has already been paid for.  Keep your wallets and purses closed.   Though it appears simple, the meal was outrageously expensive, more that any meal you have ever paid for.  It cost the death of God’s Son Jesus.  May we receive it with gratitude and understanding.  Receive it with joy, and thanksgiving.  Jesus invites us to come to His table.  Amen.

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