Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Come to the Table, Sermon at UCB October 6, 2013 World Communion Sunday

Come to the Table 

Exodus 12:11-17
11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord―a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel.16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.
17 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.

Matthew 26:26-30
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the {new} covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Today is World Communion Sunday, when Christians all over the world partake in Communion, also known as The Eucharist, the Lord's Supper. So today we, here in Beloit and all over the world are truly in community with one another! In reading up on this I learned that this tradition was started in 1936 by the Presbyterian Church USA! A few years later it was endorsed by the Federal Council of Churches, now known as the National Council of Churches, and promoted worldwide. The NCC site says, “  On this day we celebrate our oneness in Christ, the Prince of Peace, in the midst of the world we are called to serve – a world ever more in need of peacemaking.”

The tradition of World Communion Sunday reminds us that we are much more than one church on one corner of one town ...that we are a part of the whole Body of Christ!

Many churches do communion in their worship service monthly as we do. Some offer it weekly, others quarterly. Some traditions offer communion every day! Which, may not be a bad idea, come to think of it, since scripture reminds us that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God....

Communion, or the Lord's Supper, is the climax of the worship service. It helps remind us of the sacrifice made by Jesus and the Grace...the unmerited favor, undeserved mercy, forgiveness, and love poured out for us daily, but especially at the table.

There is something special about sitting down to a meal together, isn't there? Jesus knew this...there are several stories of Jesus dining with friends, and of course the miracles of providing enough food for thousands of people!
But I have to confess, as a mom, and as someone who has dealt with some food obsessions, I have often thought that it would be MUCH more convienient if we didn't need to eat quite so often! Wouldnt it be easier to just eat one meal a day!

But I've come to believe that God made us this way on purpose, for a couple of reasons. One that we are supposed to recognize our dependence on God's provision. If you know you and your child are going to be hungry again in a few hours, you need to plan! And hopefully, when we have enough food, we are reminded to give thanks for God's provision. We are God's children, needing sustanence morning, noon, and night! God provides, we are able to live our lives because of it and ideally, we care for others as God cares for us. There is a lovely circle of life here!

God's provision is what the communion story is all about. It comes from the Jewish Holiday Passover, which is from the story of Exodus. Roger read a portion of that story. It's about the Jewish people's flight from Egypt, under the rule of a hard-hearted Pharoah. Moses received from God explicit instructions on the meal the people were to eat so they would have strength for their journey! It was to be eaten in haste, no time to let the bread dough rise, bake up flat breads and a young lamb, cooked precisely, and eaten quickly, with no waste. The Exodus story, including the miracles of the parting of the Red Sea, of drinking water coming from a rock, manna, food from heaven, is the foundation story of the Jewish people. The Passover Seder, one of their great holiday feasts, is the reinactment of that meal.

It was a passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples for his last meal on earth. And he took that sacred tradition and added something to it. He made it His very own...saying “take, eat, this is my body.” “this is the blood of the new covenant.”

Jesus took this sacred celebration and made it new. He brought the tradition full circle to help believers understand the circle of God's provision for us, God's children.

When I saw the description of the next topic, communion, I wanted to share a non-Christian perspective. I am of Native American ancestry; I am a storyteller and dancer. There is an ancient belief held by many First Nations people in which the act of taking and eating food is a kind of covenant between two beings. There is a transmutation that takes place when the act of eating is done consciously and spiritually; a recognition that one form of life gives itself to another as an act of the most basic form of communion; what is eaten is reborn as the flesh of another. Many Native hunters are mindful of this sacred relationship and thank the animal they kill for giving its life so that they may feed their families. Prayers are said to thank the plants for providing food for us. There is an acknowledgment of the circle, the most basic symbol of Native spirituality. The grasses grow, and the hooved ones eat. We take a hooved one and we eat; we die and our bodies return to the soil and so the circle is completed and goes on.

― Krista Tippett, host of American Public Media’s  Speaking of Faith  radio show, sharing a listener’s e-mail. (From the  Speaking of Faith  e-mail newsletter, November 18, 2004.)

Henri Nouwen In what may have been his last interview before dying of heart failure on September 21, 1996, Henri Nouwen talked with Rebecca Laird, editor of the journal, Fellowship in Prayer, about prayer and forgiveness.

"....A biblical text that has been very, very important for me is the story in Luke 6:12-19 where Jesus spent the night in prayer on the top of the mountain. In the morning, he came down and created a community of apostles around him. Then, in the afternoon, with his apostles, he ministered -- he went out and healed and proclaimed the Good News. I've been fascinated by that because it basically says: prayer at night, community in the morning, ministry in the afternoon. Now night, morning and afternoon are symbols for the vision that Jesus starts. The three areas we have to consciously focus on are: first, communion with God -- prayer -- or being in solitude with God; secondly, creating community; and thirdly, ministry."

The Lord's Supper brings these all together. We pray, asking God's forgiveness, receiving God's mercy. Then we take the elements together, in community, with our church family and today, in community with others all over the world! And we minister as we pray for one another. Hopefully, we then go out of the service and care for each other too!

We work and live and love with other people. We laugh and cry with others. We celebrate births and mourn losses, and a lot of the time we do it over a meal. Jesus knew how important it is to enjoy a meal together and turned His very last meal on Earth into one that His followers could have together to honor Him. the One who created the universe SO VERY MUCH desired to be together with the beings created in His image, that he became one of us. Utterly vulnerable, as a newborn baby, as a man, traveling with friends who couldn't comprehend what he was telling them, sometimes not even having a place to lay his head...and again, becoming totally vulnerable on a Cross, enduring the worst punishment that humanity would dole out. Simply because of Love and yearning to be completely together with us.

The table is set for each of us. Let us come to it-together :)

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