Sharing The Table
For as long as I can remember my grandmother had this little sign beside the sink in her kitchen that said, No matter where I serve my guests they seem to like my kitchen best. Even as a young kid I knew why everyone wanted to be in her kitchen, because there was nothing better than sitting at her table.
In our culture the table is a holy place, and one of the most important places to connect to one another. When we are around a table we feel at ease. When we are around a table we we have the ability to open up and make a real connection with one another. That's why it shouldn't surprise you that throughout the Bible God has a way of showing up at tables. One of the center pieces of both the New and Old Testaments is a table, whether it is the table of Passover in the Old Testament or the table of Communion in the New Testament.
Jesus was raised in a culture where sharing a table with someone made a social statement about yourself and about your guest. Table fellowship was more than just sharing a meal, it was a complex and important part of life. Table fellowship was more than food, it was an offer of acceptance, protection, and provision. The table is the place where we go from being acquaintances, to being family.
That's why it was such a big deal when Jesus spent time around a table with notorious sinners. Jesus was often smeared and criticized for the people he would gather with at at the table. The religious leaders called Him drunkard, a glutton, and they thought that by His willingness to fellowship with unclean people He was worthy of death. Jesus was aware of what it meant to sit down and eat a meal with someone, so when He chose to eat with a sinner He was willingly associating Himself with them and their sin. But Jesus also knew that He came to offer what we needed most; forgiveness.
In the Talmud, the Rabbi's explanation of the Law, the table gained more importance after the destruction of the Temple. We read: "And now that we no longer have the Temple in Jerusalem and its altar to bring about atonement for sin, a person's family table gains reconciliation and forgiveness.
In the Kingdom of God, the table has become the place of acceptance, protection, provision, and forgiveness. The table is a visual example of God's love, the table is where the family of God meets together with Him. When Cristobal joins me by sitting that this table we have become family and we promise to accept, protect, and provide for one another needs.
But we can't just say that the church should be like a family. I know that looks great on the church sign, but for most of us, we only consider the folks who share our DNA to actually be our family. But Jesus is pretty insistent that everyone who calls on His name is a part of the family, that includes the people who are like you, and those who are different from you.
This is something we need to be honest about as we gather at His table. One of the great things about our congregation is that we have so many different types of people that gather together in this building. We have English speakers and Spanish speakers, even a few German speakers. We have a beautiful hue of skin colors. We have old people, middle aged people and young people. So as we gather at the table we have to ask ourselves if we see differences as a blessing or a problem? How you answer this question is important, because your answer influences how you live and act. It will influence how you will be part of the church.
It's easy to discount people that are different than you. You might not come right out an ask them to leave, maybe you just treat them in a way that makes them want to leave. But Jesus shows us a better way. Think about the people that Jesus ate with; think about the 12 disciples, some of them were fishermen, there was a tax collector and a zealot who if he had not murdered anyone still thought it was an option. Jesus regularly ate with Pharisees, tax collectors, adulators, prostitutes, people who were not popular, and people with diseases. And everyone He spent time with was invited to join Him at His table, so they could receive His acceptance, protection, provision, and forgiveness.
If we are going to wear His name, then we must be willing to love this community, and celebrate our differences. If we are going to be serious about our place at the table, we need to live with the expectation of being with people who are different from us.
Take a moment and look around this room, you will see a whole lot of folks who are different than you. You will see people who don't speak your language, people who come from different backgrounds or who who have different opportunities. As you look at all of the different faces I want you to remember what Jesus endured so that they could join you at His table.
Think of the whippings He endured so that they could be forgiven. Think about the embarrassment and humiliation He endured as he was spit on, and stripped of his dignity so they could come to His table. Imagine the way He thought of each one of the people in this room as He hung on the cross. No sacrifice was too great; He did everything necessary to offer redemption and love to the people here today gathered at His table.
Jesus did for them the same thing He did for you. Jesus says in John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another
Because of His love for us, we have been invited to His table, and we should respond to His invitation of love by loving one another. Greenbrier Church of Christ is supposed to be known for its love. Jesus says our love for one another is the very thing that will attract the world.
We gather at the table today not only to celebrate His forgiveness but to repent of our Brokenness.
One of the greatest scenes in all of Scripture occurs on the banks of the Sea of Galilee after the resurrection of Jesus. It's recorded in John 21. Jesus had died on the cross, and in their depression a few of the disciples had gone back to fishing. They were lost with out Jesus, and Peter didn't think that there was any way to find redemption. But then Jesus calls out to them from the shore. When Peter realizes it is Jesus, he jumps from the boat and swims to the shore. He runs to the beach dripping wet, and approaches Jesus who is sitting by a fire. Peter approaches Jesus, the memory of his betrayal is fresh on his mind, Peter's brokenness is evident to everyone. And Jesus looks at Peter, poor broken and sinful Peter and simply says, Breakfast is ready. (21:12).
The table is the place where broken sinners find acceptance and belonging. No matter how good we try to be, everyone of us live with our brokenness out in the open. That's why it is so important to gather at the table with other broken people. Truthfully one of the most hurtful lies I've been told in my life is: I’m OK, I have it all together. Because when I hear you say that, I feel compelled to tell you the same thing. But we gather at the table because we do not have it all together.
The truth is that I screamed at my kids today, or I really struggled coming to church, or my marriage is falling apart, or I can't pay my bills, or some days I just don't think I can make it. But when we gather at the table we are not only declaring our brokenness we are inviting others into our brokenness. We are opening our hearts and saying, Welcome to my mess. Then together we can find healing.
I believe that in our fast-paced, tech-saturated, attention-deficit-disordered culture the table is necessary because it is one of the few places left that requires us to be together. When Matthew describes the last passover meal Jesus spent with His disciples he writes: 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 (Matt 26:26). Broken people sat at the table with Jesus who blessed, broke, and gave.
Today as we come to table we sit at the feet of a Savior who in fact had it all together, and yet He
chose to step into our mess so we might be healed. We come to the table to confess our
weakness and doubt. We honestly plead, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
This morning as we come to the table we are going to ask those who are going to serve communion to make their way to the back.
We begin our time at the table by taking of the bread. When Jesus took the bread and blessed it, He said, This is my body given for you. The bread is all about sacrifice, and sacrifice is about life given to pay for sins. When we eat the bread, we are accepting Jesus' sacrifice for our sins. We are committing to live and to die as Jesus lived and died for the other people gathered at this table.
The word communion actually means sharing. As we take the bread, we commit to share with Jesus a life given for others.
Let us pray: Our Father in Heaven, as we take this bread, help us to recall the awful price that was paid so we could share in this meal, and Father, please bring to our recollection the full meaning of this ceremony. Help us to truly recommit to live, and to die, as Jesus did. In the name of our Savior we pray, Amen.
This cup symbolizes the blood of Jesus. The scriptures say the "life is in the blood." As we take this, we participate in the life of Jesus, a life dedicated to serving everyone He came in contact with, a life committed to God's mission on earth.
But the wonder or the mystery of the communion is not the ritual; rather, it's what the ritual means. Each week we are to, thoughtfully and prayerfully, be present with God and re-affirm our repentance and our commitment to be a part of Jesus' body on earth, and to share in the work of Jesus.
Let us pray: Father, keep us ever mindful that we have been saved to participate in your Son's work on the earth, to be his hands, his feet, his body that brings healing, truth, and salvation to a dark, lost world. In the name of our Redeemer we pray, Amen.
When you come to an understanding of how much God loves you, a real understanding of His love, it causes an action on your part. While Paul says that we are saved by faith alone, we understand that a faith that saves is never alone. So we come to a moment when we make a choice. Do we trust that God is in control and will continue to provide what we need in this life? Or do we believe that His well will eventually run dry and we will have to earn how to take care of ourselves.
Our relationship with money is an outward indication of what is really happening in our heart. So we gather together in an effort to remember that money is just another tool that God has given us to do His will in this community. And we gladly return that tool to Him in faith instead of allowing it to become an idol in our lives.
Let us Pray: Father, you understand all of the struggles and fears that we have living away from you in this place. Forgive us, when we try to find comfort and peace in possessions instead of taking hold of the true peace that comes from you. Please take our gift this morning and help us grow in our trust and faith in You. In the name of our Provider we pray, Amen.