Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Who Do You See Around The Table?

My Scripture Reading today is from:  Luke 22:14-23

We are going to sit in with Christ at the Last Supper
Communion helps us see ourselves

• "In August of 1900 more than 250 hobos, tramps and freeloaders came by train to a little northwest Iowa town for their first annual National Hobo Convention. They ate free food, drank free drinks, stayed in free accommodations, played games, drew up a political platform and nominated a candidate for the 1900 Presidential election. We are speaking about a tradition that is repeated even to this day-the Annual Hobo Days in Britt Iowa. This is an Iowa Parable. The people of Britt have been inviting the hobos, the bums, the free loaders to Britt each year not because they deserve it, not because in some way they have earned it, they get their free food and drink, this special treatment because they are hobos nothing more."

• All sorts of conventions happen across this vast country each day, but the annual Hobo Convention at Britt is different, they didn’t deserve it, ask for it or encourage it. It was given freely. Freely given to hobos who haven’t worked, who are lazy, crude, dirty, dishonest, who have been arrested in freight yards, chased out of public parks, and rousted for vagrancy. But in Britt, for one weekend, the hobos, the freeloaders, the roustabouts are kings an celebrate their humanity. For a brief time they are loved for who they are, fellow human beings who celebrate their humanity and its worthiness for one brief weekend. (The book Iowa Parables by Jerry Schmalenberger)

• "And he took bread and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And likewise the cup after supper saying, "this cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’

• Jesus says come and eat all is ready, come not because you deserve it, not because you have earned it, come because it is freely given. Yes, like it or not, we come to this supper as the Hobos come to Britt. We come not deserving but accepting. We come to this grace banquet to celebrate God’s victory, not ours. We come to celebrate our humanity in Christ. ’Whose we are’ not how are we doing. We come, we are invited by God through Christ to come and eat and drink not because we are so great, but because the great love God has for us. We come though we have ignored God, turned against him, cursed him, and used him, taken advantage of him, become angry with Him. He still invites us, He still accepts us at His table, as we are.

• We come, because of Christ as forgiven people, who are nourished, renewed and refreshed as we celebrate our humanity in Christ who has freed us from ourselves. We come not as perfect people, but as forgiven people. Here we come in celebration of the imperfect--those who make mistakes, stray from the straight and narrow, foul up relationships, offended, tramp on toes, and blow the whole thing. We come in celebration as we live in our brokenness, our low self-esteem, our questions, our feelings of unfairness with life, we come not as people who have control of life but as people who have lost control, and have surrendered life to Christ. We come as people who are sorry for our mistakes and are tired of running our lives by ourselves. We come as people who are celebrating the grace of God through the body and blood of Christ.

• We come as the Hobos to Britt to begin to feel good about ourselves, to be people who can be accepting of our humanity because it is indeed a gift from God. We come; we eat and drink, as undeserving people, people who wander between being enemies of God or friends depending on who is controlling our lives. Remember that even Judas ate and drank from the table, from the bread and wine. Judas who betrayed Jesus, Judas who Jesus knew to be the one who would turn Him over to the Romans, he was not excluded from the table, he ate, he drank. Again and again the scene is repeated, we come to the table as those who betray Jesus, as His enemies, we come as we are forgiven and welcomed. The table is not excluded from anyone, because it does not depend on our merit, our work, our lives, our actions, the supper is a free gift from God to us. It depends on His action through Christ not ours.

Communion helps us see Jesus

• "Leslie Weatherhead tells of a little boy who was admitted to an orphanage after his parents were killed. One of the first items on the agenda was to find him a new set of clothes. He was given a new pair of pants, a new shirt, and a pair of shoes that shinned as he saw his face in its glow. Lastly, he was offered a new hat. But he refused to take it. He hung on to his worse- for the-wear—hat. Finally the Sister was able to coax him into trying on the new cap. He tried it on, liked it, but then did something very funny. He reached inside his old cap and tore the lining out and placed it in his pocket.  Noticing the Sister had a puzzled look on her face, he said said, "The lining is a part of my mother’s dress; it’s all I’ve got left of her and somehow it seems to bring her back."

• Communion is like that for us with Jesus. The bread and the wine are a sign of His presence with us, a reminding of when God walked the earth in the form of Jesus. The bread and wine, the body and blood are a nonverbal way for God to give us His love. Human beings have many ways of determining what is going on around us. We taste, we touch, we smell, we feel, we hear, we see and we have numerous combinations of all of those. The primary way we are encountered by God’s love is through the spoken and written word. But God doesn’t stop there; he encounters us with other parts of our senses, as in Holy Communion as we touch, taste, feel, smell, and see, all of these nonverbal ways which God brings his love into our lives.

• Christ’s love is present here at this supper. He assures us of that when He said, ’’This is my body, this is my blood". He brings himself to the people as a nonverbal sign, reminder of God’s gracious love for us. As we leave communion, we leave with a bit of Jesus in our bodies, hearts and souls. When we leave, we continue our faith journey with a reminder of God’s grace, God’s love, and a piece of Jesus inside us as we go about our daily walk. We are like that boy with the lining of his hat in his pocket reminding him of his mother, so as we commune, we have a reminder, a sign of God’s presence in our lives in the form of bread and wine, body and blood.

• Indeed, the personal, nonverbal contact we have with the Lord in this meal should be cherished by all. His presence is there in a way which involves our whole bodies. As I say your name today as you receive the bread and wine, you will know in a personal way that you are the invited quest at this meal where Jesus is the host as you eat and drink in His presence. Not only is He present with you at the table, but you put Him in your pocket, so to speak, as you leave so that He is present with you out in the world. For some that means a time of judgment, for others a time of grace and comfort, assurance and peace knowing that the savior is there as the good shepherd to care and uphold one on their faith journey.

Communion helps us see our bond with others

• We find a sense of community togetherness; a friendship with Christ and with each other at this meal.

• "In Pawlet, Vermont, they have an old train Station turned into a luncheonette somewhat like the Victoria Station in Harlan, Kentucky.  This luncheonette is different than most. On one of the walls is an arrangement of coffee mug pegs. Anyone in the town can bring his/her own coffee mug for daily coffee breaks and then hang it on the right peg for the next time." As the people gathered, they would talk, visit, and notice if a mug was missing, or hadn’t been used, it was a time of community, of sharing, of being concerned for one another. "

• Now, food has always been a way of bringing people together, for sharing, or discussing, of learning about one another, so here at communion there should be a sense of that community which was found in that all railroad station. But is there?  Do we see here people who are concerned about us as we are concerned about them?  William Barclay says this: "The most precious thing in the world is a friend to whom we can go to any time, and never feel a nuisance; someone to whom we can turn whenever we need him someone to whom we can talk about anything, someone who will never laugh at our dreams or mock our failures."

Christ is that kind of friend, can you be too?

The Hobos of Britt, the orphan boy with a piece of lining in his pocket and the friendship of Christ and others are all present here in each of us, as we come to eat and drink, to partake of bread and wine, body and blood.

Please turn in your hymnals for this most special Easter Communion.

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