Monday, April 5, 2010

The Call of the Table

Sermon Preached for Holy Thursday, April 1, 2010.

    In case you are wondering, the sermon title is not a prelude to dessert.  But the call of the table so strong, I would not blame you if that is what you are thinking about.  We spend so much of our day thinking about food, in part because of the many advertisements for food that we see and hear all day long.  But this is nothing new.  Food has always occupied a big part of our day and even a big part of our faith identity.  Ancient Israel gathered for Pesach or Passover to remember God’s mighty act of deliverance.  But even within this meal, there was the mystery of the empty place – a place for Elijah in the off chance that this might be the final Passover and Messiah would come to save His people.  Still to this day, Jews set the empty plate calling out for Elijah to come and usher in the final meal.
    For us there is no empty place.  We are not awaiting God’s appearance at our table but have been invited by God to His table.  Jesus Christ is no distant deity but this is His Table; He is here as Host of that Table and indeed, its very food.  We come tonight not in hopes of a mystery fulfilled but because the mystery has been kept – God is here in Christ, giving to us the gift of Himself.  It is not the expectation of something different that beckons to us here but the promised presence of Christ in bread which is His body and in the cup which is His blood.  We come because here He is, calling to us, “come and eat.”
    The call of this Table is the promise of sins forgiven.  The bread set apart by his Word to become His body is given to us for the forgiveness of our sins.  Christ gives this meal its supernatural power. The call of this Table is the promise of His presence among His people.  Here in bread and wine, God comes to us and makes His dwelling place with us.  This holy and perfect God comes to us unholy and imperfect people.  He truly sets His table in the presence of our enemies, as the Psalmist says.  We are not waiting for God but bidden by the God who is right here, just as He has promised in Christ.
    The call of this Table is the promise of a future.  This is not our last meal, even though we call it the Last Supper of Jesus.  No, what was His final meal before the Passion, is for us the regular and ordinary meal of God’s baptized people.  We come here to eat not our last meal but the foretaste of all that is to come.  We eat here the gift of sins forgiven and life restored and we taste in His body and blood the foretaste of all that is to come.  Here we glimpse our future, the future and eternal meal of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end.
    Our Lord beckons us to the place He has prepared for us.  This is not like surveying the Fellowship Hall with our bulging pot luck plates, looking for a place to sit and eat.  No, at this meal Christ has given us our place.  He earned this place for us by His suffering and death.  He rose to mark it for all eternity.  Here is where we belong.  Here is where He means us to be, eating and drinking His holy body and His precious blood.  It is His Supper but He has made it ours by giving us our place at this meal, preparing us to receive Him with the faith given to us by the Spirit, and wearing the banquet clothing of our baptism.  No, we don’t need to find a spot.  This is where we belong.  A place has been prepared for us.  We have been given the clothing to wear for His table.
    Our Lord becks us here because here our faith is strengthened, here our doubts are eased, here our trust is renewed, here our weariness is refreshed, and here we are equipped to fulfill our calling as His people by baptism and faith.  This is the meal that fills us body and soul so that we might live out the new life He has called us to.  When we stay away from this Supper, we make ourselves weak and keep us from knowing, doing, and being all that He has called and enabled us to be.
    Some use gimmicks to get people to Church – ok, maybe not here so much but look around you.  People call you church to worship with the promise of having fun, of finding reward, of discovering happiness, of good health, of a better life, of inspiration.... This is not the call of God.  Baloney.  (I’d say a stronger word but this is Church and  I am constrained to be more nuanced.)  Who calls us is Christ.
    The call of the Table is Christ... whose body and blood is our food and drink.... whose gift of forgiveness is needed by the guilty whom He invites to come... whose life is needed by the dying to whom He has promised life... whose hope is needed by the despairing to whom broken dreams are a casualty of mortal life... whose fellowship is needed by the lonely who live isolated and alone... whose mercy is needed by the wounded who are weary of the assaults of temptation, the devil, and their own sinful selves...  The call of this Table is Christ who bids His family come, come and eat, come and be satisfied, come and be refreshed, come and be transformed.  To miss this meal is to miss Christ, to miss all the gifts of His kingdom which He has prepared for us and all who love His appearing, and to miss what we need to forge our path, following Him where He has led the way, in service, in witness, in life, in death, and in the resurrection.... so come.... the call of this Table is the voice of Christ... Come, and eat... come and drink.  My body broken, my blood outpoured... Come.

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