Running to the Table
PSALM 112: 4-10
MATTHEW 5: 13-15
LUKE 22: 14-20
February 5, 2023 – Holy Communion
Last Sunday evening, I went to the ‘Grounds for Sculpture’ in Trenton … I went so that I could have a pause in my week and while there I discovered an amazing array of art connected with music and lights that truly soothed my soul. I did everything I could to soak it in … to walk slowly … to consider what each artist’s motivation and thoughts were and even to dance to the music; it was dark so people really couldn’t see my dancing ability. It was truly a time for me to walk slowly … not worry about keeping a certain pace … just experiencing the peace from this amazing location just off of I-295.
And, then sometime during the day on Monday, I opened up the Gospels to the fourth chapter of Mark where I read the story about Jesus in the storm. Jesus had just been through a few very busy days … He was in demand; everyone wanted a piece of Him and so many of them wanted to take up His time at the expense of others, so Jesus told His disciples to get in the boat and cross to the east side of the Sea of Galilee. They all boarded the boat … pushed off from the shoreline. Some boats were even following Jesus with those inside still trying to get His attention. We read that, “37 Suddenly a storm struck the lake. Waves started splashing into the boat, and it was about to sink. 38 Jesus was in the back of the boat with his head on a pillow, and He was asleep. His disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?”
If you are like me, I am sure that you have experienced storms in your life. I have absolutely no doubt that nearly all of you have had moments when you desperately needed an immediate response from someone … from God even. Have you ever wondered just wondered whether God cared … cared about you in those moments because in those moments in the storm when the disciples were bailing water out of the boat they wondered if Jesus cared. The disciples were being tossed side-to-side into each other and they could only see stormy seas in front of them … behind them … on all sides of them and Jesus had his head on the pillow sleeping comfortably.
It is human nature to panic. Twenty percent of Americans have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. When the storms hit … when we hear the almost always incorrect forecasts for a storm … we panic … we FREAK OUT … we worry and of course we cast blame wherever we can and on whomever is available for us to say it’s THEIR fault, never ours, that the storm is upon us.
Since the vast majority of you have spent some time in church, I am sure you know the outcome of Mark 4’s storm. “Jesus got up and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The wind stopped, and everything was calm. Jesus asked His disciples, “Why were you afraid? Don’t you have any faith?”
Don’t you have any faith … there is the challenge and today as we approach the Table of the Lord, one of the church’s Holy Sacraments, I am here wondering how many of you were excitedly hurrying to church today knowing that in our tradition it is the first Sunday of the month when we share in Holy Communion.
I realize that John Wesley, whose teaching and faith led to the creation of what is now the United Methodist Church, must be rolling over in his grave knowing we limit Communion to just once a month … takes up too much time you know. And we all know that giving more than an hour, sixty minutes on the dot not a single second more, to God each week in worship is just too much of our valuable time. Communion takes time.
Wesley once said that if he could share in Communion six or seven times a day he would. Our opening to this morning’s worship featured his statement that “Communion is the grand channel whereby the grace of God’s Spirit is conveyed to all the children of God.” I love that here in the United Methodist Church our faith tradition says that The Table of the Lord will not be limited by human rule setters … that the Lord’s Table is open to all … that our position of faith is that the decision about Holy Communion is between each person and God. The pastor does not have to judge nor sort out the worthy because Scripture teaches us that all are worthy.
So, Jesus asked those frightened by the storm … “don’t you have any faith.”
Our Scripture from the Psalms today gave some insight into what it means to have faith … to belong to God and to live a life rejecting the world while embracing God’s expectations.
People of faith “shine in the dark for others who do right. They are merciful and compassionate and righteous.” In today’s speak one might say that people of faith are what they are calling WOKE W-O-K-E these days because people of faith are people who truly embrace Jesus’ teaching and the lessons of the Bible reminding us that the faithful are “those who lend generously … good people. People who conduct their affairs WITH JUSTICE.”
Isn’t it amazing how often the Bible talks about doing justice … perhaps because that’s what the Lord God expects of people of faith. By doing justice we heard, “these sorts of people will never be shaken … they won’t be frightened at bad news … their hearts are firm and steady and they are not afraid because they are trusting in The Lord.”
In her book, ‘Restore My Soul,’ author Janice McWilliams writes “a soul-restoring model of self-care moves us towards a sustainable life rhythm.” She writes, “I believe that Jesus knows something about life-sustaining self-care.”
And, to me these lessons of this morning whether it comes from my walk amidst the light show and music or the disciples shouting out in the stormy sea returns me to THE TABLE of the LORD; Holy Communion. Friends, are you running to the TABLE? Does the Communion Table of the Lord offer refreshment from the heartaches and struggles of the world. Do you sense the Holy Spirit when you eat the bread and drink the cup … are you calling out to God for that experience or is the plastic wrapping your complaint is focused on rather than having your focus on how God can offer life-sustaining self-care through your actions connected today in faith.
Paul when writing to the church in Corinth ties together the essential nature of Holy Communion with Jesus’ call to us to go out into the world. This meal, in its total simplicity should be the moment in which we regularly renew our faith … This meal should be the connection we have with God and Christ that lets us reenergize our faith. Jesus said, “TAKE THIS … SHARE THIS AMONGST YOU … DO THIS IN REMEMBRACE OF ME … the cup is the new covenant poured out for you.”
Holy Communion friends is our contact moment with God … our covenant with the Holy … it is something to take oh so seriously and we should want to renew our side of the agreement with God with regularity.
Paul writes, “Jesus took some bread in his hands. 24 Then after he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Eat this and remember me.” 25 After the meal, Jesus took a cup of wine in his hands and said, “This is my blood, and with it God makes his new agreement with you. Drink this and remember me.” 26 The Lord meant that when you eat this bread and drink from this cup, you tell about his death until he comes.”
Did you hear those last words from Scripture … THE LORD meant that when you eat this bread and drink from this cup that you will tell about HIM, JESUS CHRIST … TELL about the CROSS … declare to the world that you live in that Jesus Christ, your Savior, is RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>. Communion should never be a wasted moment in time … we need to pray with fervor in those moments before we eat and drink the cup because Jesus declared “YOU are the light of the world … YOU are the salt of the earth … people do not light a lamp and put it under a basket … instead that put it on top of the lampstand and it shines on all!”
That’s why we all need to be running to the Table of the Lord … it’s to be fed … to have our wicks lit with the Light of Christ once again so that we are ready to tell the story. So, that we are alive in our faith and willing and excited and faith-focused so that we can fulfill God’s call to the faithful. Isaiah tells us what God declares to the faithful, “Wash yourselves clean! I hate your filthy deeds. Stop doing wrong and learn to live right. See that justice is done. Defend widows and orphans and help the oppressed.” I, the Lord, invite you to come.”
Friends, God invites us to share in God’s love. God and Jesus Christ invite us to the Table where the bread and cup provide us through God’s Holy Spirit for the opportunity to renew, reenergize and refocus our faith. It is your choice as to how you will be considering today’s moment in time when you drink of the cup and eat the bread. Only you can choose to allow the Holy Spirit in … I can say all the wonderful words of tradition and faith … I can pray God’s blessings on each of you here and worshiping online with us … I acknowledge that no human nor group of humans can limit nor take away God’s love and blessing but you can choose to ignore it … you can choose to lessen the Table here in worship or you can embrace it with renewed energy running to the Table of the Lord and then energetically awaiting the next meal with God whether it is on Wednesday mornings at 7am or on Ash Wednesday at 7am, noon, or 7pm or on the first Sunday in March.
John Wesley’s words … “Communion is the grand channel whereby the grace of God’s Spirit is conveyed to all the children of God.” Jesus words, “Take and share this among yourselves and remember me.”
And, so the disciples shared in the meal and then they sang hymns before leaving the City for the Mount of Olives and the Garden where He would be arrested that night.
We know the rest of the story but are you sharing the story of your faith? Have you renewed your energy and restored your soul so that you are shining in the dark demonstrating mercy, compassion, righteousness, justice, and love towards all you meet? That’s what we are called to do … we are God’s people … believers in Jesus … we walk in our life’s journey with God and are responsible to shine the light onto the world. AMEN