A Place at the Table Sermon
Deuteronomy 16:1-8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Passover Reviewed
16 Observe the month[a] of Abib by keeping the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 You shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3 You must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it—the bread of affliction—because you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt. 4 No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days; and none of the meat of what you slaughter on the evening of the first day shall remain until morning. 5 You are not permitted to offer the passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you. 6 But at the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name, only there shall you offer the passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, the time of day when you departed from Egypt. 7 You shall cook it and eat it at the place that the Lord your God will choose; the next morning you may go back to your tents. 8 For six days you shall continue to eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly for the Lord your God, when you shall do no work.
Luke 22:14-23 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine [again] until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took a loaf of 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.” 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[b] 21 But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22 For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23 Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
A Place at the Table” Sermon 11-02-19 at Harbor Church
Day Light Savings Time. Why do I always feel like we’ve spent all of our savings on this day? The hour we saved at the end of the day beginning from March til now is gone, and the sun goes down too soon. It’s a challenging time of year for many of us. Some struggle with SAD, others see it as a dreaded harbinger of the winter months to come, and still others experience an increased sense of urgency. The sun is going down; what can I still get done before dark?!
I’m reminded of the words of Jesus when he said:
“I must do the work of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is approaching, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." John 9:4-5
And then there is the old adage about the brevity of life:
“Life is uncertain: eat dessert first!”
There was a profound urgency in the first Passover observed by the ancient Israelites. They were on the brink, on the eve of their escape from slavery to the Egyptians. The great Exodus event loomed on the horizon- a journey through the desert and the hope of the Promised Land and a better life stretched out before them. ; The Jewish Feast of the Unleavened Bread captures this sense of urgency- Prepare, make some bread but don’t use any yeast, there’s no time for the bread to rise; “we’re in a hurry’ time is short, so let’s make the most of it.
Jesus had this same sense of urgency when he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. His last supper on Earth, his final few precious moments with those whom he loved most closely. Jesus Last Supper became for us a lasting ordinance that we celebrate to this day in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Today is communion Sunday and a fitting time for us to reflect on just what this sacrament means for as we observe it together.
The Lord’s supper has become for the church a symbolic event – It is a memorial meal that we repeat regularly to remind ourselves of the great things that God has already done in our lives and in the lives of those who have gone before us in the faith. Like memorial holidays, or statues, stones and other markers. But a memorial only looks backward ; the Lord’s memorial meal is unique in that it exhorts us to look forward as well. In the words of authors Maring and Hudson, “ (They)We are encouraged to remember what God has done, in order to be made more vividly aware of what God is continuing to do, and what he has promised yet to do.” It is an embodiment of God’s continuing and sustaining grace. In the same way that food nourishes our physical bodies, Jesus, the Bread of Life, can continue to nurture our souls through his ongoing presence.
Fresh grace is available through the sacraments., it may be apprehended as a mysterious outpouring of spiritual refreshment, or as a heightened awareness of God’s presence and power. God can work through these sacred moments. Faith can be strengthened, hope in God and commitment to follow the Lord can be renewed. So we celebrate the Lord’s Supper with an expectation that we will experience this grace, not knowing exactly what form it will take or what it will look like, yet eagerly and earnestly desiring it.
It also occurs in the essence of spiritual community – we also call it Holy Communion – pointing to our connection with God the Father and relationship between his children within the family of God.
Playing Hi-Lo at dinnertime. Do you Remember those family dinner conversations that went something like this: How was your day? OK. What did you do? Not much. What happened- Nothin’. Hi-Lo was a game we played to get past this. What was one high point? What was your low?
At the communion table we celebrate our highs and lows. Our good times, our bad times and everything in between. We acknowledge God’s presence in all of life, and we further recognize that we are here for each other as well.
There is also room for everyone at the table.
All are welcome at the Lord’s Table, sinners especially. Remember, Judas was at the last supper. but Woe to the unworthy. Woe to the one who approaches the table in an unworthy manner and is judged accordingly. But the table does not exclude, it invites and exhorts us to examine ourselves that we may draw nearer to God, removing our transgressions and failings through genuine contrition and confession that we may live lives more worth of God’s calling on our lives. Jesus the Son has brought us back into a right relationship in the family of God. Communion is an opportunity for us to renew the rightness of this relationship as we come to the table.
This brings us to the power of what I would call the Fork-and-Plate Ministry of the church. The first Last Supper took place in the context of a full dinner hour. In spending time together in coffee hour after the worship service is done. In taking meals together, in Roll Call Dinner, in church suppers, and in setting a place at the table for those who are not currently members of the church- what is uniquely powerful about this type of ministry? It is incarnational in nature. It ministers to the physical need for sustenance and so reminds us of the common bond of all humankind. Acts 2:42 .
Acts 2:42-47 The believers continued to devote themselves to what the apostles were teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer. (43) A sense of fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. (44) All the believers were united and shared everything with one another. (45) They made it their practice to sell their possessions and goods and to distribute the proceeds to anyone who was in need. (46) United in purpose, they went to the Temple every day, ate at each other's homes, and shared their food with glad and humble hearts. (47) They were praising God and enjoying the good will of all the people. Every day the Lord was adding to their number those who were being saved.
The early church worshipped together, ate together, and shared freely with others. As a result, they had a favorable reputation in the larger community and God added to their numbers with saving grace.
Which brings us back to where we began, with a sense of urgency. There is room at the table for all, but not all have received their invitation yet. I’m reminded of the parable of the banquet where the host sent his servants out into town to extend the invitation, and to compel them to come that his table might be filled. I have participated in Bible Study groups in the past that engaged in the Empty Chair practice. When they sit down at a table together to study, they leave one chair empty, and then pray that God would fill it with someone who doesn’t know Him yet. This practice is nothing less that setting a place at the spiritual table of our Lord.
The future is uncertain, and The time is short. What will the church of Jesus Christ look like one generation from now? What will Harbor Church look like one decade from now? That is largely up to us. The same genuine love that Jesus had for his disciples can be ours; it can be our motivation to set a place at the table and invite others to sit down with us and explore the mystery of Christian community.
In a few moments we will celebrate the sacrament once more. May it be for all of us a reminder of God’s goodness and grace, a renewal of our covenant commitment to follow him, and a motivator to invite others into the light of God’s family. Let us all set a place at the table together today, amen.
 A Baptist Manual of Polity and Practice, Maring and Hudson