First Congregational Church
October 2, 2015
20th Sunday after Pentecost, World Communion Sunday
Hebrews 1:1-4 & 2:11
“And the Table IS Wide”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Besides this being American Cheese Month, Feral Hog Month, National Popcorn Poppin' Month and National Toilet Tank Repair Month, today is Guardian Angels Day, Name Your Car Day and Philes Fogg’s Wager Day. It is also one of my favorite days, that of World Communion Sunday. 80 years ago, the Presbyterian Church (USA) designed this day to stretch beyond its use, that all of us, THE Body of Christ, all God’s children, would hear God’s call to sit up to the table.
It is a Presbyterian minister named Jordan Rimmer who reminds all of us that “It began last night - as you were going to bed. Asian Christians shared the bread and the wine. Churches in China met in secret so that they would not be arrested. Christians in the Middle East, some of whom have come to know him only by having dreams of Jesus, met under the watchful eye of the government as they celebrated the Eucharist. In Europe, Christians gathered in churches that used to be much fuller and celebrated the Lord’s Supper. In Africa, the sacrament was celebrated in great congregations by a growing number of Christians, many of whom bare scars of persecution as they Commune together.
Those celebrating today include Congregationalists, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Baptists, thousands of other denominations, and even those without denominations. And we gather this day to celebrate that which is most integral to our faith.
Hebrews 1:1-4 NIV
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Hebrews 2:11 NIV
11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
Thank you, Sharon. Since last night, Christ followers met in public and in secret. Some met in freedom while others gathered under threat of persecution and death. Some take the sacrament today with organ music, others with simple singing, and still others in quiet so as not to be arrested.
In wealthy churches and in desperate poverty the sacrament is observed. In churches, homes, huts, and in God’s creation this seal of the covenant is currently being, will be and has been experienced. The bread is given to people that can overeat all day and to people who have no idea what they will eat or where they will get it today.
The bread is many different types and colors and from many places. Some created primarily from wheat, others from rice or other kinds of grain. Some will have bread left over. Some with very small pieces that could barely give every Christian there a morsel. Still - it represents the body of Christ broken and sustains the body of Christ around the world today.
The juice around the world will be different, too. For many it will be wine, some will have juice, some will celebrate with water that had to be carried from a dirty well some miles away. Some will use individual cups, others fancy goblets, still others have been passing around whatever cup was in the home where they were meeting Still - it represents the blood of the covenant in their place and in their communities, just as it does in ours.
Let us pray. Loving God, we thank you for this sacrament of communion shared with Christians around the world. Pour out your Holy Spirit on these elements and on those who partake—that we may be your body and the representation of your covenant in our lives and throughout the world. Amen.
The one thing in common - We all come to the same table of our Lord. In many different languages, by ordained clergy and volunteer pastors, something like these words of institution were given.
On the night He was betrayed Jesus took bread. And when he had given thanks and blessed it, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way after supper Jesus took the cup and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Drink you all of it.”
Today, as you see the bread come around, you will see many different colors and types of bread to remind us of all those around the world with whom we share the table today. Ours is an open table, and everyone is welcome here. You may wish to hold the cup until all are served, that we can drink together, in unity with one another. And you may wish to eat the bread as you feel lead, as our God is one that loves individually.
As important and holy as this sacrament is, it is symbolic of the life to come. Jan Richardson not only created the artwork on the bulletin this morning, which is called “The Best Supper,” she created the blessing that reminds us of the time to come, when we will sit down with all those who have gone before us, who will come after us, who sit beside us, for suppers that will surpass our dreams.
And the table will be wide. And the welcome will be wide. And the arms will open wide to gather us in. And our hearts will open wide to receive. And we will come as children who trust there is enough. And we will come unhindered and free. And our aching will be met with bread. And our sorrow will be met with wine.
And we will open our hands to the feast without shame. And we will turn toward each other without fear. And we will give up our appetite for despair. And we will taste and know of delight. And we will become bread for a hungering world. And we will become drink for those who thirst. And the blessed will become the blessing. And everywhere will be the feast. And all God’s children say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.