Sunday Worship 2 August - The Table


Serving the Lord's Table ... provide your own bread and grape juice or best available substitute!

The Table                    
2 Aug 2020, Christ Mountain Top, Online, during COVID-19
Praying the Scripture, Isaiah 55.1-7
Kids, Genesis 32.22-31
Message, Matthew 14.13-21
The Lord’s Table

·       Tell the story of your favorite feast. What unexpected gift did you experience?
·       When and why have you been moved with compassion?
·       Think of a time when you felt lonely or left out, and then someone did something that made you feel welcome and included. Share your story and how that impacts your life.
·       How has the Table of the Lord helped you encounter Jesus? Changed your life?


This week’s theme:
Thirty years ago, when Robin and I got married, we had no money. Our families didn’t have much either. I had just finished working my way through college (and Robin helped pay the final bills with her nursing income). She had been working her way through seminary. So, what did we do when it came to our wedding reception? It was covered dish, of course! We bought a couple platters of lunchmeat and cheese, a bunch of Martin’s potato rolls, and some veggie trays. The wedding was part of the Sunday worship service, complete with lots of singing and sharing in the Lord’s Table. Folks went through the receiving line, down to the church basement, and began to eat. By the time we got down, last in line, the pickings were a bit sparse. I think someone even ran out to get some more lunchmeat. But it was fun! Family in from out of town didn’t have to cook. People we never invited were there for the worship service and discovered they were welcomed to a feast. At the feast, my cousin’s boyfriend asked me to get her to say “Yes.” No, he didn’t make the proposal then, but they’re still married today. At the wedding feast, one of Robin’s girlfriends discovered that she was missing Jesus in her life.

Feasts are powerful moments. All the more so the Jesus feast. It was around the Table of the Lord that my father decided that he would receive Jesus and allow Jesus to change his life. Most of today’s Scripture is around the feast and the invitation to the feast of the kingdom. There is one outlier, a text about a wrestling match. We’ll get to that in a bit.

But, as Joan plays the prelude, I invite you to remember the best feasts in your life. In my experience, those great feasts included outsiders on the guest list. In my experience, those great feasts have Jesus as the host. Indeed, today, he is the one making an invitation to you: Pull up a chair or sit down on the picnic blanket and eat with me.

Message
There’s lots here in this text.
       We could talk about the resource issue: “You give them something to eat.” It is amazing the way Jesus can multiply resources when we put them in his hands, when we let him “take them,” to use the first verb describing what Jesus does with the five loaves and two fish.
       We could talk about the way the text describes a theology of the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. The verbs used in the story – take, bless, break, give – are the same verbs used in the story of the Lord’s Table later in the gospel. So, this text becomes an appropriate meditation on the power and gift of the Lord’s Table.
       We could talk about authentic Christian spirituality. Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest, wrote a whole book applying this story, and the verbs involved, to the spiritual life. What does it mean for you to be “taken” by the hands of Jesus? What does it mean for you to be “blessed” by the hands of Jesus? What does it mean for you to be “broken,” to be “given”?
       There’s lots here in this text.

What I want to talk about this morning is compassion. Jesus’ motivation for inviting the crowd to his table is compassion. Several times in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is described as having compassion on the crowds:
·       Here in this passage: He saw the large crowd and had compassion on them and healed their sick.[1]
·       “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have remained with me three days already and do not have anything to eat, and I do not want to send them away hungry lest they give out on the way.”[2]
·       And having compassion, Jesus touched their eyes, and immediately they received their sight and followed him. [3]
·       And in the passage with which we began these messages: And when he* saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were weary and dejected, like sheep that did not have a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest that he send out workers into his harvest.” [4]

Eleanor Rigby
Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window
Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
       The Beatles, “Eleanor Rigby,” Yellow Submarine

That would be Jacob. His whole life has been one of conflict. Eat or be eaten. Win or lose. He stole his brother’s blessing, a special gift that is to be given by the father. While he got the blessing, it didn’t come as a gift. Despite having a family, he was alone in the world. And God came to him. I think God likes people with rough edges, people who don’t fit in, people who are alone in the world.
       Jesus certainly seemed to pursue folks who were struggling, not folks who had it all together. Jesus passed by the good folks and looked for the sick, the blind, the hungry, the harassed and helpless, the weary and dejected, the lonely.

Once as a pastor, I had a wedding canceled at the last minute, in that case by the groom. It is a crushing thing to experience. You expect to give yourself to a person you love, you expect to receive them in return, only to find yourself left alone. I read about another young woman who was left at the altar. Her family decided that they would have the reception anyway, and they chose to invite the homeless. That’s a wedding feast of which Jesus would be proud.

In fact, the end of history is described as a wedding feast. Repeatedly in his parables, Jesus talks about the kingdom as a feast. In John’s vision of the end of history in the heart of God, we read, “Blessed are those who are invited to the banquet of the wedding celebration of the Lamb!”[5] In that vision, John hears Jesus at the doors of our lives, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, indeed I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.”[6]

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Answer: They belong at the Table of the Lord. That’s where we all belong.


[1] Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Mt 14:14). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
[2] Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Mt 15:32). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
[3] Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Mt 20:34). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
[4] Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Mt 9:36–38). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
[5] Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Re 19:9). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
[6] Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Re 3:20). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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