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Posts Tagged ‘James Taylor “From Belfast to Boston”’

Table Manners
10/03/10 (Sherwood)
Is 2:1-5
1 Cor 11:17-33

WCS– recognized by the United Council of Churches
Started in 1936 by Presbyterian Churches here and overseas, but in 1940 the celebration began to take place in other churches as well.
Today Christians all over the world will be doing the same thing– we’ll all hear the words of institution. We’ll all, in some way, be encouraged to think about the WHOLE, worldwide body of Christ.

Have you ever eaten in a restaurant and happened to see a child with really bad table manners? Maybe they are crying or yelling or shoving food in their face– whatever it is, it’s really annoying. You keep glaring at the parents, just willing them to do something, because after all, this is your night out…and that child is ruining your meal.

I’ve heard the story of some little girl, who as the saying goes “when she was good, she was very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.” And her parents dolled her up in her finest Sunday clothes (I hear that it was an itchy blue velvet dress), and took her to Red Lobster–which was definitely not her first choice for an eating establishment. I hear that she had all she could take when she decided to take matters into her own hands. In front of her parents, grandparents, and a whole restaurant full of people, she shoved her stinky fish across the table. I hear that this particular little girl almost got in a world of trouble…but of course…that’s only what I hear.

Talk about ruining a meal! Whether you’ve seen something that bad or not, I’m betting you know what it’s like to have a meal ruined because of someone’s poor table manners.

Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, who in a lot of ways was Paul’s fair-haired child. But they had a lot of problems, one of which was with table manners.

Let me tell you a little bit about the ways the church did the Lord’s Supper. In the early church, it was an agape or Love Feast. It would have been a real dinner, not just the ten minutes that our modern worship service has made it. It would have been in a private home, but it would have been a communal meal. Like our modern dining rooms, we can only hold so many at a time, so what started happening was the rich (who didn’t need to work) would get there early and take all the good seats, leaving the working folks left to stand. Now the other thing that was going on was that many of the wealthy would bring their own food and drink– and then not share it with anyone. Can you imagine coming to a fellowship dinner, bringing your favorite casserole, and plopping it right in front of your plate, as if to say “Mine!”. But even more rude than that is that not only were the non-working folks scarfing down the food they had brought, but they’d scarf down everyone else’s too– leaving the latecomers to go hungry.

Paul is steamed/ticked off/hot under the collar. He’s outraged at the lack of hospitality. He had a vision of how this meal ought to be celebrated, and what the church at corinth is doing “ain’t it”. Listen again to how Eugene Peterson renders this in “The Message”. “Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be a part of?”

Paul is convinced that the Lord’s Supper must be different. The Lord’s Supper is the time where the community of Faith shares the necessities of life with each other. We share because God first shared with us and Christ shows us how. That’s where we begin to enter into a love feast. And a love feast must start with the notion of being one body, in a communal ritual that makes us one in Christ. And if we’re really going to be one body, then we have an absolute obligation to take care of each other’s needs.

Now I bet you’re thinking that we don’t have these problems in our modern churches. We all take the Lord’s Supper at once, and no one gets left behind. We don’t scarf things down. We don’t have the same extreme class differences that Paul was seeing.

But stop for a second. If you were on a witness stand, called to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God” would you be able to say that we’re one body? Could you say that about this particular church? Could you say that about all the churches in this community? Could you say it about the churches all over the world?

I hope you realize that the answer is no. Nowhere that you can look are we really the one body that we are called to be. We, both in this church, and in this community, and in this world, are greatly divided. Think it doesn’t matter? Hear these words from this morning’s reading again: “If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on. Better to be confronted by the Master now than to face a fiery confrontation later.”

Paul is so steamed because, in his eyes, the Corinthians are acting like Christ’s life and death has not changed their relationships with each other. Think about that for a second. What should the life and death of Christ mean for our relationships to each other?

Paul reminds us that in our own words and actions we enact the Master’s Death. Not just at this table, but in all things that we do. Every time we choose to do anything other than lift others up, we’re diminishing Christ’s death. Every time we choose to think about ourselves instead of the good of the whole, we make Christ’s death less significant. Every time we allow petty grievances to stop us from being one body, we are becoming part of the crowd that cheered for Christ’s crucifixion. For Paul, and for us, the question becomes “What kind of remembrance do you want to be a part of?”

Patrick McCormick, a Catholic Priest, wrote one of my favorite books on Communion, says this “ To break bread with others is a sign of communion, solidarity, and friendship, and a recognition of the common dignity and worth of those with whom we eat.”

To break bread worthily, we must address and overcome and divisions in our churches and societies, tearing apart the practices that keep us apart.

The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a celebration only in as much as it is able to be a celebration for all of God’s children. For that reason, World Communion Sunday, is if nothing else, a call to action. It is a call to do SOMETHING!

It is a call to forgiveness for those that have wronged us, or have been less than we hoped for.
It is a call to extending table fellowship beyond our comfort zones.
It is a call to the unity of the church, and to recognizing what it means to be the whole body of Christ.

World Communion Sunday represents the highest hopes for peace and unity– not only within each church, but in each community, and not only that, but more globally in the whole world. It is a day that we come together to bear testimony to being a global church, united in the intense hope of the Gospel.

Today, as on all days that we celebrate communion, we are anticipating the heavenly banquet that we will one day share. Imagine for just a second what that banquet will look like.

I see faces of all colors, of all political persuasions, from all countries. I see the faces of people that I’ve loved, and the faces of those with whom I wasn’t able to see eye to eye. And when I imagine this, we’re all sitting down together, talking and laughing– as if none of those divisions matter a bit. Because the truth is, in God’s kingdom– they don’t.

Good table manners, as we see in Paul’s instructions, was about more than not talking with your mouth full. Good table manners meant dining with your companions as if you were at a banquet, as if you were all honored guests. Good table manners meant being truly hospitable, and you can’t do that if you’re snarling over your glass.

There’s a song I want to share with you called “From Boston to Bellfast”, by James Taylor. He talks about rifles and the destruction that we’ve caused with our hatred. He’s talking on a very literal level, but as you listen to the song, I hope you’ll hear it on a metaphorical level as well. I hope when you hear “God’s Rifle”, you’ll think of all the things that you’ve used to keep people at a distance, and when you hear “ancient hatred” you’ll think about the grievances that you haven’t been able to let go.

[Play song]

Today is world communion Sunday. It’s a day that we remember that Sherwood Presbyterian Church is connected to Marvin, and Mt Pisgah, and Charity, and Mt. Vernon, and Green Springs, and Church of the Apostles, and that we are connected to churches all over the world. It’s a day that we remember what it means to “Do this in remembrance of me.” It’s a day when we start to practice good table manners, because nothing ruins a good meal like poor table manners. It’s a day when we stop, and we remember that we’ve been invited to a Love Feast.

And if we take that seriously, it’s a day when we’re called to “lay God’s rifle down”, and quit worrying about what divides us.

Today is World Wide Communion Sunday. May it be so!
Amen

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