A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sermon (September 7) by Rev. Robert McDowell - "Let's Eat!"

     The title of my message this morning is, “Let’s Eat!” You do know that whenever Christians meet, they eat, right?
     I conducted a graveside service a couple of years ago. In the middle of this service, I opened it up for people to share a thought or a memory about their loved one. There was a long silence and finally someone said, “Grandma was known to make the best chicken and noodles in all of Fairfield County.”
     Well, that one comment led someone else to say something about how much they loved her chicken and noodles. And then someone else went on and on about why her chicken and noodles tasted so good.
     Did I mention that this was around 11 in the morning? Not a good time to be talking about chicken and noodles! After the service, I immediately drove to Bob Evans and I ordered me some chicken and noodles!
     Have you noticed how much the bible talks an awful lot about food and eating? When the bible refers to heaven, it often uses the image of a great heavenly banquet. I often wonder what that heavenly banquet will be like.  I’m thinking chicken and noodles, ham loaves, fried chicken, tater salad, and some lemon meringue pie. How does that sound?
     In the bible, food is a symbol of God’s abundant love.  Think of Psalm 23 and the middle part of that well known Psalm that says, “Thou preparest a table before me.”      
     Or what about when Jesus fed 5,000 people in the middle of nowhwere with just five loaves and two fish.  They even had enough leftovers to fill twelve baskets. This is another story about God’s abundant love.
     These scriptures remind us that God’s abundant love is meant to be shared with others. I think of Grace Community Christian Fellowship and how they are sharing God’s abundant love.
     You volunteer at the Free Store at Maple Street United Methodist Church and several couples in your church have adopted those who are homeless to help them get back on their feet again.
     I think of First Church and the weekly lunches that are prepared for the people in our community. That ministry began about fifteen years ago because of a bible study group who wanted to not just be hearers of the Word, but doers as well.
     God’s abundant banquet is too great to keep for ourselves. It’s meant to be shared with the people around us.
     Jesus and the disciples ate many meals together. One of those meals was the Last Supper which was a Jewish Passover meal.
     The first Passover meal is what was read for us this morning from the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament. The reason that the Passover meal is so important is because it tells the incredible and miraculous story of how God had freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and led them through the wilderness and into the Promised Land.
     The Passover meal is a meal of celebration because it reminds us of God’s saving and redeeming love. God enabled the people to be freed from four hundred years of slavery when they were in Egypt.

     When Jesus shared the Last Supper meal with his disciples, they were celebrating this meal and how God had saved their people from slavery centuries before them. In the course of that meal, Jesus gave it a new meaning when he took the bread and after giving thanks and breaking it, he gave it to his disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is my body broken for you.”
     Jesus then took the cup and after he blessed it, he gave it to his disciples and said, “Drink from this all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant poured out for you and many for the forgiveness of sins. As often as you drink this cup, remember me”

    Every time we gather for Holy Communion, we are to remember this meal. We share in this meal because like the Passover meal itself, it reminds us of how God has freed us from our slavery to sin and the new life that God offers to us. The bread reminds us that Jesus is the Bread of Life and the cup reminds us of his blood that was shed for us. It’s a meal like no other.
     Whenever we gather for this holy meal, we can know that Jesus is present with us.  Jesus tells us that whenever “two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.”
     This is what makes Holy Communion so special. It’s a meal where Jesus is always present with us. Even if we feel far away from God or if we are weighed down in guilt and shame, this meal reminds us that God loves us and has freed us from our sins.
     Rev. Rita Kay Brown who is the pastor of one of our United Methodist Churches here in town told me a cute little story of something that happened to her during Holy Communion one year.
     She said that they had a children’s event at their church and they concluded their time by offering the Sacrament of Holy Communion. There were a lot of children at this event, about thirty of them, and she invited them to get in a line and take a turn to receive the Sacrament.
     One by one they came forward. She would give a child a piece of bread and say, “This is the body of Christ broken for you.” She then had them dip that piece of bread into the chalice and she said, “This is the blood of Christ shed for you.” The child would then eat the bread and take a seat. 
     Rita told me that there was one little boy who was probably about 5 or 6 years old had never been to church before, and he really liked this idea of eating bread with juice. After he received communion the first time, he got back in line to receive it again. Rita realized that he had jumped in line for seconds but offered the Sacrament to him anyway. When this little boy came up to Rita the second time, he had a great big smile on his face, and as he put the bread into his mouth, he said, “Thank you!”
     Well guess what? He got back in the line a third time and the same thing happened. After he received the bread and the juice, he looked at Rita and with another great big smile, he said, “Thank you!” And this time, he added, “Jesus tastes awful good!” 
     Now, I don’t think that response is in our communion liturgy, but maybe it should be. “Jesus tastes awful good!”
     Whether it be the Passover meal, the Lord’s Supper, or a good old fashioned covered dish meal, God’s love tastes awful good, doesn’t it?
     I’m originally from Pennsylvania and we had an expression that we used around dinnertime. We actually invented a new word. The word was, “Djeetyet?” There’s how it is spelled. It means, “Did you eat yet?”
     Soon, we will be eating a meal together. It’s a meal that reminds us that God’s love is an abundant love. God’s love is a love that is not meant to be kept to ourselves. It’s meant to shared with the whole world. This is the meal that Jesus has given us, the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

     If you are hungry, you have come to the right place. We are about to enjoy an incredible feast together. Let’s eat!

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