+ A homily given for Maundy Thursday at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Bellevue, WA on March 29, 2018 +
Texts: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Meals are a special time for many people.
They can bring people together around a table for conversation, exchanging ideas, and some quality time together.
So many cultural values can be seen through the lenses of food and mealtime – who gets to eat first, if there is a significance to the dishes being served, whose recipes are being used.
You can learn a lot about a culture by watching how they eat together.
Food is important in life milestones too – events like birthdays and weddings and funerals often have a special meal as a major component.
These meals help us celebrate or commemorate as we surround ourselves with family and friends.
As with these other aspects of our lives, our religious life revolves around meals too.
These meals bring us together with people who love us as we share the stories of our faith.
This week our Jewish friends will gather around a table and ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” as they start the Passover Seder.
During the holy month of Ramadan, our Muslim friends break their fasts with great iftar feasts.
Each week, we join Christians around the world as we gather around this table as we share in the Lord’s Supper and remember the night Jesus commanded us to eat this bread and drink this cup – the night in which he was betrayed – this night.
For the nearly two thousand years since, Christians have been gathering together around a shared meal – the same meal that Jesus instituted on this holy night.
Since the very earliest days of the Church, this meal has been our focal point – the heart of our assembly together as followers of Christ – the core of our common worship.
And even though we share this meal nearly every time that we gather, it’s one that cannot loose its significance.
We know that this meal is different.
This is a meal that transcends so much – people from all stations in life, all ages, all sexualities and genders, all times and all places gather around the same table to hear that this scrap of bread is in fact Christ’s body given for you.
And this sip of wine is really Christ’s blood that has been shed for you.
In this meal we see how in Christ the distinctions we make and the barriers we construct melt away. For we all come to the same Table and receive Christ anew in our bodies.
When the Apostle Paul wrote the words of our second reading to the Christ-followers in Corinth, he was worried that they were missing the purpose of this Table.
Up to that point, it seems that the Corinthians were maintaining their cultural customs around meals and displaying the vast wealth inequality present in the community.
At that time it was completely normal to gather together at the table but have those who were well-off display their wealth through feasting on opulent foods and fine wines while those with less money, who were sitting at the same table, would eat more meager fare – it’s like the world’s worst potluck.
But Paul is writing here to remind them that this meal is different – this is not their table, but Christ’s table.
And in Christ’s eyes there are no distinctions or levels, but all receive the same piece of bread and drink of wine – all receive the very body and blood of Christ.
That this meal is about more than feeding our bellies – but is about proclaiming the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection – the source of new life for you and for me.
We hear of Jesus giving us a new covenant tonight – a new promise of love for all people that we can glimpse in this meal.
And Jesus commands that we share this love with those around us so that the world will know that we are Christ’s disciples.
For this Table is where we can see God’s vision for the world – a world where all people can gather together in love, where all earthly distinctions vanish, where money is meaningless, and where all can feast on the same food and drink that our God has prepared for us.
As we gather around this table tonight we will join again into this mysterious meal, we will receive again this holy food – the body and blood of our Lord.
And through these simple means, Christ will make anew a home within us, as we are untied with all the saints into Christ’s own body.
While this seemingly meager meal will not give us much in the way of sustenance, it gives us a lens with which we can see the world around us.
It invites us to see the world as Christ sees it and calls us to be the part of the change that would bring us closer to God’s perfect reign.
So we might ask ourselves:
Where are divisions among humanity causing fissions in the Body of Christ?
Who might not feel welcome here at Christ’s table because of their race, income, sexuality, or perceived gender?
Where does our affluence blind us from seeing those who are living with food insecurity or in areas where there are no grocery stores to provide healthy and nutritious foods for their families?
Where does the death and resurrection of our Lord still need to be proclaimed in word and in deed?
Where can we be Christ’s love in the world?
On this night, our Lord gave to us this feast of life so we can know God’s love given for us as Christ becomes a part of us.
How will we allow this meal to transform us to be Christ’s Body in the world?
How will our celebration of this meal proclaim again to the world God’s love for you, for me, and for all creation?