Thursday, April 2. Matthew 26:17-30.
Tonight we will gather at our church to sit around tables to share a meal. It is called Dinner Church and the liturgy takes place as a meal. We did this for the first time last year, for Maundy Thursday, and I really loved it. Tonight I have the privilege of preaching during this meal about the text we read today. Here is the basic outline of that sermon.
There are three things that I notice about the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night before he was executed.
First, it is a REAL MEAL. Jesus and his disciples sat down to share the Passover meal. It was a full meal that took a long time to eat. All the parts of the meal had symbolic meaning that represented the story of when God delivered the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.
A meal is a beautiful thing because it takes time and it is very intimate. As much as I love the way our church serves communion during worship every week, I don’t think it is the way Jesus intended us to share this meal. That is why I look forward to tonight. We will sit down and share a real meal; a meal that takes time to eat, where we can talk, and laugh, and truly be in communion.
Second, it is an IMPERFECT MEAL. Some traditions believe that you have to get your act together before you are worthy of sharing in communion. I think that comes from a distorted interpretation of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Notice who ate the meal with Jesus: Judas the Betrayer. Jesus knew what Judas was planning to do. Jesus didn’t clean up his congregation, by making Judas leave before the meal started. No. Jesus broke bread with his betrayer. In fact, all of the disciples (except John) would betray him before the week was finished.
That’s the amazing thing about Jesus, and should be the amazing thing about the church. We recognize, that when we are together we are an imperfect bunch of sinners and saints. It’s not that some of us are sinners and some of us are saints. Each one of us is a sinner and a saint. We are imperfect people, invited by God to be made clean and whole at this meal. We are all in this together, imperfectly.
Third, it is the LAST and FIRST MEAL. This is the last meal Jesus ate before he went to die. However, he said that he wouldn’t drink from the fruit of this vine again until he shared it with them in the Kingdom of his Father. Here’s the controversial question. When is that? Some say it is something we still wait for. Others say it is now. I say it is both.
This meal that we share tonight, and each Sunday (in its abbreviated, symbolic form) is a meal that celebrates the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus told us is at hand. Remember, we gather not just around bread and wine, but we gather around the crucified and risen body of Jesus. We take that body and blood into our own body and blood. We are the temple of God, We are the body of Christ. And we have been commissioned to bring the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
So, this was also the first meal of many that Jesus would share. The coming of Jesus is not a one-time event that we long for in the future. It is the ongoing event that we embody each day, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and we enact it each time we share this meal in Jesus’ name.