A Place at the Table

This image was used on the cover of one of my text books in seminary. I never understood the cat....

This image was used on the cover of one of my text books in seminary. I never understood the cat….

This Sunday is World Communion Sunday.  On Sunday, in particular, the Christian Church celebrates our unity in Christ as represented in the Lord’s Supper. Congregations all over the world will celebrate the Sacrament on Sunday. May our prayers include those who cannot worship freely, who are suffering intense persecution for their faith, and who have been excluded from community.
This Sunday, I will be preaching on Luke 7:36-50.  This is the communion liturgy that follows the message.

 

Welcome

The woman, a sinner, is thought to have brought shame upon the host. She is likely unclean and by social custom, when she touches Jesus, he becomes unclean. As does every dish he touches at this meal served family style.

The woman, a sinner, wasn’t invited – she is only tolerated. Or rather ignored: she is not acknowledged by the host or the guests. Jesus is the one who brings attention to her – and for positive reasons. And once again, it is a sinner who proclaims God’s righteousness by her actions and the Pharisee who rejects God’s purposes through his.[1]

Jesus said:

People will come from east and west, north and south, and sit down to eat in God’s kingdom.[2]

Today we celebrate that the table in God’s kingdom is a large table. There are not a few that come but many who gather from all over the earth to eat at the table Christ has prepared.

The meal described in Luke 7 is a public affair – just as the Lord’s Supper is a communal Sacrament. At times, we want to protect this table – desiring to keep it pure for Jesus’ sake. But when we do so, we do not follow Jesus’ example.

Dinner parties are enjoyable: good food, good conversation, and friends new and old. But we only come to these dinner tables if we are invited. Jesus said that when we have a dinner party we should invite those we cannot pay us back.[3] Jesus, friend of sinners, cared not about the worldly value of who he dined with. Rather, he chose love and then opened the table to all.

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Creator God, we give you thanks for the world that you breathed into being and that you named “good.” Created in the image of you but not each other, your peoples are wonderfully diverse. We are at once as different as the bird from the fish, the giraffe from the lizard – but all share the breath of life that you breathed into us.

Jesus our Lord, through your life, death and resurrection you made it possible for us to be at table with you. In the same way, you have taught us how to be at table with one another. You never turned down an invitation to eat based on the guest list, and you reached out to feed those who were excluded – for this our hearts are full of thanks. You anoint our heads with oil; you prepare a feast in our presence. May we come knowing your grace, and keep us from hindering those you have welcomed. Let us always remember that it is your body and blood that make this table holy and accessible to all.

Spirit of Truth, you move throughout the world binding together what we tear apart. It is only in the power of your Spirit that we are able to claim oneness with you and with one another. Spirit, give us a holy nudge when we crowd others away from the table. Close our mouths when we give voice to words that shame.

With thanksgiving, Holy Spirit, we ask for your presence at the table today. May it be just one leaf in the table of the Kingdom of God. May the bread and cup we share be true communion with Christ, with those gathered in this place, and all the saints throughout the world and through every age that declare you the Risen Lord.

With the peace of Christ and with the joy set before us, we join our voices in prayer to you, saying…

[Our Father]

 

Invitation

On the night Jesus was betrayed by someone who sat at table with him,

Jesus took the bread…

Likewise after dinner, Jesus took the cup…

As we prepare ourselves to come to this table, a table that has been prepared for all who desire to be fed, we remember Jesus’ words to Simon, which are also his words to us:

“Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”[4]

Whether we have been forgiven much or little, whether we have shown great or little love, whether we have confidence that our sins have been forgiven or doubt how this could be possible – you are invited to come. There are no invitations to be sent out. There are no credentials to be shown. There is no requirement to prove your worth. The meal has been prepared and you are invited to come and take your place at the table.  Amen.

 

[1] Luke 7:29-30

[2] Luke 13:29 (CEB)

[3] Luke 14:12-14

[4] Luke 7:47 (NRSV)

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