University Congregational Church
May 28, 2017
“Journey to the Table – Sharing”
I Cor. 11:20-30
When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s Supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
I Cor. 11:20-30 NRSV
Over the centuries, this text has been used by people to brow-beat their personal biases. What makes a person “unworthy”? And in response, recipients at the table have been, in turn, fearful and afraid of being unworthy. A great disservice has been done to the Lord’s Table and to what the apostle Paul was trying to say.
What we need to consider is the context of Paul’s writing. The 1st century church met in people’s homes in the evening. The “Lord’s Supper” in those times was a bigger meal than what we have today. The problem was that some of the wealthier people got off of work early, and they had a pre-party. When the poorer Christians got off work – several hours latter – and came to share a meal with the others, they were served the left-overs. Paul was making commentary on this practice. He understood that the Christians at Corinth were missing out on the most important aspect of the meal… time for sharing food and sharing oneself.
Being “unworthy” at the table, then, is about indulging oneself and not sharing. This is apparent in his words: “do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” There is a moral aspect to receiving communion. It isn’t about whether we are sinful or unworthy. It is about our attitude toward others. Do we live in solidarity with one another? Are we generous in spirit and action?
Consider the related words: communion, community, union. To commune literally means “to converse intimately”. When we receive communion, we are declaring that we are a community where all are accepted and all receive equally. There is a moral aspect to the table. It is where we affirm and care for one another. It is where we proclaim that there is enough for all and then we live in ways that make that a reality.
Helen Griffin let me know about a movement called the Turquoise Table. Kristin Schell is on a mission to love her neighbors. She put a picnic table in her front yard, painted it turquoise, and began inviting neighbors, friends, and even strangers, to hang out and do life together at The Turquoise Table.
What started at one simple picnic table has turned into something unimaginable. The Turquoise Table has led to a movement of Front Yard People – people just like you and me who want to create community right where they live.
Today, there are nearly 1,000 Turquoise Tables in 32 states and 4 countries. But, it all started with one simple table. Caught up in a world of overscheduled calendars and a frenzied on-the-go lifestyle, Kristin was desperate for more intentional ways to connect with the people in her life. She was hoping to create a simple place to gather without the pressures of entertaining. It worked!
All across America, neighbors are getting to know one another at turquoise picnic tables in the most simple place of all — their front yards. From California to Maine, the Turquoise Table has become a symbol of hospitality and a welcome place to slow down and connect with friends and neighbors.
The Sr. Minister of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas said, “The simplicity of the Turquoise Table embodies the kind of movement that all congregations must embrace. It encourages the people in our pews to leave their Christian bubbles, embrace hospitality, and intentionally form friendships with their neighbors. Anyone can do this and all of us should. If every Christian in America took these simple steps we would see our neighborhoods, cities, and nation transformed in amazing ways.”
Kristin Schell understands the moral aspect of communion. She is literally sharing life at the table with her neighbors. Everyone is welcome. Their lives are enriched because of the turquoise table. My guess is that Kristin and her family are among those who are the most blessed.
What would it look like for us to put some turquoise tables out in front of UCC? I could do some office hours out there and meet new people – joggers and walkers and neighbors. On nice days, our committees might want to meet at one of the tables. Imagine how many guests we might meet in our own front yard! We could have discussions about their lives and how it came to be that they traversed through our neighborhood. We could have after school activities for children… the possibilities are limitless! We could create a whole new type of community and actually know our neighbors!
A couple of weeks ago, our property committee was working on the hedge along the west side of the church. They cut out trees, bushes, volunteer plants, and overgrowth along the fence. A neighbor came by and asked if they could add her pile of trimmings to the pile on the trailer. The guys agreed and pretty soon, she brought them some cash to thank them. They brought it into the church office as a donation. What I love about this story is not that the church made some money. What I love is that we created a connection between ourselves and a neighbor!
“Participation in the Lord’s Supper,” writes Richard Beck, “is an inherently moral act. The sacrament brings real people – divided in the larger world – into a sweaty, intimate, flesh-and-blood embrace where ‘there shall be no difference between them and the rest.’”
Last week I spoke of the walls of hostility that divide us and that the communion table is a place where walls are not permitted. Today, we have explored some of the moral aspects of communion.
The paradox of the communion table is that we are remembering the brokenness of Christ. When we remember him, we realize that we, too, are broken. We have built barriers, walls, divisions between us. We are individually broken. We are broken as a church. We are broken in our society. Humanity itself is broken. But, at the table, the brokenness of Christ brings us to wholeness.
This is a message Christians need to hear and to proclaim loudly in this time and place. Think about all of the brokenness in the news, just this week…
A pregnant teenager has been barred from attending her high school graduation. They are excluding her because of her sin. Christians must speak out against this abuse. She should be welcomed to the graduation and to the table!
When we share the bread of Jesus, we are compelled to share what we have with others.
• When we eat bread, we are asked to share it with those in need
• When we drink the cup, we are to look for those who are crying out for blessing?
• When we receive communion, we are invited to converse intimately with God and one another. Who is in hungry for intimacy?
Because whenever we feed the hungry, visit the sick, and offer hope, we are truly communing with God.