Paul Edwin Jackson
University Congregational Church
Sunday, March 30, 2014
The Last Week: Thursday
Last week we focused on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. And even though we were looking at Wednesday, I spoke of some of the events that occurred on Thursday—specifically, the praying in the garden and the betrayal and Jesus being led out of the garden in chains. These events all happened on Thursday—Wednesday was the day the plot Judas began was set in motion. I was trying to juxtapose the various betrayals that were forthcoming and am afraid I may have confused the issue. The Garden of Gethsemane and Judas’s betrayal, the leading out of the garden in chains are Thursday events—but so much of what I want to deal with today is about the Last Supper, that it’s good we accomplished some of Thursday’s history already.
The Last Supper. At this dinner we see the continuation and culmination of Jesus’s “meal practice”. Much of Jesus’s short ministry centered on food and eating and his detractors often used this in their criticism of his work. In Mark where hear the Scribes and Pharisees aggressively asking “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Matthew remarks in his Gospel “the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” and the Gospel of Luke tells us “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him”. Tax Collectors and Sinners. Who wants these people at their table?
First century Palestinian society had very sharp boundaries regarding who could eat with whom and more importantly, boundaries regarding those who were not welcome at the table. The primary issue with Jesus’s meal practice and ministry is that he eats with the “undesirables”—he shares his meals with those who are not welcome at the table. This had both religious AND political significance: religious, because Jesus did this in the name of his father, God, and political because it affirmed a very different vision of society. Borg and Crossan assert in their book, The Last Week, that a close analogy for us would be a religious leader in 1960’s Southern American holding forth at that time with public integrated meals and stating: “Our shared meal—with everyone at the table– is the Kingdom of God—and the divided, segregated world you see about you is not.” The divided, segregated world is not the Kingdom of God.
Jesus breaks the bread. Bread is one of the most common symbols that Jesus used. He reveals that He is the Bread of Life. He feeds the multitudes with bread and fishes. Bread is central to life. It sustains us and nourishes us. And by him proclaiming that he is the bread of life, he is once again asking us to look at lifein a new way. This time he asks us to look at our meal practice. Not only as the biological imperative that we all must partake in to survive, but as a celebration of a new way of thinking and being and living. He asks that we join with him in creating the Kingdom of God here on earth. He asks that we remember him. And in doing so, we remember this co-creation that we are to be doing. That we are to strive for justice for all God’s people. That we are to make our table so inclusive that it boggles the minds of the bigots. He asks that we share our bread. And he asks the we are always grateful for it. And for the simple fact that we can remember him and his life and what he has asked us to do in his name.
There is a great table. Seated at this table are my father—my grandparents—my step-parents—my mother–my partner—my sisters and my brother and their families—all of my aunts and uncles and cousins and nephews and nieces and their families and their families’ families are at this table. All of the people that I love and have ever loved, and who have ever loved me are at this table. My impossibly dear friends are at this table. You are at this table.
The table is piled high with food and drink and desserts and wine and sweet, clear water and honey and spices and it is so good. And the bread is warm and filling and good.
Also at this table are all whom I have ever betrayed and hurt—and also all who have ever betrayed and hurt me. Even those who have done the worst things to us are seated at this table.
We are all at this table. And we eat. And we talk. We talk about our day. Our lives. Our loves and our fears. We lay our fears out on the table and we talk about them. We work through our fears—together.
At this table, there is a place…for all of us. A place has been set. It has been prepared for us and it is waiting for us. For all of us to be in full communion with each other and with all whose lives we have touched and who have touched our lives.
And when the time comes, I will take my seat at this impossibly grand table–we will all take our seats…and we will commence…to live.
If it’s not evident by what I just said—the communion table at UCC is an open table—all are welcome.
Jesus said: I am the bread of life. All who come to me shall not hunger, and all who believe in me shall not thirst. With Christians around the world and throughout the centuries, we gather around these symbols of bread and wine—simple elements that speak of nourishment and transformation.
Let us pray.
Loving God, we thank you –that you are as close to us as breath,
that your love is constant and unfailing. We thank you for all that sustains life,
and especially for Jesus Christ, who teaches us how to live out an ethic of justice and peace, and for the promise of transformation made manifest in his life, death and resurrection.
We ask you to bless this bread and this cup. Through this meal, make us the body of Christ that we may join with you in promoting the well-being of all creation. Amen.
We remember on the night when Jesus and the disciples had their last meal together, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to the disciples,
saying “This is my body, which is broken for you. Take and eat it, and as often as you do, remember me.”
[Distribution of the bread.]
In the symbol of the broken bread, we participate in the life of Christ and dedicate ourselves to being his disciples. In the same way he took the cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to the disciples, saying: “Drink this, all of you.
This cup is the new covenant, poured out for you and for many. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. [Distribution of the wine.]
In the symbol of the cup, we participate in the new life Christ brings.
(At the end)
Please stand and sing with us our choral benediction
Go from this place, renewed in spirit, that we are the co-creators of the Kingdom of Justice and the Kingdom of God. Go in peace as you enjoy the bread of life found on your Sunday luncheon tables. Amen