September 25 2011 Sermon
Lord’s Supper II
9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up,
10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.
11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.
“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let thy gifts to us be blest,” is not just a table prayer, it is a prayer for worship. As we gather on the Lord’s Day to worship, this prayer should be on our lips. The Divine Service is a meal. God comes as our guest; God provides the food; God sets the table; and God gives us divine gifts.
Moses and the elders met with God on the mountain and God provided a meal. They ate and they drank in the presence of God. Jesus broke bread, and after giving thanks he gave it to his disciples and said, “Take eat.” Then he took the cup after supper and after giving thanks, he gave it to his disciples and said, “Drink of it, all of you.” Eat and drink; sounds like a meal.
It is a meal, but not just any ordinary meal, it is a meal with God, a holy meal. God has shared meals with people since the creation. God told Adam; “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” God spread out a great dining table before Adam’s very eyes covered with every kind of food. God sets the table for us with every sort of food imaginable. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; my cup overflows.” The whole created universe is for us! Every plant and animal is in service to man. God sets the table and invites us to a meal.
What does a meal conjure up in your minds? First it speaks of life. For without food we die. Food is the very source of life. Therefore they tell us to get “three healthy meals a day.” We don’t just eat once and stop eating. We don’t eat sporadically or when we can fit it into our schedule. Indeed, we schedule our lives around meals, they are central to our life. We need a continual source of nutrition to remain alive.
But a meal is often more than that. It is a festive occasion. Perhaps you can savor in your minds the calf that Abraham roasted when God came to visit him, or the smell of the bread Sarah baked. We can already begin to smell the Thanksgiving turkey, the fresh baked bread, and the pumpkin pie waiting for us two months from now. You can see the family gathered together at the table, feel the arms around you in warm embrace of love, see the smiles on their faces, hear the din of conversation and the roar of laughter when loved ones share a dinner together. Meals bring us together, they bond us in love. The family is formed and shaped around the dinner table more than anywhere else. There you talk and share your ideas, your dreams, your worries, your concerns. You get to know each other deeper and love each other more fully.
Often a meal is a gift. When someone invites you to dinner for your birthday or anniversary, it is a gift of love. Dinners expresses joy and celebration, such as a wedding banquet.
But not all meals are happy occasions. We may worry about eating too many calories, going off our diet, gaining unwanted pounds. Or perhaps we remember Christmas dinners spoiled by family disputes, argument, and fighting. These meals manifest, not a meal with God, but the meal of forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve ate with Satan in the Garden. That meal, instead of joining people together, separated man from God and destroyed the bond of love between one another. That fatal meal was the anti-meal; a meal that instead of giving nourishment and life, brought malnutrition and death.
Still, God longs to eat his meals with us, his special creation. He came to our world to restore us to his dinner table. Jesus came eating and drinking with us. He blessed the wedding celebration at Cana with wine. He had dinner with Mary and Martha as he taught them with his word. He shared a meal with Matthew the tax collector, as he forgiving his sins and called him to become his follower. Yes, Jesus came eating and drinking with us. Table fellowship was the model of Jesus’ ministry; teaching and a meal. God sitting down to dinner with us!
The meals he shared with his disciples, with tax collectors and with sinners, were occasions of teaching, forgiving sins, and eating a meal that echoed the banquet in heaven. He dined in the home of a Pharisee and forgave the sins of a woman who washed his feet. He taught the 5000 then laid out a banquet before them. Jesus came to teach and feed his disciples. Teaching with a meal was the pattern of Jesus’ ministry.
And all of these meals were holy meals because God was dining with them. Jesus not only ate meals, he talked about meals. He told about a man who gave a banquet and sent his servants to bring in people from the highways and alleys and compel people to come. He told about a king who made a wedding feast for his son. And of course, about the man whose son had left home and wasted his entire inheritance. When he returned home, the waiting father killed the fatted calf and made a great banquet for all his friends and neighbors to celebrate the coming home of his prodigal son.
These meals and banquets, with teaching and forgiveness and eating and celebration all point to the eternal celebration and banquet in heaven. There God will eat and drink and celebrate with us forever. Yes, a meal means nourishment, celebration, gift, and joy when God sits down to the table with us.
God had come into the world to reunite us to him once again. And where better than at the dinner table. Jesus came to undo the meal that man had eaten with Satan on a tree. When Satan invited Jesus to dine with him at the tree, just like Adam, Jesus went to the tree, shaped into a cross, and offered himself in sacrifice to his Father. There on that cross shaped tree Jesus sacrificed his life and poured out his blood in a sacrifice for our sins that brought us back into communion and fellowship with the Father. His sacrifice atoned for your sins and released you from the wrath of God. There on that tree, the God who dines with us, gave up his life, and purchased you, purchased your forgiveness, purchased your salvation.
Then Jesus shared his Last Supper with his disciples. A meal that would forever change the meal with God and man. “Take eat, this is my body given for you…Take drink, this is my blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins.” In this meal, the sacrificed body and poured out blood of Jesus was now the food and the drink.
Stop 3: transformation
In Holy Communion, Jesus comes to dine with you and share a meal with you. But now, he does not just join you at the table, now he is the very food and drink.
As food is the source of our life, without it we die, so Holy Communion is the source of eternal life. God himself is the meal of life. We don’t eat the meal just once, for without continually feeding on the body and blood we would become malnourished, hungry, weak and eventually die eternally. We need Holy Communion as our regular diet on a continual basis, not just when it is convenient. We don’t schedule this meal into our lives, rather, we schedule our lives around this meal. This meal is our life.
It is a festive meal; a meal that reflects the joy and happiness of life in heaven. It is a gift. Like a birthday dinner, God gives us this meal as a gift. The gift of his presence, grace, and help in our lives.
And don’t worry about those calories! We may want our bodies to be slim and trim, but we sure don’t want our souls to be slim and trim. The problem isn’t that our souls are too fat and we need to trim them down, it’s that they are too slim. Our faith is too weak. Our love for one another is undernourished. We need all the more to eat and drink at the Lord’s Table. At his table God works on us, gives us more faith, produces love in our hearts and empowers us to serve and care for one another.
We, God’s children, come to worship on the Lord’s Day with starving souls, hungry and thirsty for God. “As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, so our eyes look to the Lord our God.” After a week of toil and struggle we seek the his rest in the meal. Wounded by the enemies that attack us daily, by sickness, family problems, and troubles, by health issues, by economic struggles, we come to the meal because it is this bread of life that gives strength, and encouragement. It is this food and drink that binds up our wounds, to applies the healing ointment of God’s love. Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The family of God gathers around the table of the Lord in order to bond and grow as a family. As a family at table gets to know each other better, love each other more deeply and share each others’ burdens, here we come to know Christ, love him more deeply, learn of him, and give him our worries and burdens and sins. It is this meal that reveals God to us. It was in Holy Communion that the eyes of the Emmaus disciples were opened and the recognized Jesus.
It is this meal that binds us together as a family. Sometimes we may come like a family at Christmas time that quarrels and argues. But at the altar we are bound to one another, grow in love for each other, and are formed into a family, a community of faith. We “all eat and drink the same spiritual food, Jesus Christ.” That food we share around the table is what forms and molds the community of faith. Here the body of Christ is “joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” Here is where we share together in the same flesh and blood of our Savior and are “built together into a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.” Here is where we lay down our burdens at the foot of the cross and pick up the burdens of each other. For St. Paul says, “We are all members of the same body. If one member suffers, the entire body suffers. If one member rejoices, the entire body rejoices.” That oneness, that body, is formed and shaped by the body and blood of Jesus at the Lord’s Table. Just as a holiday meal is filled with warm embraces, smiles, and the joy of being together in conversation and laughter, in Holy Communion we become one family bound to one another, and with all the saints who are already in heaven. We share this meal not only with our loved ones here, but also with those who have gone before us to the Lord.
The thunder of laughter and roar of festivity is but a foretaste of the heavenly joy and the eternal banquet of celebration. Every Lord’s Day as we gather around Jesus’ word and share a meal with him, is a momentary bit of heaven right here on earth, and a glimpse of resurrection. Yes, this meal even heals our bodies. It is this meal that gives resurrection to our mortal bodies, and will raise them from the dead, and will restore them to perfect bodies, without pain or sickness or death or decay. For as Jesus said: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
Come, then, to the meal! (next week)