August 2023

Sermon: The Last Supper

Embracing the Last Supper: A Call to Bring Ourselves, Build Community, and Foster Bold Faith

Scripture Luke 22:7-38

There is a game where participants are asked:  If you could invite anyone, living or dead, to dinner, who would you invite??  Many people have lofty answers like Mother Teresa or Abraham Lincoln.  I always thought Barbara Bush would be fun.  Who would you invite?

A second question in this game would be to ask:  What would you want to eat if this was your last meal?  This was not a hypothetical question for some of my inmates.  I have a solid answer for that question.  I would like a hot dog, potato chips and lemonade. I’m a pretty cheap date!

What would be the setting for your last meal?  I would like to pack a lunch, find a beautiful park, and watch the people walk by.  I love being around strangers.  Some would like to eat at home surrounded by family.  Some would like to fly to Paris and eat in a white table clothed restaurant.  Some would like to find a food truck, or a good pizza place, or a loud pub.  Many of us would find the company more important that the setting.

Most of us will never know when our last meal will take place, but Jesus knew exactly where and when he would share what has come to be known as the Last Supper.  He chose the Upper Room as his location, and the disciples as his guests.  Today he invites us to share in that meal.    

The Upper Room was thought to be located on Mount Zion just outside Jerusalem.  Some believe that the disciples used the Upper Room as living quarters when they were in Jerusalem, and the term “upper room” suggests that it was part of a larger structure.  Perhaps some of the disciples tidied up the room in advance of the gathering, and moved tables around so that all could be seated.

Jesus sent two disciples to find the location of the meal, and told them that they would meet a man carrying a jar of water, and he would lead them to the house where they would find a large room that was furnished and ready.  Sounds like an Air BnB.

It appears that this meal was well rehearsed and planned in advance with a specific location and a specific guest list.  Jesus was intentional about how he would share his final meal.

When my god-daughter, Amanda, was college age and dating, her father would inquire about her dates, asking, “And what do they bring to the table?”  Amanda might have rolled her eyes, but I believe this is a good question for us to ask ourselves as we prepare for our communion meal.  What do we bring to the table?

I would suggest that the first thing we bring to the table is our full  selves.  We begin our time of worship in silence, and encourage people to find a seat and sit in silence, allowing others to do the same.  We live in a world that has a steady diet of noise.  Unless we live in a cave with no electricity, we are absorbing a constant stream of noise and information throughout the day and night.  Some people have the television or radio on throughout the day and night.  It can sometimes be nearly impossible to find a restaurant or a corner in the airport that does not have a television blaring.  We have tweets, texts, news, games and phone updates.  We are surrounded by a cacophony of noise. In an urban setting, we are surrounded by a certain level of ambient noise.  There’s always someone shouting, traffic honking, or music blaring.  Noise, noise, noise.

Some people actually become afraid of silence or are uncomfortable in silence.  In silence they get figety or they grab for their phones or turn on the car radio or fill the air with chatter.

When we are silent, we can take a breath, and cleanse ourselves from the noise, worries and concerns of day to day life.  We can calm ourselves and listen for the Holy Spirit.  In silence we center ourselves and become fully present for our worship experience.

We further the experience of bringing our full selves into this place by singing the Dona Nobis.  We can become lost in the melodies, and we can absorb the words of peace.  We clear our minds, let go of outside concerns, and center ourselves before we come to the table.

The second thing we bring to the table is a sense of community.  We do not eat alone.  We eat with one another at Jesus’ invitation.  We are not a room full of strangers, we are a community of faith who thankfully accept Jesus’ invitation to come to this table.  Some of us have prepared the table, some of us serve at the table, all of us partake in the meal.  We come together as a family of faith where all are loved, welcomed, and valued.  We do not come as perfect people, we come just as we are, knowing that we are embraced in love and welcome. We come to the table at Jesus’ invitation.  We RSVP to Jesus’ invitation with gratitude and thanksgiving.  Jesus has offered extravagant welcome to us, and we extend that same welcome to others.

We come to the table with a sense of humility.  We know we have been invited not based on any merit, but in pure love.  We can only pray that  we enter back into the world with the humility of knowing that we are always invited to dine with Jesus, that we are always included, always loved.  Just as we are.

We gather at a large table where we invite others to be spiritually present with us even if they cannot be present in person.  We invite our neighbors who live on the streets of Phoenix and who find relief at the Justa Center.  We invite our neighbors who are offered meals and welcome at the shelter of Esperanza.  We invite the women and children at UMOM.  We welcome the spiritual presence of members of our Beloved Community who are away for the summer months.  We have a table that is large enough to always welcome more.

We come to this table knowing that the meal does not end here, but that we are intended to be nourished to go out into the world in bold faith.  We become a people of bold faith as we are nourished in the love of God.  We become people who are not afraid to go into the unknown and meet people who are not at all like us.  We become people who stand for justice rather than judgment.  We are nourished to become people who love fiercely and who are not afraid to stand for a world of love and justice.  We have been generously fed, and we now have the strength to feed others.

We bring many gifts to the table, and we are a congregation who freely share our gifts.  May we be nourished, blessed, and sent out in bold faith.

By the way, my god-daughter met and married a man whom I dearly love, and he brings his whole and magnificent self to the table!  Amen.

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