There is a saying in my family that pretty clearly illustrates what we value. Back when we were kids we had the wonderful experience of spending summers at the lake with our grandparents and extended family. I have wonderful memories of those lazy days with long afternoons on the boat or on the beach, playing hard and eating well. On one of our boat trips we were disappointed at not finding the snacks that were always carefully stowed away for an offshore excursion. My cousin woefully complained, “nothing to eat and nothing to drink, we’re not having any fun.”
That phrase has now become a fixture in our family’s vernacular and we always make sure that we have plenty to eat and drink when we get together - because it is fun to be with people around the table surrounded by good food and special drinks. Many of my memories with my family include celebrations around the table with extended family as we eat and relish in the company of one another. I try to continue this tradition with my girls as well.
In the book, Take This Bread, Sara Miles writes about her memories of gathering at a table of a different kind. She shares her story of transformation after encountering the body and blood of Jesus Christ at the communion table, where she encountered the “eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine, poured out freely, and shared by all.” Miles has opened a food shelf in her congregation, serving food to people in need right from the altar. And in doing so she serves people who aren’t familiar with the inside of church; they don’t know the creeds or ways to process or pray but she is sharing the body of Christ with them – a sign of unconditional acceptance and forgiveness. In her radical faith she is loving and serving just as Jesus did – crossing the barriers that get set up sometimes by those of us in the church as we try to decide who is welcome and who should remain on the outside.
As we gather each week for worship here at Gethsemane we come together for good food and drink as well. The meal around the table shapes our life together and it sustains us for the week ahead but it also calls us into the world to spread the gift of Christ to all people – even people who don’t look like us, believe like us or live as we do. The good food served from our altar really is for everyone.
It is always a privilege to partake in communion with you. The longer that I am here and have had the opportunity to learn your stories, your joys and your concerns I recognize over and over again the deep need that we all have to be fed with the body of Christ. We come to the table humble and broken, hungry and in need, and it is in the good food and drink that we receive Christ – unconditional love and forgiveness. It is my prayer that as we are fed and forgiven we can find ways to bring the same unconditional acceptance into our community. All of God’s people always need something to eat and something to drink!