A place at the table

Take this bread

  • Luke 22: 14-23  Jesus’ Last/Lord’s Supper
  • Luke 24:28-35 Risen Jesus known in blessed and broken bread

A Transforming Place at the Welcome Table 

Many of you have become familiar with Sara Miles transforming encounter with Jesus in the bread and wine of communion. [Ask who has read Take This Bread by Sara Miles]

Sara Miles begins her story with her radical transformation at the Lord’s Table:
One early cloudy morning when I was forty-six, I walked into a church, ate a piece of bread, took a sip of wine….It changed everything. Eating Jesus as I did that day to my great astonishment, led me against all my expectations to a faith I’d scorned and work I’d never imagined. The mysterious sacrament turned out to be not a symbolic wafer…but actual food – indeed the bread of life…Mine is a personal story of an unexpected and terribly inconvenient Christian conversion…I was, as the prophet said, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I found it at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine, poured out freely, shared by all. I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: a table where everyone is welcome, where the despised and outcast are honored. And so I became a Christian, claiming a faith that many of my fellow believers want to exclude me from; following a God my unbelieving friends see as archaic superstition (pp. xiii-xv).

Jesus invites us to take a place at the Table “where everyone is welcome, where the despised and outcast are honored.” The theme of Luke’s gospel is hospitality especially in table fellowship. Hear two stories of Jesus’ welcome to a place at the table.

The Politics of Place and a Place at the Table: Luke 22:1-2, 14-23; 24:28-35

Jesus went to Jerusalem taking his disciples with him into this seat of politics to take a place at the Table. He confronted the powers of sacrificial violence with a new Way of nonviolence thus establishing a new covenant for a new age. Luke sets the political stage for finding a place at this Table of transformation (22:1-2).

Now the festival…called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death….

Jesus entered Jerusalem and took a place at the Table under the threat of death from political powers seeking to sacrifice him for the sake of the domination system.

When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the disciples with him.

“When the hour came” indicates that Jesus is reaching a crucible time and place. “Jesus took his place at the [Passover] table” to remember God’s liberation of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. To remember was not a mere memorial of some ancient act. To
remember is to act now knowing that even now God is acting. One does not enact this remembering alone. It is a communal act. Disciples took their place with Jesus.

Jesus said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;

Jesus knows his own desire and his suffering to come. He went on to say:

for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’

This Passover moment is becoming more than a Passover meal. At this Table God’s reign is already breaking in and being fulfilled in Jesus.

Then Jesus took a cup, and after giving thanks he said,
‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now
on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’

Jesus repeats the connection between his presence and purpose and God’s kingdom. God’s act of liberation is now a welcome to all people to enter God’s reign.   

Then Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and gave it to them, saying,
‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’

Jesus took bread and identified himself with it. We receive this bread to become bread world. Here at the Table we become what we eat as Sara Miles discovered.

Jesus did the same with the cup after supper, saying,
‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Jesus took the cup and identified himself with it knowing that his blood would soon be shed. He would sacrifice himself on the cross of sacrificial violence rather than participate in sacrificial violence inflicted upon another human. Then comes a warning!

But see, the one who betrays me is with me… woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’
Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this?

Judas is not alone as Jesus’ betrayer. All the disciples soon fled. Before fleeing they argue about who is greatest and boast of their readiness with two swords.  Jesus prays that they have faith even while predicting Peter’s denial.
Jesus is crucified on the cross of sacrificial violence, a political act of dehumanization and denial of being created in God’s image. God acted by raising Jesus from the dead.
On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, two of Jesus’ disciples were on their way back to Emmaus leaving this sorrowful scene. They talked about what had taken place. Jesus came up and walked with them. But they failed to recognize the risen Jesus.  He asked them “What’s up with you guys?” The two tell the whole sordid story. The stranger tells them all about God acting in human history in Jesus. They still don’t recognize Jesus.

They arrived outside Emmaus where they are going and the stranger walked on. But they offer hospitality, inviting the stranger in to a place at table with them. Hospitality is the first step of welcome to a place at the Lord’s Table.  

In response to their hospitality Jesus blessed and broke bread and gave it to them to eat. “Then their eyes are opened and they recognized that this is [the risen] Jesus.”

This is the God-enacted biblical revelation in the blessed and broken bread of our communion with Christ!

Come Home to a Place at the Welcome Table

Jesus invites us to this Table to receive blessed and broken bread so that we become blessed and broken bread for the world rather than inflicting more brokenness on anyone in the world. At this Table Jesus sacrifices himself as the ultimate innocent victim so that we stop sacrificing others in the name of Jesus. This is Jesus’ Way of nonviolent love enacted and embodied at this Table.

Theologian Terence Rynne, in a book on Gandhi and Jesus: The Saving Power of Nonviolence, gives a close reading to John Howard Yoder, Walter Wink, and two other scholars to place nonviolence at the center of Jesus and Jesus at the center of nonviolence. Jesus faced the same 3 choices we do today: 1) go along with the way things are or 2) secede from society or 3) resist violently. “Jesus chose none of these but opted instead to respond nonviolently to the violence inflicted upon him” (160).
[Jesus] dies as a revealer of the liberating and healing truth…By his nonviolence he fully restores the honor of [God], revealing God’s true image. [Jesus dies] for those who crucify him, for all of us sinners. By his healing love he breaks up the circle of enmity, violence, and vindictiveness, and shows us the way…It is not possible to speak of Christ’s sacrifice while ignoring nonviolence (160, B Haring).

A couple of weeks ago I was anxious over beginning a communion worship series — which I have long believed to be central to knowing the risen Christ. I was uneasy because we are celebrating Jesus’ welcome to the Table while discerning if we will be a welcoming church.
How could we be welcomed to God’s Word and the Lord’s Table without connecting it with our struggle over who is welcome this very day?  I knew that I could not act or speak as if our worship and our congregational meeting are disconnected.

I have struggled and studied, prayed and pondered, and listened to Jesus and many of you these past weeks.  I confess my fear that some of you will not like what I say. I also know that my only real fear is of being silent and refusing to speak the hard word of Jesus Christ in a given time and place. It is the hard word of Jesus who sacrificed his life for us so that we stop sacrificing the lives of others created in God’s image and stop denying others whom we label as “homosexual” yet whom the risen Christ welcomes to the Table. “All are welcome, none are worthy” to come to the Lord’s Table.

In addition to the powerful Word of Luke’s Gospel of Jesus Christ this morning, is the profound words of the songs we sing in this worship. We began worship by singing “What is this place” and then naming this place as a place at the welcome table (HWB 1)

What is this place where we are meeting?……..
Yet it becomes a body that lives when we are gathered here
and know our God is near…

We in this place speak again what we have heard: God’s free redeeming word.

And we accept bread at this table, broken and shared, a living sign.
Here in this world, dying and living, we are each other’s bread and wine.
This is the place where we can receive what we need to increase:
God’s justice and God’s peace.

We hear God’s Word that Jesus took his place at the Table and welcomes us to this Table of radical transformation so that we become the living Body of Christ.  

We come to this Welcome Table of our Lord not because it’s comfortable or nice; not because it is spiritually or politically correct. We come because we hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice and Jesus invites us.

At Jesus’ Welcome Table we receive the bread and wine that feeds us and forms us into the Way of Jesus’ nonviolent love so that we will not live the way of sacrificial violence.
Sacrificial violence is the way that dehumanizes and denies the very body and being of another thus denying the very body and being of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Table is the most profound alternative to the way of sacrificial violence we will ever know.

In a moment we will sing, “You’ve got a place at the welcome table” (Sing the Journey, # 4). We sing of our Lord’s invitation to the welcome table and pledge our response that “We’ll give thanks at the welcome table” (v. 3) and “We’ll come home to the welcome table” (v. 4).

This is God’s Word of welcome in the crucified and risen Christ. It is God’s Word of welcome to us in our body and being far more than in our belief.    

The question we face today is: Will we accept and offer God’s welcome in Jesus Christ to a place at the Lord’s Table so that we embrace and embody that welcome as Christ’s body for all of life?