Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sensing the Glory of God: Good Taste

Sensing the Glory of God: Good Taste
Matthew 26: 17-30
April 6, 2014
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

17On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" 18He said, "Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, "The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.' " 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. 20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21 and while they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me." 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, "Surely not I, Lord?" 23 He answered, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born." 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" He replied, "You have said so." 26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." 30When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  

How many meals do you suppose a person eats in a lifetime? If you figure three meals a day for upwards of 70 years, I’m thinking something between 75 and 80 thousand. That’s a lot of food. Out of those thousands of meals, I wonder how many we remember. They tend to run together, don’t they, in memory? At least in my memory they do.

There are a few standouts – hotdogs with olives, heated in a chafing dish and stored in an ice chest, because we didn’t have any appliances when we were first married; a brisket cooked outside at my folks’ house, with all the family gathered, when the kids were little… a fancy French restaurant in Fort Worth, with a snooty waiter with a French accent. Bob asked the snooty waiter, “Y’all got any of them Lil Smokie wieners in barbecue sauce?”
That cracked the waiter up, and it turns out the accent was fake, and he was a Texas boy, and we had a fine old time after that. I remember a meal of fresh-caught tuna, in Hawaii, prepared five delicious ways, shared with friends, and so good that the waiter asked for our leftovers.

I know you have stories like this, too. And most of us have great stories of holiday meals – either disasters or delights. Those meals change over time. Family members die, friendships fade, children grow up and have children of their own. Suddenly, we are no longer at the kids’ table in the playroom, and then one day we are at the head of the grown-up table, carving the turkey. For most of us, the menu stays the same.

Every now and then, someone says, “Why not mix it up a little bit? Let’s have tacos this Thanksgiving!” And everyone groans and takes a secret vote to never let that person host Thanksgiving. 

My mother still tells the story of how she changed the sweet potato recipe. Once.  Only once.
The turkey and dressing, the pie and potatoes and the pickles, they taste the same, and in that taste we are transported back to days past, again at the table with grandpa, with the children long since grown and gone.

So we gather at the table, year after year, with the same menu, and mostly the same people, and what makes it wonderful, when it is wonderful, is not the new recipes, but the faces around us. Our family meals are less about the meal, and more about the family. It’s the same at this table, where we gather month after month, with the same menu, and mostly the same people.

A family meal -- the Lord’s supper is all of that and more! Communion is more than simply a bit of bread and a few drops of juice, more than simply remembering something that happened long ago. At this table, past, present and future converge. In Christian terms, it is a kairos moment.

The Greek language has two words for time – one is chronos, like chronology. That is sequential time, the time measured by clocks and calendars. The other word for time is kairos, an indeterminate point at which all time intersects and converges. Everything happens, has happened, and will happen. All at once. We reclaim and re-enact the past.

We are there with Jesus, reclining at the table with his friends, celebrating the Passover. Passover itself is a kairos event, for at the Seder meal, the past is brought into the present, and the future is made visible. The meal recollects the deliverance of God’s people from slavery to the promised land. Four cups of wine are to be drunk –  the first is the cup of sanctification. The second is the cup of deliverance. The third is the cup of redemption, and the fourth is the cup of hope. 

Jesus gathers his disciples, gathers us to him, all of us, at the table, and he breaks the bread, and blesses the cup, and gives them to us, a remembrance of that last supper, a celebration in this moment and a foretaste of the eternal banquet that awaits us. We gather together at the table in the real presence of Jesus Christ. But, kairos time being what it is, we are also aware of his real absence. We proclaim his presence, and await his coming, all in the same moment.

Jesus gathers us, and not only us, but that great communion of saints, to come and partake of a holy meal. The bread is just bread, but it is not just bread. The cup is just juice, but it is not just juice. When we receive them, we receive memory, and the past is made present; we receive redemption, and the present is made into a new future; we receive the promise, and the future is joined to our past and to the present. The bread of life is blessed, broken, and given--  to us.

We come to the table, hungry for hope, and thirsty for living water. We taste and see that God is good, that love is stronger than death, that grace is enormous and eternal. We taste the bread of life,  the cup of salvation,  the glory of God, and that is a very good taste. Amen. 

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