First Presbyterian Church
Rev. Lou Nyiri
October 1, 2023 (World Communion Sunday)
Psalm 34: 1-14 / 1 Cor.10: 14-17; 11:23-26
In my neighborhood, growing up in Central PA, we didn’t have a triangle ringing in our household to let us know it was time for supper – we had my mother yelling from the bottom of the cul-de-sac (let me turn my wireless off for this one), “Louis … supper!” (You could hear it three counties over…)
When I heard her voice ring out through the neighborhood, I would stop in my tracks, whether I was playing nerf football at Pickering’s – or climbing the tree next to the Johns’ – or just about to win a game of “kick the can” – I would say, “gotta go” and I’d be turned around and run down the street, in the front door, and up the stairs to the kitchen sink to get washed up, then I’d sit down at the table.
My Mom’s voice meant Supper time!
It meant a time to feast on some my Mom’s delicious comfort food...some of my favorites were spaghetti; a creamy wild rice casserole; tacos – though my all-time favorite was tator-tot casserole – (we weren’t so big on Paleo, Keto or Whole Foods plant based and Low carb back then...) – however, I promise, I will bring tater-tot casserole as my contribution to the next all church potluck dinner!
As a child supper time was all about those favorite foods – as I’ve gotten older, I realize what I loved most was the chance to sit and eat together as a family and talk over the day’s highlights.
Our time for supper was our time for family relationships gathered around the kitchen table...
I didn’t know that the ritual of sitting together and saying a simple prayer like GOD is Great and God is Good then sharing food was so important – as I’ve aged though – I’ve come to appreciate how those meals helped me know I belonged / that I was part of a family...and that family was connected and when we got up from the supper table that we represented our family in the world.
On this World Communion Sunday, we are reminded that we are part of a global family connected to Christ-Followers throughout the world who are gathered around a table, this Communion Table...as we partake of the Lord’s supper.
We are part of the Christian family, and we gather to be nourished then go out into the world to represent the Christian family by how we interact with the world.
So, yes, it is time for supper!
It is time to celebrate the Sacrament of Communion, this meal which Jesus gave to his disciples – both 1st century and 21st century disciples – to nourish the faith of believers in the church community.
A brief refresher as to why sacraments are important-
First, Sacraments are God’s gracious gifts, given by Jesus the Christ to the church to establish, nurture and nourish faith.
As Presbyterians we celebrate 2 sacraments – Baptism and Lord’s Supper – because we believe they are rich symbolic acts instituted by Christ which constitute the CORE of our Christian life.
As the early church father Augustine taught, “[Sacraments] are an outward, visible sign of an inward, invisible grace”
As Presbyterians, one of the beliefs we hold regarding sacraments is that they are God’s way of reaching out to us in a visible way to convey God’s Word and work in this world.
Sacraments, you might say, “are the visible words of God.”
Some have called them Grace you can touch. I like that— Grace that you can touch…
When we celebrate the sacraments it should be like a bell ringing which reminds us how the gospel – the Good News of God’s grace is being celebrated.
GRACE, of course, being the undeserved/unmerited GIFT of God’s LOVE and Forgiveness – a reminder of the unspeakable deep joy of being God’s beloved children.
When we celebrate baptism – we have water to recall grace.
On Communion Sundays – we have juice and bread to recall grace.
The method of distribution is varied:
Regardless of the method, it all begins around a simple table – like the one down front in this Sanctuary...
Regardless of the name or the method – this Table is a place where we encounter God ... & where we are encountered by God ... and where something happens to us through the mystery of God’s grace and love at work in our lives...
This Table changes the way we interact in the world.
This Table shapes us in a way that allows us to realize our lives are not about us anymore – they are about something bigger – something holier – something beyond us and yet wholly a part of us.
This table – This meal is also a prelude to every table around which we will gather.
This Table shapes how we view all other tables around which we sit:
in our home,
in our favorite coffee shop,
in a school lunchroom,
in an office boardroom,
in a church committee meeting.
In worship we gather around this table to grow in faith that we will get up from our seats and from the around the table and go out into the world to sow and show faith in the lives of those around us....
In our text this morning Paul summarizes how Jesus instituted the meal.
However, if we read the text in isolation from the larger context we might miss something bigger....
To understand the situation, we go back to how the Lord’s supper was celebrated in the first century church. In the early church, the Lord’s supper was part of an actual meal that believers ate together...
The community ate to satisfy normal hunger, then at some point in the meal, they shared some simple bread and wine, probably along with prayer to make the symbolic connection to Jesus last meal.
We can surmise from the text it was like a potluck with each family bringing a dish to share...
We also learn from the context that some of the Christians in Corinth where not generous and were living with a self-serving “look out for yourself attitude....”
Paul was telling the Corinthians they were missing the point of the Lord’s supper and he called them to share their very best and so be a community of Christ united as partners in receiving God’s blessings...
The words “sharing” and “partners” are derived of the root word for Koinonia, the Greek word meaning the fellowship…
The fellowship we encounter & embody around this Table epitomizes our individual relation to Christ & to one another –
In this meal we have a lens through which the most important things about our faith in Christ are brought into focus.
In this meal we look with confidence toward the future when the end of the ages will come and Christ will come again....in the fullness of time.
In this meal we see most clearly how to relate to and with each other – right here & right now.
In this meal, we see how as life-long followers of Jesus the Christ we are embraced and empowered by God’s grace.
That’s why this table is different.
This table is about more than just doing this action – it’s becoming this action – it’s not just eating the body of Christ – it’s becoming the body of Christ!
Theologian Samuel Wells has put it, ‘We gather as the body of Christ to partake of the body of Christ in order to become more fully the body of Christ.’
➢ After having spent time around this table we are more fully equipped to be the hands & feet of God at work in this world.
➢ After having spent time around this table we are reminded how grace that is often difficult to see can become so fully present in our lives that we cannot help but to be changed.
➢ After having spent time around this table we begin to comprehend and embody a story that tells of God’s faithful love for the Creation.
And yet, while we can come to this table with a personal outlook as to what is happening here – we cannot control what happens around this table – we cannot control how grace might grip us when we gather around this table...
Some may come to the table and revel in the celebration…
Some may come and recall the depth and despair to which Christ endured that we might live freed from sin...
Some may come to this table and nothing – it feels like nothing more than a quick snack before the final hymn & benediction.
Then there are those times when we gather around this table and quiet unannounced tears flow and someone asks, “What happened?” and we can’t put into words the depth of emotion in our hearts, but we know the spark of the holy spirit has touched us....
Grace abounds around this table for there are faithful stories of God’s grace coming alive around this table.
I don’t know who she was – I don’t know her story – but God does – and in that moment God’s grace became as real to her as the taste of bread and juice.
That child was right, you know?
This bread – this juice ... they are good!
The Psalmist declares, “Taste & See that the Lord is good.”
Grace not only abounds around this table…grace also extends from this table.
While the table legs were a little wobbly, that table represented friendship, warmth, and an opportunity to stop and recharge before heading back out into the cold blustery world...
We, in the church, have a similar table, a table where grace abounds and from which grace extends in an often cold and blustery world.
Then they discovered something which surprised everyone.
The AD’s campaign director sent the parents away and invited their children to sit in front of the camera and answer the question, “If you could share a meal with anyone in the world, who would it be?”
The parents watched from a closed circuit in another room as the children – all of them – said they would most like to have dinner with their families.
Who doesn’t want to sit at a table with family?
Well, guess what?
It’s time for supper, with this, your family of faith...
All are invited…
All are included...
All are welcome…
Grace abounds around this table and grace extends from this table.
So, let’s eat.
To God be the glory…now…and forevermore.
Alleluia and Amen.