Friday, April 6, 2012

A Place to Belong!

We all want to belong.
In fact all of our growing up years are spent trying to belong.
Trying to like the right music, dress in fashionable clothes, and be cool.
Our whole human instinct makes us want to belong.
Biologically we are made social creatures who want to be accepted by others.
Perhaps that is why religion has been such a powerful force.
Ever since humans could talk and write there has been a belief in God, and a need to codify it.
What draws people together is a need to belong.

And yet…We spend so much of our life feeling like outsiders, like we don’t belong.
Tonight we come together to remember a powerful night.
It is a night that we reproduce every time we gather as a worshipping community it is a night, when Jesus drew all things to himself, when he gave a gift of belonging.
Tonight we heard from St. Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.
St. Paul is writing to a church that is in conflict.
The church in Corinth was divided and some were made to feel that they didn’t belong because they didn’t have the status of others.
Some could talk in tongues and others couldn’t.
Some had more money and used it to exclude the poorer members of the community.
Some were spreading division by teaching different doctrines.
Paul is trying to pull them all together.
So he tells them about a meal that happened with Jesus and his disciples on the night he was betrayed.
He is handing off the gift that he received.
It is the gift of the meal that bonds us together, and that makes us belong.

It is regrettable that over the centuries the very thing that is supposed to bring us together has been the thing that has become the symbol of our separation.
As Christians one of the things that we should be united over is that in this meal that Jesus gave us we can come together.
Perhaps the meal has even greater meaning for us.
Perhaps it could be the place where we all come together.

The Passover meal was originally the meal of remembering God’s release of the Israelites from captivity.
Jesus uses that meal as a way to expand the plan of God’s salvation.
God’s plan of salvation is not only for Israelites, it is for anyone who remembers that history, and the history of God’s salvation.
Jesus expands the meal so that even more people belong at the table.
It is too bad that we have made God so small as to believe that this meal is only for those who believe what we believe.
It is only for those that hold the same doctrinal positions that I have.
This meal is for all.
It is a meal given in grace.
Consider that Jesus celebrates this meal with Judas his betrayer, and Peter his denier, and the rest of his disciples that will abandon him.
Jesus knows that the “shepherd will be struck and the sheep will scatter”.
But he is there anyway, offering himself up.
Jesus knows that those of us who come here are broken too.
We are not without sin.
I will never understand why people who have sinned feel that they can’t come to celebrate communion.
This is exactly where you belong because it reminds you of forgiveness and grace given in Jesus Christ.
It is where we belong.
We belong because God has invited us.

In high school I went to a party.
I didn’t really know the people throwing the party, and I hadn’t really been invited.
It was one of those things were a friend of mine had heard that it was happening.
“Come on man, come with me to this party it will be great.”
So and so told me that it was going to happen.
I got there and some other people had pulled up before us.
They too had gotten hold of the news of this party.
Someone came out of the house and started yelling at the people in the car that just pulled up.
“Casey, you are not invited get out of here.”
“Go home”
Perhaps we shouldn’t go in either.
But my friend insisted that all was well.
We went in but you know I never felt welcomed.
I wasn’t really invited.
I didn’t really belong there.

This is much different picture from what we get tonight.
Tonight everyone belongs.
No one is asked to go home, or made to feel unwelcomed.
Tonight we are invited to come.
You are welcomed here at the table that Jesus has prepared for you.

Tonight everything is ready the food and drink, the host has even made sure your feet are cleaned from your long journey.
Tonight we all belong.

Perhaps someone here tonight does not feel that they believe totally everything.
Tonight perhaps some of you have questions or doubts.
Are you welcomed too?
Of course, Jesus did not ask everyone to make a profession of faith before offering his life for them.
He gave it freely as a gift.

The other things in our life, that we belong to, have to do with status and/or our abilities.
If you belong to a sport team it is because you have a special ability.
If you belong to the YMCA it is because you paid for it.
If you belong to club of some sort it is because you have some common interest with the people there.
If you belong to singing group it is because of you talent.
If you belong at work it is because you have a skill and you are judged based on how well you perform your tasks.
Tonight Jesus invites us, through this meal, to belong.
Nothing is needed from you only your presence.

Jesus invites us all rich and poor, those with spiritual gifts and those who are poor in spirit, those who are sure and those who doubt those who think they are sinless and those riddle with guilt, those who have found and those still searching.
Here is the place for you.
Jesus has set everything up perfect.
It is bread and wine with words of remembering what God has done for us.
When we share this meal we remember that God free the Israelites from slavery.
We remember that Jesus frees us from sin and death.
We remember that God forgives us and loves us.
We remember that Jesus is the one who comes to serve.
We remember that we belong.

For me the table is a sign of God’s kingdom.
It is the place where we belong.
It is the place that we call home.
The place we feel equal.
And the place that we most feel loved.
This is the place we belong.

So tonight it is not I but Jesus who invites and welcomes you.
Jesus sets tonight a feast before us of mercy and grace, a feast of bread and wine, water, and word.
Tonight we are our dirt is washed and we are welcomed into a place of love.
With Jesus we know that we always belong.

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