I know I am jumping the gun, but only by a couple of weeks.
And, I am not the first this year to do so. Sometime in the last week or so I saw a comment that one or two stores had already put up their holiday decorations…and I am not talking about Halloween.
And, so a quick survey. Please raise your hands in response to these questions.
- How many of you have begun to make plans for your holiday meals – either Thanksgiving or Christmas?
- How many of you hope or plan to have additional guests or family members at either one or both of those meals?
- If you have begun to plan for those occasions, how many of you have begun to think about what food you will serve?
- For those meals, how many of you will prepare something special?
- How many of you will probably prepare and serve more than what you will need?
- For those meals, how many of you have special china or special silverware which you use?
Yes…most, if not all of us, could raise our hands to most, if not all, of these questions.
Now back to the Bible for a moment…
And, to our celebration of World Communion Sunday…
And my feeble efforts to pull multiple strands together in a way that makes sense.
The reading this morning from the Sayings of Jesus describes a great banquet.
I can envision the scene because, like you, several times a year I enjoy a banquet.
I gather with family at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Extra chairs are pulled up to the table.
Extra tables are added to the room to accommodate the extra food.
There is not only enough. There is more than enough.
And, memories are built around those moments.
Memories of who was there.
And, sometimes of who was not.
Times when your family grew and extra chairs were added.
And times when you lost a loved one and a chair stood empty.
Am, I right?
Wonderful, memorable, meaningful moments.
But, about 10 years ago I realized that I had never really understood what Jesus was talking about.
Here is what happened.
For a week, I along with about twenty other people were living and working in the community of El Eden. In English…Eden, located in the municipality of Ticuantepe in Nicaragua which was and is the second most impoverished country in the western hemisphere.
The setting was beautiful.
A tiny community.
20 minutes down a rutted dirt road.
Located up against the hillsides created by an ancient volcano.
Surrounded by pineapple fields.
But, the living conditions were sparse.
Too many people in too small a space.
But we made do.
And, the food was simple.
Rice and beans and pineapple for most of the meals most of the week.
For our main meal on Friday we had asked if we could invite the families with whom we had worked, and also other members of the community to join us. At the end of the day, we arrived from work to see a larger than usual number of women cooking over their wood fires. More children than usual ran up to hold our hands and to walk with us. Grandparents stood shyly around the edges watching us and waiting for the meal.
It was a feast like I had never experienced.
Rice and beans and pineapple, and…
It was the first time in a week that any of us had eaten any meat.
And, the first time, in who knows how long, that any of the children or the women or the grandparents who shared that meal with us had had any meat. Looking back on that moment and that meal, for the first time I understood the story that Jesus told. Thanksgiving dinner is wonderful, but each day you and I have enough food and more. Christmas dinner is wonderful, but each day you and I have enough food and more.
The banquet that Jesus describes is a meal with food overflowing on a table for those who, in their wildest dreams like the people of El Eden, cannot imagine that much food let alone being invited to share in a meal that has that much food. The faces I now see as I read or hear this story are the faces of the mothers who protectively make sure their children stood in line and got a plate of the food. It is the lined faces of the grandparents who waited timidly around the edge hardly daring to believe that they have been invited to dinner. It is the laughing, smiling, giggling faces of the children who ate too quickly and then lined up for more.
A grand banquet.
Can you imagine it?
But, the story that Jesus told was not simply about a meal, was it?
It was about what Jesus called the Kingdom of God.
What life would be like…
What the world would be like…
If God were in charge and Caesar was not.
And, Jesus was constantly saying to those who would listen that the Kingdom about which he spoke was not some great by and by, but was to be found in our midst.
Just where you are.
Just as you are.
The Kingdom of God.
Children laughing and eating and lining up to get another plateful of food.
Not only enough. More than enough.
With that image in mind, today we celebrate World Communion Sunday.
Where, with a small piece of bread baked by our children and a sip of juice barely enough to wet our lips, we remember that it is all about…
How God intends the world to be.
How God imagines our lives to be.
Bountiful beyond our imagination.
With second helpings for us and for all.