The Table of God's Future
On Sunday I will conclude my six-sermon series I've titled "Eating with Jesus." The series is part of our congregation's nearly year long emphasis on the Open Table and Mission, which is being funded by a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (and the Lilly Endowment). We've been having some really great conversations, and hopefully in the end we will have a better sense of the meaning of the Table (we celebrate weekly as Disciples) and its relationship to our call to mission. This past weekend Dr. Mark Love of Rochester College spoke to this very subject, helping us better understand mission (it's more than outreach) and Table/Worship. We gather, he reminded us, as part of God's New Creation in Christ, that is, we are part of God's new social reality in Christ, where there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male and female (Gal. 3:28). We serve as a witness to the world of God's reconciling work in Christ. Envisioning ourselves as that reconciled people, that is a new social reality having taken form, where the church serves as a witness to reconciliation can be a challenge, because we tend to think of communion in very personal/private terms.
In any case, in my final sermon this series, I;m turning to Matthew's version of the institution of the Lord's Supper. In Matthew 26:29, Jesus says: "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." This is an important connector of the Last Supper with the Great Banquet in Heaven. While Jesus does share post-resurrection meals in Luke and John, there is no post-resurrection meal in Matthew or Mark. This gives the Supper an eschatological feel.
Jurgen Moltmann writes that the "Lord's Supper can be a token of the future. Then the bread and wine are symbols of the great future Shalom feast of the nations and are understood as the beginning of the universal banquet of the kingdom. The supper of the hoping church is a foretaste of the messianic banquet of all mankind." [The Church in the Power of the Spirit, p. 253]. Andrea Bieler and Luise Schottroff write something similar in their book The Eucharist. They take note of the reference to the Twelve, which serves not just as a number of people at the table, but as a sign of the dispersed people of Israel, connecting the future of Israel and the nations in this meal of redemption and reconciliation. They write:
The messianic meal at God's table will unite the dispersed tribes of Israel with the peoples of the world (Matt. 8:11; Mark 13:27; even though the meal is not mentioned here, this saying of Jesus belongs within this context). The community at table stands for God's future, when all people, all nations, will eat together at God's table. This hope for the festival of the nations is linked with the expectation of the messianic meal, but also with the description of the group of disciples as "the Twelve." The reassembly of the dispersed people is associated with the expectation of a larger community of nations. [The Eucharist, p. 54].
We gather at Table as part of God's reconciled community, bearing witness to a future banquet, even as we remember an earlier banquet, when Jesus gathered at Table with the Twelve, prior to his death and his resurrection. We gather as a people not just remembering that past, but also anticipating a future when, as Isaiah envisions: "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear" (Isaiah 25:6).