Paul, whose conversion we have heard about today, played a key role in developing the theology of reconciliation, both between God and humans, and between Jews and Gentiles. We have also heard how Peter went through a kind of reconciliation, both to Christ and to the ministry Christ called him to. And we heard in Revelation about the final fruits of reconciliation, the worship around the throne of Heaven, where those who God graciously reconciled to Himself are united in worship. Even the psalmist experienced a separation from God, but then experienced the joy and relief of being reunited with his Lord.
This table is a table of reconciliation, drawing together people to God, and the people of God. We are united as the Body of Christ by the Blood of Christ. Rich and poor, old and young, various ethnicities and nationalities, divergent political beliefs--all are called to this table, to unite in humility and worship to the Master of this Table.
So what happens to that unity, that reconciliation, when we leave this table? It’s hard, it takes real work and serious grace, to embody and fulfill the unity Christ calls us to. And sometimes it seems like living in the age of the Internet makes it even harder to do so. We have less need to speak face to face, or even to hear another’s voice over the phone, what with text messages, emails, and the like. And then there’s the anonymity of the Internet--in hiding us from each other, our fallenness all too often is revealed, as civility disappears with our names.
We retreat into our comfort zones, where everyone we see and read thinks and believes like us. We don’t have to do the hard work of understanding people who are very different from ourselves. Reconciliation takes really listening, treating others as fellow well-beloved children of God, by loving them with all the ways they differ from us. It takes a kind of strength of will and spirit to keep your focus on love, even as you genuinely, deeply, seek the truth, prayerfully asking that God would reveal the truth to both of you.
I challenge you to do more than just eat the bread and drink the juice of remembrance here, remembering the Prince of Peace and Reconciliation at His table. I challenge you to also make a specific, conscious, pre-planned effort to eat a meal with someone in this congregation that you disagree with. Over food and drink of perhaps a more mundane sort, learn more about, and pray for, this other. Speak the truth--don’t politely avoid the hard subjects--but do it always in love. Find your common ground. Don’t demand or expect that the other will change their minds about the areas where you differ. But perhaps in knowing more about the other person, you will find more fertile ground in which to grow a deeper love for them.
For this is what the Lord himself said, and I pass it on to you just as I received it. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant between God and you, sealed by the shedding of my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it." For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord's death until Jesus comes again.
Bridges of reconciliation can also be built by sharing resources. I know that many of you understand this because I’ve seen you do it. I believe we are called to support the work of this congregation, this community, by putting our part into this plate. But just as you can invite someone to your table outside of this table, you can use your resources in other, more direct ways to acknowledge the kingship, to spread the kingdom, of God. This plate is just the beginning.