The Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
- Introit: The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord, alleluia: by the word of the Lord were the heavens made, alleluia, alleluia. -- (Ps. 32. 1). Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: praise is comely for the upright.
Meals are a very central part of the ministry of Jesus. Some meals get him into trouble, as when he chooses to eat with “sinners” and those outside the faith. Other meals are acts of abundance, as when Jesus feeds the five thousand by taking what is available and blesses, breaks, and distributes it until and all are fed. His last evening of fellowship with his disciples is focused on a meal, during which he institutes the Lord’s Supper.
Eating together is a sign of celebration of relationships being lived out. Most congregations like having meals together because they like being with each other, eating good food. So do families.
There are sacred and holy things that underlie the common meal. We know they are signs of Christ’s risen presence among us. Jesus’ use of the Passover meal to institute the Lord’s Supper ties the ritual meal, a meal recalling God’s deliverance, with a new relationship with Christ and one another. It becomes the spiritual meal that brings us all to a common table, in right relationship with God and each other. That is why it has become central to our common life as Christians.
Healing is part of the experience of eating with the risen Lord. Several years ago, a woman moved back to a small town, followed shortly by her son, who was dying of AIDS. The community accepted them both, but after his death, she had a difficult time with church and God. She was often angry and short-tempered. However, she continued to stay involved with the community, and then one weekend she attended a workshop about Bible study, followed by a fellowship meal. The next day she came to her pastor in tears and said, “You know, after the study yesterday, the meal last night, and Eucharist this morning, I’m not angry anymore.” The power of the communal and spiritual meals was a significant element in her inner healing.
Righteousness is also part of the meal experience, “righteousness” meaning right relationships based on the just treatment of all people. Scholars tell us that one fundamental difference between our world and that of the early church is that the early church existed in a world with a clearly defined ruling class and a subjugated class. So, there were people with whom you ate, and people with whom you did not eat. Slaves, the poor, Samaritans, and gentiles were kept separate from those of wealth and privilege. Jesus re-wrote the rules by associating with and eating with people of all categories; they were all God’s people to him.
Recently a small church, after many conversations, decided to host a meal for people in the neighborhood, most of who were of a different ethnic and social background. With the assistance of the local mayor, they invited people to come – and they came! The evening was centered on a meal prepared by the church members. The children played with a soccer ball while the adults sat at the table and talked. The mayor awarded door prizes to everyone, and afterward, people remarked how much fun it had been. They are considering doing it again. This is the kind of meal the risen Jesus calls us to, a table for others as well as ourselves, a righteous meal to which all are welcome.
Finally, the meal becomes a source of our hope. In today’s psalm, which is also included as part of the service of Compline in the Book of Common Prayer, the psalmist says: “Many are saying, ‘O, that we might see better times!’” All of us live with some fear and concern over our current economic situation. As more and more of us feel the stress of the times, our prayers for stability, for jobs for all, for honesty and fairness in our economic system, bring us to utter the psalmist’s words as our own – that we might see better times.
The psalmist continues with the great words of praise, even in the midst of these troubling times of war and economic distress: “You have put gladness in my heart, more than when grain and wine and oil increase.” And so the Eucharistic meal becomes the source of our comfort and hope that we might see better times and lie down in peace.
At the center of the Resurrection is the meal of celebration: the bread and the cup. Christians understand other meals in relationship to the Eucharist, and when they include all who are hungry or thirsty, they are a foretaste of that heavenly banquet where we will one day feast with him in paradise.
The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread. May each of us meet the risen Lord and know him.