This is one of the readings for today: Luke 22:14-30 The Message
14-16 When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.”
Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, “Take this and pass it among you. As for me, I’ll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives.”Taking bread, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory.”0 He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.
“Do you realize that the hand of the one who is betraying me is at this moment on this table? It’s true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out—no surprises there. But for the one who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man, this is doomsday. 3 They immediately became suspicious of each other and began quizzing one another, wondering who might be about to do this.
Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. But Jesus intervened: “Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It’s not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.
“Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You’d rather eat and be served, right? But I’ve taken my place among you as the one who serves. And you’ve stuck with me through thick and thin. Now I confer on you the royal authority my Father conferred on me so you can eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregations of God’s people.
What I miss when I don’t go to church is communion. It is for Disciples of Christ a weekly occasion as we worship together. When I served as a pastor I routinely received communion three times a week – two Sunday services and when I preached at Oakleaf.
There are people who say that might be too much – it then becomes routine. Which, of course, is possible. But I will say that the images of this meal are so powerful that it usually was meaningful to me.
What I notice in this reading today is the reaction of the disciples. When Jesus announces that one will betray him – they looked around in wonder at who that could be? Then the next scene is a dispute about who was to be regarded as the greatest. So two verses – back to back – indicate our human dilemma of trying to rank and rate each other. Who is the betrayer? Who is the greatest?
Meanwhile Jesus presides over a meal and invites us into a life of service and love. And he turns everything upside down by giving us “Royal Authority” as we take care of his people. It is a Kingdom where power is found in giving.
So, Christmas could reflect that kingdom of giving as we await the birth of the king. Except for many of us – myself included – there is a desire for mutuality. I give to you and you give to me. If I give to you and you don’t give to me, maybe you feel guilty or resentful and I feel superior. It can be tricky. I spend approximately what you spend. It is fair and equal. Or we try and honestly for most of us maybe Christmas really isn’t a reflection of that Kingdom.
When we live in that Kingdom life, we understand that we are all invited to the table that is a circle in which everyone is equal and loved. I will always remember the words of John Claypool who preached: “God loves each of us as if we were the only one. God loves all as God loves each.”
Last night in my book club we discussed the book The Warmth of Other Suns, the epic book about the decades long migration of African Americans who fled the south for northern and western cities searching for a better life. This was post civil war from 1915 – 1970. We all agreed that we have so much to learn about the effects of the sin of racism that infected our country – the sin that presupposed that some people were better than others. And those who kept slaves, lived by Jim Crow laws, participated in systemic racism were often people who were Christian and went to the communion table on a regular basis and saw themselves as disciples of Christ.
All of which says to me that we all have a great capacity for denial of the ways in which we continue to judge, label, reject and dismiss different kinds of people. Forgetting that at the heart of it all is Jesus – giving of himself to everyone – including his betrayer. And loving.
So, during this time of Advent preparation maybe we should do a heart check and ask God to reveal to us the ways we excuse our judgments and refuse to serve certain people God puts in our life . That is what we all do.
The last time I took communion – as I tasted the bread and sipped the cup – I felt like God said to me - “You are mine.” That is what I need to hear as I muddle through the challenges and the joys of living with other people.
May the God of SERVICE be with you.
May God minister to you in your vulnerability.
May you know God's giving presence in your powerlessness and in your humanity.
May you serve the needs of all those whose path of struggle and need crosses your own.
And may they know the healing touch of God through your service and presence.
May the God of SERVICE be with you.