Skip to content

The Spirit of God in Daily LIfe: At Our Table

September 4, 2011


Sermon:  The Spirit of God in Daily Life:  At Our Table
Text:  Luke 24:13-35

Our Scripture for today is a passage that we usually identify with Easter, but it seems to be an appropriate passage to conclude our series The Spirit of God in Daily Life.  I invite you to turn with me to Luke 24:13-35.  Hear now the Word of God.

                  13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
            17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
            19 “What things?” he asked.
           “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
              25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
            28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
            30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
            33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

This is the Word of God for the people of God.

In our home at lunch today, we will gather for a meal that will include some fraction of our family.  Some of our children and at least four of our grandchildren plan to eat with Clare and me.  We will enjoy a simple meal of fried chicken and all the fixings.  No, you are not invited.  I am sorry.  We will eat Sunday dinner in the same room and at the same table where I have eaten Sunday dinner many times.  When I was just a little boy, I remember having a Sunday meal in that very room of the house my grandparents built and occupied.  I first sat at that table in Macon, Georgia.  It was then moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to Leesville, South Carolina, and finally to Spartanburg at our place.  That table first belonged to Clare’s grandmother and then to Clare’s mother.

Both the room and the table have a rich history.  Booster chairs, high chairs, and at least one Bumbo chair will surround that table today, as will two antique chairs that came from a cotton-seed crushing mill in Savanna, Georgia.  Mr. Jack, Clare’s father, gave those two to Clare and me after we were married.  The other chairs include some that belonged to Clare’s grandmother and some that belonged to my grandmother.

That table emphasizes something of our family history.  It emphasizes something of our unity.  The members of our family do not all think the same.  We do not all vote the same.  In fact, I am very confident that in the most recent presidential elections, at least one of my children canceled my vote.  We do, however, love each other.  We gather in that special room around that special table because we are a family.  Gathering there is one way we affirm our unity as a family.

My dad’s rules, when it came to meals, did not necessarily comply with those of Emily Post.  Dad said, “We eat meals the same way we shoot pool.  You have to keep one foot on the floor.”  He talked about what he called the “boarding house reach”:  if you could see it and reach it, you could have it.  Mama was a little more refined.  Her motto was, “People do better if they are well fed.”

I want to ask you to fold your hands, just for a moment, by interlocking your fingers.  Look down and notice which thumb is on top.  If your right thumb is on top, raise your hand.  Now, if your left thumb is on top, raise your hand.  It is amazing that the result is always about half and half.

Now, fold your arms so that one hand is on top of an arm and one is tucked under an arm.  Look down and notice which hand is visible.  If your right hand is visible, raise your hand.  Now, raise a hand if your left hand is visible.  Again, the ratio is about half and half.

I want you to fold your hands again, but now interlock your fingers in exactly the opposite way so that the other thumb is on top.  It just does not quite feel the same, does it?  Now, fold your arms so that the other hand is on top.  It makes you feel like a pretzel, doesn’t it?  Everyone can fold their hands and cross their arms, but look at how different we are.  We are so alike yet so different.  We are all individuals with unique qualities.

The family is the same way.  We do not all have to be exactly alike.  We do not have to agree on everything.  We do not have to have the same political views.  We can have different views about different issues.

We come as a family today to this table before us, a table that has been a part of this Sanctuary for a long time.  Many good folks who have gone on to heaven gathered around this table in the past.  They now gather around another banquet table in heaven.  When we come to this table, we become mindful of those Christians we have known and loved, those who were a part of this fellowship, those who gathered here with us at one time.  We also become conscious of something very special that happens here.  We become keenly aware of the Lord Jesus Christ who invites us to this table.  We encounter the living Christ.

I know that sometimes when we observe the Lord’s Supper, you may not feel that closeness.  At other times, this very special observance draws you into the presence of Christ.  Something like that happens in Emmaus to Cleopas and his companion as they walk along the road, sad and down-hearted.  We are not told the identity of Cleopas’ companion.  It may have been a friend, a sibling, or even his wife.  I am rather glad that the companion is never named.  That omission allows me to put myself in this story.  I can become the companion to Cleopas.  You can, too.

As these companions walk toward Emmaus, grief-stricken because of Jesus’ death, who appears?  Jesus himself though the two do not recognize him until the breaking of bread.  Even though it was already dark at that point, Cleopas and his traveling companion turn around and walk the seven miles back to Jerusalem.  They want to share this good news with the family, those who share a faith in Christ Jesus.  Without cell phones or computers, they must walk back to Jerusalem and tell this information face-to-face, person-to-person.  They learn that those believers have also seen the risen Christ.

Can you imagine the great joy there in the middle of the night when these believers all confirm that Jesus has risen and that they have seen him?  Can you imagine what meals were like in Emmaus, when they later went back to that same table?  I imagine at times they had meals when they might not have given that encounter a second thought.  My guess is that every now and then, at least, they sat down together and remembered that one Sunday night supper when they recognized him in the breaking of bread.

I look forward to sharing this meal.  It is here that we have an awareness that in the breaking of bread, we experience the presence of Christ, the invisible presence of God.  We began our summer at this table, and we conclude our summer here at this table because we are a family.

Some have asked me, “Kirk, will this Extreme Makeover divide this congregation?”  The answer to that question is no.  We will have some good discussion, and we will not all agree on every point.  Are we going to let that discussion disrupt our unity as a family?  I am not, and I hope you are not either.  We have a higher calling, a higher purpose.  Our purpose is to be the family of God, the body of Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  We have no better reminder of that purpose than this table.

In some traditions, believers come forward to receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper.  It is as if the pastor says, “Come and get it.”  Believers line up in the aisles and come to the altar.  That custom is fine.  It does require initiative on the part of those who partake.  In our tradition, we most often serve this meal family style.  We pass the plates, serving each other, a symbol of the fact that we serve as priests to each other.  Today, we will serve the meal family style.  As we do, I want you to recognize our connection with fellow church members, with fellow Christians.  We celebrate here our uniqueness as individuals.  We celebrate our unity in Christ.  We celebrate the presence of the living Lord.

I remind you that this table does not belong to Morningside.  The table does not belong to Baptists.  This is the Lord’s Table, and any who acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Lord are invited to partake.  We will now take the supper together.

On the night when Jesus was betrayed, he took bread.  He blessed it, broke it, and said, “This is my body, broken for you.”

Prayer for the Bread:  Dear heavenly Father, I come humbly at this time, very grateful for the opportunity to take part in this meal.  Father, I thank You for Your love and for the gift of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.  Jesus, I thank you for your willingness to die for us, to sacrifice your body for us.  Father, I pray that You would bless these wafers – this sign of Christ’s body – and bless us in ways that we will always be mindful of the gift of salvation.  We ask these things in Your name.  Amen.

We sometimes sing a wonderful song on the observance of the Lord’s Supper:

In remembrance of me take this bread. 
Take, eat, and be comforted. 
Drink and remember too
That this is my body and precious blood
Shed for you, shed for you. 
In remembrance of me, heal the sick… 
In remembrance of me search for truth… 
In remembrance of me always love… 
In remembrance of me search your heart for God. 
Do this in remembrance of me. 

Jesus said, “This bread is my body given for you.”  Eat it as often as you eat it in remembrance of him.  Eat all of it.

Prayer for the Cup:  As we come to this moment, our Father, as we drink from the cup, we remember that we often sing “There is power in the blood.”  So, the remembrance and the power – the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ – come to our hearts and minds.  Thank you.  In his precious name, we pray.  Amen.

In remembrance of me, take this cup.
Take, eat, and be comforted.
Drink and remember too
This is my body and precious blood
Shed for you, shed for you.
In remembrance of me, search for truth.
In remembrance of me, always love.
In remembrance of me, look in your heart for God.
Do this in remembrance of me.

Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  Drink it as often as you drink it in remembrance of him.  Drink all of it.

We are going to sing the beautiful hymn “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus” as our hymn of invitation, our hymn of commitment.  It is at this time that we invite people who do not know Christ Jesus as their Savior to acknowledge him, accept him, make him the Lord of their life.  We invite your response to God’s invitation.

Kirk H. Neely
© September 2011

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: