Love One Another as I Have Loved YouPosted: May 10, 2015
Love One Another as I Have Loved You
SLIDE 3: SHARING TABLE
“Love one another as I have loved you.” John created the context but these may be the actual words of Jesus. Jesus has gathered us together to follow him and become the people of love. The symbol of the ministry of Jesus is healing and the Sharing Table. Jesus invited people from different classes, races, nationalities, political opinions and theologies to sit down and eat together. To talk and listen to each other. To love one another and show compassion to all people in need. This was a radical vision in a culture driven by wealth, status and a religious caste system.
SLIDE 4: CULTURE WARS
The Sharing Table is still a radical vision in a culture and a nation that is increasingly polarized. Already we can see how our next elections are being set up to further divide people by pandering to anger and fear. Bringing diverse people together to share food and hospitality is a radical vision of love.
SLIDE 5: MOLLY BASKETTE – REAL GOOD CHURCH
Molly Baskette, author of Real Good Church, in a recent Still Speaking Devotion highlighted the importance of the Sharing Table, when she wrote about Ecclesiastes 11:1 — “Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back.”
Mason Wartman always has a line of customers out of the door of Rosa’s, his pizza shop in Philly. It might not be the best pizza in town, but it’s the kindest. Colorful Post-its flutter on the walls of the shop like Tibetan prayer flags. Each one is a love-note to the future: a voucher for one free slice of pizza, bought by a paying customer who knows that the next person in the door might be broke.
SLIDE 6: ROSA’S PIZZA SHOP In the last year alone, Mason’s community has bought more than 10,000 slices of pizza for each other, using the simple, elegant post-it strategy Mason devised. Mason’s ritual works because it’s not charity. It’s communion. Charity can do a lot of good, but charity also sometimes brings dented castoffs from the back of the pantry to the food drive and calls it love.
SLIDE 7: COMMUNION IS NOT CHARITY Charity makes inequality radically visible. Communion makes inequality radically invisible. In the early church, communion was not a symbolic ritual, but a full meal — for some, the only meal they’d get that day. Imagine: platters of hot bread as big as your face gracing the table, and everybody eating their fill. Theoretically, nobody knew who was rich one, poor one, beggar one, slave. It was a meal designed to erase those boundaries, because we are all beggars in the eyes of God.” We are all in need of the charity, the love of God. For God sends the rain and the sunshine in season, that we might all be able to eat.
SLIDE 8: HOW DO WE BRING PEOPLE TO THE TABLE?
But how can we make the Sharing Table work? How do we bring people to the Table? If we believe in the power of love. God will give us what we need to make the Sharing Table work. If we ask for God’s help we will receive. God has chosen us. Now let us trust God’s judgment that we can do it.
SLIDE 9: SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS
The institutional church right now is faced with life threatening challenges. Young people have deserted the institutional church in droves. We are perceived as judgmental, self-serving and irrelevant. The increasing number of people who report themselves to be “spiritual but not religious” are not interested in serving on boards or committees, or writing by-laws, or organizing bake sales. Some of the young are surprisingly interested in liturgy and ritual, but they seek worship that inspires awe and wonder not ceremonial routines that put people to sleep.
SLIDE 10: RITUALIZED MEAL
So how do we mentor new people into the community of faith? How do we inspire them to love one another as Jesus loves us? I believe the ritualized meal is still our best method for introducing young people into the fellowship of Jesus. Eating together, our favorite activity, helps us to bond with one another, and when we participate in communion we bond with Jesus — “Do this to remember me.” Right now Jesus is popular in our common culture, especially the non-judgmental loving Jesus of our extravagant welcome: “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”
SLIDE 11: COMMUNION IS THE REMEMBERED KNOT
Remember Rabbi Rami’s ropes? We tied knots in our ropes to represent our immortality in God who is everything. Also remember how we played with our ropes and discovered that when the knots are untied there is a memory of the knot left in the rope. We are all preserved in the silent memory of God? Communion is that memory of Jesus that can inspire us to seek a fellowship at the Sharing Table to bridge with love all barriers of social class, race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, theology and ideology.
SLIDE 12: CHILDREN’S SERMONS
The minister said, “The Bible speaks of Holy Communion being a ‘joyful feast’. What does that mean?” He then continued, “Well, ‘joyful’ means happy, right? And a feast is a meal. So a ‘joyful feast’ is a happy meal. And what are the three things we need for a happy meal?”
At that point one of the kids piped up as loud as he could, “Hamburger, fries, and a regular soft drink?”
SLIDE 13: FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY POTLUCK
Communion is not a McDonald’s “Happy Meal!” But when we celebrate communion within the context of a full meal – the Sharing Table – then we become part of the “Fellowship of the Holy Potluck.” We break down barriers between us. We no longer just sit with our “friends,” or remain within our little cliques, where we feel comfortable, rather we reach out to people we may not have met yet. We dare to break bread with people we don’t know yet. In that process we begin to mentor new people into the life of the congregation. New people mix with long time members, and the Fellowship of the Holy Potluck grows. Not only do we grow by making new friends, we grow in the Spirit by mentoring new people with new ideas into leadership.
SLIDE 14: FAITH
We cannot stand still. Becoming the followers of Jesus is a venture of faith, faith to have the courage to try out new ideas, new ways of doing church, and trusting new people to help provide the leadership we need to move forward. Faith is going off on a mindfulness retreat not quite knowing in advance what is going to happen.
SLIDE 15: WHERE ARE YOUR UMBRELLAS?
On the subject of faith I saw a good story this week. One long hot summer, a drought threatened the crop in a small farming community. On a hot and dry Sunday, the village parson told his congregation, “There isn’t anything that will save us except to pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain.”
The people did as they were told and returned to church the
following Sunday. But as soon as the parson saw them, he was
furious. “We can’t worship today,” he proclaimed, “you do not yet believe.”
“But,” some of the people protested from the pews, “we prayed, and we do believe.”
“Believe?” the parson thundered, “then where are your umbrellas?”
SLIDE 16: FAITH IS A VERB
Now faith is Matt Youngkin getting ready to give away Bibles at the Yardsale. Faith was Bill Green accepting the Moderatorship at the age of 81 and asking his friends to pray for him to have the strength to finish his term. Faith is Brian Berry planning for a new and better contemporary worship. Faith is the Bill Chew booking enough cabins for twice the people who have signed up to go to Camp Sumatanga. Faith is every Thursday evening offering to feed anyone who comes to the Sharing Table no matter what. Faith is believing that when we gather together to pray that Jesus really is among us. Faith is breaking the bread and sharing the cup believing that God will give us the power to do whatever we are asked to do to follow Jesus.
SLIDE 17: UNITED CHURCH CAN FLY
Take a risk. Have a little faith. And let the Holy Spirit blow through this congregation so we can fly!