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Monday, October 5, 2020

"Everybody Drink" (Matthew 26:26-39)


October 4, 2020

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            I hate the sound of silence at the dinner table.  Several people sit together, but the only sounds are the clinking of silverware and the crunching of croutons and lettuce.  No one talks.  In this tension-filled quiet, you can hear someone’ gulping throat as they swallow their drink.  Much more pleasant is the loud intimacy of us chatting as we eat.  We talk, maybe about important things, maybe about nothing.  Either way, the meal is sacred time we share with one another. 

            “Drink with me.”  It could be a coke, a coffee, a beer; “with me” is the important part.  “I want you with me.”

            “While they were eating,” we read in Matthew 26.  The “we” is Jesus and the 12 disciples.  Having stayed with Matthew for 26 chapters, we know something important is coming.  Jesus has spent three years showing that the Kingdom of God is breaking into this present reality. 

            At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, in chapter 28, the resurrected Jesus instructs the disciples he has trained to go to all nations.  Last week, we stressed, from John 3:16, that God loves the world; that’s all people.  Now, we see, as Matthew closes, Jesus send his hand-picked disciples to all nations. 

            In this supper, where he breaks bread, “while they were eating,” he indicates what the disciples will do when they go to the nations.  They will grow communities of disciples.  Across the globe, they will multiply what Jesus has built because God so loves the world.

            He broke the bread and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  They could see him, the bread in his hands.  They weren’t eating his actual body.  He did not say he would turn himself into bread which they would eat.  Yet, somehow in future meals, when they ate bread, they would remember that he lived in them and they in Him. 

            A mystery, to be sure; these disciples would always be individuals made in the image of God.  Yet in Christ, they and we become one.  We talk about dying to self, dying in sin, being born again, becoming new creations; we pray that others would see Christ in us.  Eating that bread, we remember.  We are a part of Christ.  We affirm that He is in us and we are in him. 

            Next, he pours that dark red wine.  He calls it his blood, and he mentions covenant and forgiveness.  God made covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and David.  Each covenant affirms that God is the Lord and that humans are invited into relationship with God; God is master, Lord, Father, Savior; we are sons and daughters, forgiven and redeemed, new creations. 

            Jesus’ blood, the “blood of the covenant” as he calls it, is “poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”  To sin means to miss the mark.  When we sin, we reject God as Lord of our lives.  We put ourselves in God’s place.  We declare ourselves to be masters of our own destiny.  We hurt others because we see our own desires as more important than another’s wellbeing.  Sin takes countless forms, but generally speaking our sins can be categorized.  In some way, we violate one of the 10 commandments.  When we sin, we fail to love God and love neighbor.  It is a disruption in relationship. 

Forgiveness acknowledges that the relationship has been disrupted, but the acts of disruption, the sins, will no longer be held against us.  Forgiveness means relationship has been restored.  Our sins no longer count against us and community is possible once again.

Jesus then makes the point that the promised harmony is eternal.  “I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom” (26:29).  They watch him die on the cross, remember his words, and all seems lost.  But then, he comes to them, resurrected, and breaks bread with them, and drinks wine with them.  The risen Lord is with them in a tangible body, takes in food, and touches them.  His resurrection is the sign!  The eternal kingdom is inevitable and imminent. 

The promised unity of “while they were eating;” the removal of sin and restoration of relationship; the new era where death is defeated; it all comes to this.   Jesus dies out of faithfulness to God and our of love for us.  He is raised in the power of God.  And we know we can count on him.  What he promised will come to pass.  We will eat and drink with Him in the Kingdom.  He says to us, “I want you with me.”

Take another look at verse 27.  Jesus says, “Drink from it all of you.”  We hold these words from the Bible in our hands and in our hearts.  “All of you” meant the disciples.  “All of you” includes the people the disciples would meet when they went out into the world.  They made disciples who in turn passed the faith on to the next generation and then the next, continuing on down to us.  “All of you” includes all of us and all the people who will come to faith in Jesus through our witness.

The Lord’s table summarizes the entirety of the Gospel and encapsulates the narrative of salvation, yours and mine.  The Lord’s table is an instrument of unity.  Every person sins, causing a rip in the relationship with God and with neighbor.  The Lord’s table holds the promise of forgiveness and new life.  The Lord’s table is open to everyone.  “Drink from it all of you.”  Humanity comes together in Jesus. 

I don’t know if you watched the presidential debate this past Tuesday.  I don’t know if you read the reporting or commentary following the debate.  One conclusion I take from it is an image of a hard, unmovable line drawn right down the middle of America, and you have to fall on one side or the other.  You have to be red or blue.  Moreover, you have to demonize those opposite you.  This hard line dictates that we hate all those not on our side.

The air we Americans breathe fills us with tension and anxiety.  We’re set on edge, pushed into conflict.  Nothing could be further from Jesus’ command to love our neighbor than the current political climate in America.  We’re defined by what we’re against.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers another way of seeing and another way of living.  We are invited to take our seat at the Lord’s table and to love whomever sits down next to us.  Whoever it is, we have the freedom to say to that person, “I want you here with me.  Drink with me.”  There’s no enmity at this table; that which disrupts relationship – sin – has been forgiven.  Jesus said so.  There’s no exclusion at this table.  God so loved the world.  Drink from it all of you.  All are made in God’s image, all are welcomed, and all are loved. 

At this table, it’s not my job to judge anyone else.  It’s not for me to even judge myself.   We come to the table receiving from God.  We sit as forgiven sinners among forgiven sinners, and we are invited to love those on our left and right.  I believe Jesus offers the solution to every human problem, relief for every struggle.  More specifically, I believe a dangerous threat faces America right now: political polarization.  It is tearing us apart.  Jesus brings us back together.  Jesus unites us.  The only thing Jesus destroys is death.

“While they were eating;” you are invited to the Lord’s table.  “Drink from it, all of you.”  You are invited into the covenant, to be the people of God, sons and daughters of God living in relationships of peace and good will with God and with your neighbor; your Asian neighbor and Arabic neighbor, black and white; Latinx and Native American; red and blue. 

When the anxiety and tension of our times start to engulf you like choking smoke, and you feel your heart tremble and your courage fail, remember.  You are God’s child.  God’s got you.  God’s makes you new.  Our Lord Jesus tells us who we are.  He wants us at his table.  He says to us, “Drink with me, sit, laugh, talk.  I want you.”

We know God wins.  So, have hope and good cheer.  At this table, you have a place and nothing gets in the way of peace.




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