Sunday, December 7, 2008

You Are Welcome At The Table

“Is it not incredible that God makes Himself known?” So began the service as Pastor Shannon welcomed us on this chilly Sunday morning. Not only has God made Himself known, He has invited us to fellowship with Him. Today, on this second Sunday in advent, our theme revolved around the Lord’s table.

1) Be sure to bring your soup cans for Covenant World Relief next week
2) The Christmas Program will be next Sunday at 4:00 p.m. Practice, for all involved in the program, will be Saturday morning from ten till noon at the church.
3) All were invited to an Open House at Brad & Brooke Shannons after the service.

As we entered into worship, Chuck read us a passage from Mark 14, about the Last Supper, an intro to the song In the Upper Room with Jesus by the quartet. The Borndal family lit the advent candle this week, and after a time of worship, Joanne read Scriptures from Isa. 64:1-9 and Mark 1:1-8.

There are many needs among us and we entered a time of prayer reminded of the reality that when we are struggling, this is a place where one can find hope.

You Are Welcome at the Table

Pastor Brad began his message by asking a simple question. Who is welcome at this table. By this he is referring to the communion table where we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

To make his points he began my mentioning that last week we had Cyber Monday, possibly the big day of the year for online shopping. Catalog shopping, however, is not obsolete. In point of fact, more than 10,000 companies sell products via direct mail catalogs. 13.5 billion catalogs are mailed each year and 55% of buy something from one of these catalogs, spending more than 51 billion dollars this past year.

He cited a number of these catalogs many of us receive such as Land’s End, L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, etc. In a light hearted manner he made observations like this one, that the images portrayed in catalogs from different companies are like different neighborhoods. One catalog might be filled with scenes from Hermantown, another from East End neighborhoods, etc. One catalog conveys a look of stylish but not stuck up. Another projects that elitist chic that appeals to some.

But in all of them, what you see are people generally in perfect weather, perfect clothes, perfect health. There are no sick or elderly people or broken people. The kids are perfect, and there is no hint of death, disease, or personal problems.

Perhaps some of you aspire to live in one of these catalog neighborhoods, Brad suggested. But then he cited the well known passages from Ecclesiastes in which all is summed up as vanity and a meaningless chasing after wind.

The theme today, then, had to do with outlining the path to the Lord’s table. L.L. Bean is a nice catalog, but not the path to this place. In point of fact, despite the apparent inequities we see in monetary terms, life ultimately is a great leveler. It has been said that “the ground beneath the cross is level.” When we come to Christ is it because of our universal need for hope and for a Savior.

In the presence of Christ’s brokenness, we see real blood on His face, His back, His body, real wounds in His hands, His feet, His side.

Our privilege at being able to come to Him is not because we have a 4WD vehicle and come from a perfect neighborhood. We come to the table because we know we are not perfect, but broken.

We were reminded that some may not feel the need, but the truth is that in this world there will be trouble for all of us sooner or later.

Some Christians, some church, have become skilled at drawing lines. If you’re not perfect, if you’re don’t look you come from Catalog America, you might be excluded.

Christ comes to this table and invited people like you and me, with their grief, with their broken dreams…. as they are. And as Isaiah notes, “By His stripes we are healed.”

The great miracle is that Jesus did not exclude. Pastor Brad illustrated this point vividly in retelling the story of the dinner at Levi’s house where there were tax collectors, sinners and even a prostitute. Jesus was confronted about this, but replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor…”

Pastor Brad proposed the idea that too often the church excludes people from fellowship until they meet some kind of criteria making them worthy. Jesus, as illustrated in the story above, turned this Pharisaical notion on its head. Fellowship is first, and there is room for you at the table. Come as you are.

Essentially, Jesus sets the rules. Heaven is portrayed as a banquet. His invitation stands. Come. Come as you are. There is a seat here with your name on it.

After the message we shared the Lord’s Supper in a very special way. The Lord is good.

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