Psalm 107:1-9                                                                                    

I Corinthians 11:23-26                                                                       


A Place at the Table

By Clara D. Thompson


            He walks barefoot down the washed out street.  With black mud and bits of debris gooshing and squishing between his toes, shoulders slumped and face drawn because sleep had only brought nightmares, he searches again, endlessly, for any small remnant of the life he knew before the hurricane hit.  Trudging through slime and utter blackness, where only a fortnight ago the hot sun had shone as his children played ball in the street, he wanders, alone …alone, though with others in the area making a similar slow, searching walk.  His ears ring with the sound of his daughter’s young voice calling to him through the storm.  With eyes filled with bitter grief he sees his son being washed down the street.  And the deep tear in his heart is seen visibly on his arm where his wife’s fingernails had cut into his skin as she held on with every ounce of strength she had before she, too, slipped away from him.  This man comes to the Table, for there, there is a place for him.

            She comes with brown sparkling eyes as big as saucers.  Wearing the red and gold polka dot dress she’s had laid at the foot of her bed since Thursday, she skips down the street in her shiny black shoes, tugging at Grandma to come a little bit faster.  Pastor had told her about Communion last Sunday, so she knew all about it.  He said this Sunday would be special because it’s World Communion Sunday and SHE gets to take communion too.  She felt special.  Grandma said it was special, and Grandmas don’t fib.  The table at the front of the church looks different today, colorful, more things on it.  She wonders what’s inside those big pretty wine glasses that she can’t see through.  She wonders if the grape juice is in there already.  This little girl comes expectantly, for there is a place for her at the Table.

            The old woman sells her wares on a busy street corner in the capital city.  When the traffic stops, she moves as steadily as she is able to the window on the driver’s side of the nearest car.  She raises her arms, laden with cloths that she has dyed herself … bright blues and happy yellows, shocking oranges and bold reds, regal purples, and browns splashed with the colors of God’s earth.  The young boy selling water has already sold a small blue bag of water to the passenger of the same car, and has already raced on to the next car in line.  The man selling plastic bracelets, yellow, orange, and green, is heckling the driver of the car in front to buy just one pretty bangle for his little girl.  And the woman with the cloth hears the horns blaring as she stumbles to the side of the road as the traffic shifts.  But she comes to the Table, for there, there is a place for her.

            The teenage youth with the earring, honestly, wishes he weren’t there.  He usually sits up in the balcony of the big, old, stone church on Main Street, the same church in which he was baptized, the same church in which he sat for his father’s funeral.  But this morning he sits in front of the computer watching the service, unsure if he’s really participating or not.  He and his Mom have done all right by themselves, but it’s been a tough year for  everybody.  He would have been a starter on his high school football team, except the pandemic changed everything.  But his girlfriend still thinks he’s funny and cute, so that’s a plus.  His Mom nags him about homework but he struggles with virtual learning.  He was confirmed last year, but he still has a lot of questions.  He doesn’t, honestly, think much about his faith these days, except when he remembers what it’s like to sit up in the balcony of his big, old, stone church on Main Street, really needing the peace that being up there brings him.  But he comes to the Table, because he knows that there, there is a place for him.

            The couple walks from the church parking lot into the church.  It wasn’t so easy the first time they came together.  They wondered what people might say, though they didn’t really much care what people thought.  They were comfortable with who they were, as comfortable in public, I suppose, as two men living together in a permanent relationship can be.  Their faith in God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ is strong, stronger than their faith in humanity.  But they come to church to worship their Lord, not to gain the approval of the people in the pews.  And so they come, they come to the Table, for there, there is a place for them.

            “People will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at the table in the kingdom of God.”  They will sit at the Table, because there, there is a place for them.  In the winter of 1935, at the heart of the Great Depression, a group of ministers gathered to study the spiritual health and the mission possibilities of the church.  In the Lord’s Supper they saw a great opportunity to unite the membership in dedication to Jesus Christ.  Since 1936, Christians from around the world have gathered at the Table of our Lord on a designated Sunday each year.  Since 1937 that date has been on the first Sunday of October.  Though this year’s celebration of World Communion Sunday is different because we’re not literally at the same table, we still gather from the four corners of this earth in answer to Christ’s invitation, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Some come in desperation, wondering how they can continue to sing the Lord’s song when their life has been washed away.  Some come with big brown eyes as sparkly as their black patent leather shoes, in anticipation of something very special about to happen.  Some come with arms raised in faith as well as laden with wares.  Some come with more questions than answers, but trusting that they, too, have a place at the Table.  Some come because at the Table they know that they are accepted and loved.

            Literally around the world this morning, those who trust in Jesus Christ will gather together, mostly virtually this year, but we will unite our hearts and our minds to celebrate the oneness we share in Jesus Christ.  On this day, millions of Christians celebrate in many languages the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord.  As we come to the Table, we transcend our differences of race, culture, and traditions, and we experience a miracle of becoming one body in Jesus Christ.  Across boundaries and borders, we begin to catch a vision of a world at peace, where brothers and sisters of Christ celebrate their unity while respecting and honoring their diversity.

            For here at the Table, we meet our Risen Lord, even though we meet each other via Zoom.  Through the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup, we are bonded together in mission and in ministry, even when we can’t be physically present with one another.  Here at the Table the walls come tumbling down.  For whoever sits at the Table, sits with others.  We never commune alone, because this is a Sacrament of the community of faith.  This morning, may the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ be remembered and reclaimed as we as we sit and stand with one another, if even via Zoom, as we sit and stand with one another  and with all of our brothers and sisters around the world.  Amen.


  August 2021  
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