A Savior Who Serves: Giving
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 14:12–14:26
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Rev. Braun Campbell
“A Savior Who Serves: Giving”
Anybody here like food? I’m a big fan of it. Others have observed that we have to eat to survive, but God gives us the gift of enjoying our food. Even food that’s not elaborately prepared can taste good. Sometimes it’s that kind of food that tastes too good – especially when you need to watch what you eat. If you gave up a particular food for the season of Lent, did you find yourself wanting it all the more during those 40 days of fasting? Tasty food’s a good thing! People around the world have it as part of their celebrations: birthdays, graduations, retirement, and – something I’ve gotten to learn a bit about over the past few months – weddings.
Chances are if you go to a wedding, there will be food. And tasty food, too. Large weddings or small, family and friends gather and celebrate the beginning of a new life together for the bride and groom. So when you’re planning a wedding, you’ve got to consider the food. What menu do you want? Who will provide the best options that scale with the celebration you’re having? (For what it’s worth, getting all your wedding reception grub from Taco Bell is apparently not considered a “classy” option.) Investigating various caterers, though, has a great upside: tastings. You can look at dozens of websites and page through piles of menu options, but you can’t really know if the caterer will work for you and your event until you go and taste the food they make. Maybe you’re looking for cake. Maybe you’re contemplating entrees. When it comes down to it, the proof is in the tasting. That’s really where the quality of the caterer’s work makes itself known. It’s through the tasting that you can start to get a sense of what you’ll enjoy when the time for the real celebration comes.
Another kind of celebration was recorded in our Gospel text for this evening of Holy Week: the Passover. Jesus and his twelve chosen disciples gathered around a table in Jerusalem to share this special meal that remembered how God brought the Hebrew people out of captivity in Egypt. There’s one detail of this episode, though, that we don’t usually spend much time talking about. Jesus sent two of his disciples ahead into the city, telling them they would find a man carrying a jar of water, something that the women of the time usually did. That man would take them to the house with a waiting, furnished upper room where they would celebrate the Passover supper. Who was that man, or the master of the house where they would go? Did Jesus scout out various locations beforehand? Did he attend tastings to see who might be able to prepare the best meal? Or did God work a miracle in setting aside a large enough space to accommodate last-minute dinner plans for thirteen guests on what would have been one of the most booked-up nights of the year? Scripture doesn’t tell us. The exact location of the upper room and the homeowner who took in Jesus and his disciples remains a mystery. What we do, know, though, is that Jesus gave those who gathered some truly good food.
On this Thursday of Holy Week, also known as Maundy Thursday, Jesus has arranged for us to share a meal. He’s taken care of the details. He has prepared the table. And he gives himself as our food: he is here with us as we gather as his disciples. This is the mystery that we celebrate tonight, that God the Son Himself is physically present in, with, and under the bread and the wine that we receive. When Jesus broke bread with his disciples and passed the cup after the Passover meal, he took that centuries-old remembrance of God’s delivering His people and did something new. Rather than merely using the meal to reflect back on the past, Jesus provided his guests with food for the future. Giving himself, Jesus provides us with an experience of what’s to come.
You may have heard Holy Communion referred to as a “foretaste of the feast to come.” In some ways, it’s a lot like that visit to the caterer as you get to taste and see just what kind of food they can provide. Here at St. John’s, we usually make use of ordinary wafers for our bread. This bread probably isn’t going to win a culinary award. It’s not baked by monks using grains from the Holy Land. Nor is our wine a vintage that would be highly-ranked in the pages of Wine Spectator. But it’s not the bread and wine on their own that make this a special meal. Through his word, Jesus’ body and blood come to be present along with the ordinary, making this a celebration unlike anything that even the greatest caterers could ever prepare. Here at the table, as we gather under his cross, Jesus lets us see and taste the really good stuff: Communion with God and with one another.
In the Lord’s Supper, you and I share a meal with Jesus and the disciples, along with every other human being that has been called to faith in Jesus as God and Lord. We’re a part of a fellowship that is greater than any individual, any congregation, or any denomination. We are participating in the Church that assembles around the throne of God with all the faithful who have gone before us, a community which is both ancient and timeless; temporal, and yet eternal. Jesus gives us access to the celebratory feast that awaits us: the marriage feast of the Lamb and His bride, the Church. He is the Lamb whose body bore our sin, whose blood flowed to buy us back from death, this Savior who serves gives himself to you, for you.
At this wedding reception, though, the guests aren’t the ones bringing the gifts – it’s the groom who’s giving everything. And what gifts they are! When you come to the table to celebrate the feast of Holy Communion, you will depart with take-aways better than any party favors you’ve heard of. At this meal which Jesus caters, you get forgiveness and a fresh start. You get life.
You and I need that life. We need the new beginning with God that Jesus makes possible. Our lives aren’t always celebrations. We’re not constantly feasting; but when we do, it’s often feasting on “easy” food that we find tasty at the time, yet which leaves us feeling sick and weak later on.
Come to the Lord’s Supper this evening – and every time you do – with reverent joy. It’s okay to smile when you come to Communion: you’re about to enjoy really good stuff! As with ordinary food, the proof is in the tasting. Taste the victory and strength that Jesus gives in this meal. Taste the unity of fellowship that we share as God’s people as together we confess Christ as the ultimate Passover Lamb. Taste the presence of God, in a Savior who serves, giving Himself to you, for you.
Come, taste and see the goodness of God!