When the early church met in secret to join in this meal together I often wonder what parts of the story of Jesus came rushing to their minds. As they huddled in the dark, damp catacombs beneath the city of Rome, perhaps near to the place where they had recently laid the body of a brother or sister who had lost their life for claiming a King other than Caesar what words of Jesus did they hear echo in their hearts and minds?
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"?
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"?
But one thing the early church knew with certainty, if God's people are to survive, they must do so by joining together at the table of the Lord.
And so perhaps beneath the city of Rome they sung a song of David:
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked advance against me
to slander me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
4 One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
Maybe you and I have forgotten that at the table of the Lord our fears and anxieties are not only allowed but welcomed. They are welcomed because the source by which we confront our fears and anxieties resides at that Table. We find the strength to admit these things in the hands of our brothers and sisters and in the love of the host of the Table, Jesus Christ our Lord.
We come to table with anxieties about finances, cancer, broken relationships, strained marriages, suffering in our own lives and in the world in which we live, poverty and hunger, human trafficking, and our insecurities and secrets that no one even knows. These are the things we bring with us to the Table. And perhaps today is the day that we come to the Table and admit that we carry these with us. That we admit that we ourselves and the world in which we live is not as it should be. That we admit that deep down, if we had the courage to admit it, we are afraid.
What we will find at the table of the Lord is that this is the place for those burdens to be named, to be faced, and to be confronted. We will find that the Table of Jesus is the only place where fear can give way to hope, where anxiety can be changed into anticipation, where loneliness can be transformed in confidence that Jesus and his people are with us always.
It is the place where we can say with the Apostle Paul:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So this morning as we surround the table together may we find assurance that we are loved, that we are broken, that we are afraid, and that just as we are… we are welcome.
So this morning we come at the invitation of the Hebrew writer:
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.