November 3, 2019

Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost

Contemporary Service:

Traditional Service:

Scripture Reading: Mark 14:12-25

The Passover with the Disciples

12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread[a] into the bowl[b] with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Footnotes:

  1. Mark 14:20 Gk lacks bread
  2. Mark 14:20 Other ancient authorities read same bowl
  3. Mark 14:24 Other ancient authorities add new


Sermon: “What if…Brokenness Brought New Life?

How many have visited some outpost or another of the Disney empire? Are any of you hear members of the Disney private club, “Club Thirty-Three?” I thought not.

Club Thirty-Three gets its name from its address at 33 Royal Street in New Orleans Square at Disneyland. What started out as a high-end lounge for corporate sponsors has become a private club with hefty membership fees.

Corporate members pay an initiation fee of $40,000. Individuals pay $25,000 up front, and another $12,000 a year in dues.

None of that scares people away. In 2011, there was a fourteen-year waiting list for new memberships. Disney reopened the membership waiting list in May 2012 after keeping it closed for five years.

Why are people so anxious to join? Well, members can enjoy an exclusive jazz lounge, upscale dining, and alcoholic beverages, as well as complementary valet parking, early admission, and exclusive events held only for Club Thirty-Three members.

Members also have the satisfaction of knowing that they are in, and a lot of other people are out. And therein lies one of the basic facts of human nature, as this clip shows.

Little Rascals

 

We still enjoy excluding others or, as some say today, “canceling” them. “Cancelling” mostly plays out on the Internet after someone says or does something that others don’t like.

People bury that person under a blizzard of negative social media and then declare them cancelled. It’s their way of saying that they—along with many others—have had enough and won’t have anything more to do with them.

Jon Gabriel, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, put it like this:

Cancel culture is spreading for one simple reason: it works. Instead of debating ideas or competing for entertainment dollars, you can just demand anyone who annoys you to be cast out of polite society. Our woke mentality is America’s new Puritanism. Instead of a handy list of sins written thousands of years ago, modern sins are ever-changing.

 

“It’s time for the perpetually offended on the left and right,” Gabriel concluded, “to bring back two concepts the Puritans were at least familiar with: grace and forgiveness.”

Grace and forgiveness—what a concept! We see them both at work in today’s Scripture lesson, where, just as things start coming together, they even more quickly fall apart.

The coming together is easy enough to see in preparations for the Passover.

 Jesus’ disciples find a room even in a Jerusalem packed to the gills with pilgrims. They then get everything ready for the evening meal. Later, though, when Jesus and the twelve arrive, things start unravelling.

When they’d taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” (Mark 14:17-19)

 

Things were falling apart, and it looked like there was no putting them back together.

Christmas story

 

“Surely not I?” Yes, you – and you, and you, and you, and me. We didn’t break a lamp; we broke our Lord. And what was his response? He used that very brokenness to bring us back together.

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I’ll never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:22-25)

 

Mark’s version of the Lord’s Supper ends on a note of joy. Brokenness and betrayal won’t have the last word. That belongs to God’s promise of new life. In the meantime, Jesus said, we have each other, a community bound together not just by shared bread and wine, but by our very brokenness.

Think about it. Way back at the beginning of the Bible, Adam walks with God, has all the food he needs, and doesn’t know anything about shame, pain, or sadness. Adam is in paradise. He has it all.

Then, for the first time, God sees that something isn’t good. “It isn’t good that the man should be alone; I’ll make him a helper as his partner.”

Adam had everything. Yet, it wasn’t enough. We aren’t meant to be alone. God says it isn’t good.

So, as we build this Christian community, we need to remember, first, why we’re building it. Jesus certainly did as he called his twelve disciples.

They didn’t naturally fit. A tax collector and a fisherman probably wouldn’t have hung out much together, had not Jesus called them both.

It’s not as though the disciples got along perfectly all the time, either. They bickered and disagreed and sometimes got downright mad at each other. But they also became a community that grew and changed the world.

Ours is a community build around diversity. We can’t just gather with people we feel comfortable with, people who we think understand us and believe the same things we do.

Broken, imperfect people make up a community of faith, coming from different walks of life, yet with a shared calling in Jesus Christ.

Christian community is comfortable with awkwardness. We have to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones, insecurities, and discouragements to come together as a family of faith.

That means being open enough to let people see that we aren’t perfect, inviting them in as they are so they’ll see us as we are. That also means having fun together, as we will later today.

Christ calls us to be inclusive, to build community, not cliques. We should always be looking for new and different people to invite in.

Sometimes we’ll succeed at at least some of this. More often, we’ll fail. We’ll have to put aside our fear and our laziness and anything else that keeps us from stepping out and opening ourselves in giving, caring, two-way relationships. No canceling allowed.

In a culture that cancels, we show compassion. In a world where division runs rife, we witness to one who brings wholeness out of our brokenness, and resurrection life out of death itself.

When our gifts come together, flawed and imperfect as they and we both are, there’s power and possibility in the gathered community of Christ that no one or nothing can destroy.

As I often urge you, friends, let’s be the people whom God calls us to be.