13th Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon Title: 13th Sunday after Pentecost

Preacher: Rev Susanne Chambers

Date: 23 August 2015

Church Calendar Date: 13th Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary Reading: 1 Kings 8:22-30,41-43 Ps 84, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69

My annual leave seems a long time ago now! It’s funny how you come back to work or back to your usual routine and you wonder where the holiday ‘feeling’ went!  I must admit every now and then my mind goes back to sitting outside the caravan, overlooking the water and reading.

And it’s a book I read whilst away that I want to talk about today.

It’s called ‘Eating Heaven: spirituality at the Table.’ It’s written by Simon Carey Holt who is the pastor of Collin’s St Baptist in our city.

Simon begins in his introduction by saying:

“This is a book about eating and the tables of daily life that play host to it. It’s a personal book; … I am a product of the table.  Raised in a close-knit, working –class home of father, mother and a busload of sons on the suburban edge of Melbourne, my most enduring memory is of family life around the table. I recall sitting there night after night, year after year – the food, the laughter, the arguments, the stories and prayers; all so mundane, but formative in profound ways.”

Simon is a trained chef, a person of faith, a teacher, lecturer, husband and father.

He reflects on the various tables we sit at: The Kitchen Table, The Backyard Table, The Café Table, The Five-star Table, The Work Table, The Festive Table, the Multicultural Table and the Communion Table.

Simon has an interesting theory that all these tables are connected and I think it is helpful for us to explore and reflect on what he finds important.

I will speak briefly about some of the tables giving my stories to encourage you to think about the tables you sit at or have sat at and why they are important and informative to who you are and your relation to the rest of the world.

The Kitchen Table:  Eating, Identity and Formation.

The kitchen or dining room/family table is where we gather as a family. You may recall the different tables in your home where lunches were prepared, where you took turns to set and clear the table, where we complained about having to eat….brussel sprouts!, where we chatted about the day, maybe some good robust conversations even upsets when we didn’t get our way and storming off (of course when we were children!). Politics, sex, religion could also have been subjects spoken about at the kitchen/dining room table.  This wasn’t the case when I grew up. None of these areas of life were discussed. Every family is different and the conversations that are had around the family table are different.

Simon said that this table is a place of identity and early formation. When we think back to those early years of our lives and as we grew up and maybe had our own kitchen/dining tables with our children or flat mates gathered around, we remember different things of how we were together…and how that informs us as individuals.

The Backyard Table:  Eating, Sustainability and Suburbia

My father built a brick barbeque out the back. It wasn’t the most stunning looking barbeque but it did the job!  Most Sunday lunches we would have the traditional chops and sausages and fried onions. These days, the BBQ’s can create amazing meals.

BBQ’s are lovely, informal gatherings.  Ask someone over for a BBQ is different from asking them to a three course set dinner.  People often will bring a salad or nibbles and drinks and we sit outside enjoying the sun!  I find when asking people over for a Barby, they are more relaxed than coming for dinner.

In ‘Eating Heaven’, Simon speaks of the backyard table not only in terms of the BBQ but also a place where you grow your own vegies, have the lemon tree and in some places chooks roaming the backyard!

A number of homes even in the city are trying to live sustainably and have their backyard full of their own produce.

The backyard I grew up with had chooks, the vegie garden, passionfruit vine and lemon tree.  Brings back memories!  I looked after the strawberries!

Our backyard table is important still today as we informally gather and share a meal.

The Café Table:  Eating, sidewalks and Community

I go down to Maling Road and other cafes quite a bit.  It’s a place for me to sit on my own or to meet someone over a meal or a coffee.  You might think that the café table may not fit the communal setting but it does.  If you go down to a particular café you get to know the people who are serving you and they you. You see familiar faces.  In a busy café you can hear the buzz of conversation.

After reading this book I now go down on a Thursday morning between 10am and 11am and sit at one of the sidewalk cafes and see who passes by for a chat or a dog to pat.  I wear my clerical shirt so I am easily identified. I certainly get ‘looks’ and I hope that someone will feel ok for them to come and chat with me about God, church, life….without having to come to a church building.

It’s a way of connecting.  Cafes are informal and sometimes safe places to meet and chat.  I’ve had many lovely conversations over coffee or a light lunch…good times to remember!

I won’t go through the five-star table which  Simon says is about beauty and Justice, the work table (chefs’ table) about cooking and vocation, the festive table, about celebrating and mourning or the multicultural table, about culture and inclusion. Obviously all of them to do with eating!  I think you get the idea that each of these tables, Simon has thought about not just eating, but the implications of each table.  You will need to read the book to find out more!

I would like to go though, to the last table he mentions, and that is the Communion table and as I said at the beginning, I hope this encourages each of us to reflect and remember the various tables we have sat at, their connections to each other and why they are important to us.

The Communion Table:  Eating, Sacrament and Connection

Each Sunday we come and share in a meal together.  How wonderful is that!

The table is set, the food prepared, blessed and broken to be shared.

It is certainly a significant meal for us Christians. It is the meal that spiritually sustains us.

In his book, Simon sees all these tables that I have mentioned as connected.

And he says this:

“While the rituals of communion may be celebrated in sacred buildings set apart from others, the table of the church can never be cloistered, unsullied by the rest of life.

Certainly it is a table of extraordinary and personal grace, but the table of the church is about so much more than churchgoers feeling spiritually cosseted.  Remembering Jesus, means never forgetting the community of which we are a part. The table of Jesus is one that compels, obligates and sends – for it is connected to every table at which Jesus sat and to every table at which we sit today. Its holiness is found not in its seclusion and separation but in its connection.”  Page 362

I like what he says about the tables all being connected.  And I wonder when the disciples who deserted Jesus when he spoke about things that were hard to understand like in today’s gospel passage, (and the past three weeks) didn’t make the connection or they had lost the connection over time.

David Lose in his post ‘In the meantime’ says that “the people in today’s reading who now desert Jesus, are precisely those who had, in fact, believed in Jesus, those who had followed him and had given up much to do so. But now, finally, after all their waiting and watching and wondering and worrying, they have grown tired, and they can no longer see clearly what it was    about Jesus that attracted them to him in the first place, and so they leave.”

Are we any different?  Who hasn’t wondered what it’s all about? Those nagging seeds of doubt that creep into our minds and we shut them out because we can’t explain to someone who thinks we are crackers that we still believe all this God stuff!  (as they call it!). There are some mysteries that can’t be explained!

And so what some people would do instead of deserting their faith, they don’t go so regularly to church, or reduce what they have been giving, or simply stop praying.

The sacraments of bread and wine have sustained Christians over the centuries even when they have doubted and questioned what life is all about.  The bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ which is held up and offered…take, eat, drink, in remembrance of me.

Simon says this:

“These dangerous memories (in remembrance of Jesus) include so much more than what happened in that upper room with the disciples the night before his execution, and even more than the sight of Jesus hanging on the cross.  In this ritual of communion we are called to remember the one anointed to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, healing to the sick and liberty to the oppressed; the one who took the form of a slave, gave up his own life for the sake of others and calls us to do the same; the one who said that when we forget the hungry, the imprisoned, the homeless and the sick, we forget him.” Page 361

When you receive the bread and the wine in a little while, think about the whole of Jesus’ life that you ‘take in and become’!

The other day at Deanery we welcomed the new incumbent of St Matthew’s Ashburton who was inducted on Monday night.  Rev’d Vinod Victor is from the Church of South India.  We were discussing the Mission Action Plans that we all have to implement in our churches and he commented that in India, one needs to be careful of the language used. So the word ‘mission’ isn’t used as it is associated with colonial times…

What he said that they use instead was two simple words which have stayed with me.

He said “Live Christ”.

Two simple words.

Live Christ.

Not live for Christ.

Live Christ.

I have taken you to different tables today. The kitchen table, the backyard table, the café table and the communion table.  I hope that you can see the connections between them all and particularly to our table here today.  Our lives are intertwined with each other and all of creation and when we are fed here, we go out to keep that connection alive!

Live Christ!

The Lord be with you.

Eating heaven: Spirituality at the Table by Simon Carey Holt Acorn Press 2013

In the Meantime by David Lose website