1 John 3:13-18
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Well in heaven it will be even better. God will supply the Lamb. God will supply the wine. God Himself will be present not merely through priests or pastors but personally there for you to talk and joke, and share your joys and sorrows with.
In fact, today you, confirmands, will be added to that table fellowship in this New Testament meal where God Himself provides the Lamb, His Son. We will eat of that Lamb. His body and His blood is the finest of wine and the sweetest of meats. It is the meal that forgives your sins and declares you holy. It readies you for eternal life. It brings you to God’s own table so that you not only eat with Him, you eat Him. In this meal you enjoy His company as part of His family.
However, you will be tempted from this day forward to refuse His invitation to eat with Him. This is the temptation of all who are baptized, of all the invited ones. “I am already a member of the family,” you will think, “why do I need to show up? Why do I need to sit at the table? I hate family meals. After all, uncle so-and-so is such a drunk, aunt such-and-such is so rude and racist, and that cousin of mine is so awkward and weird. Besides this meal is SO early in the morning. How can I drag myself out of bed to be there for 10:30? Why does God want so much of my time anyway? An hour a week? Who can spare that?”
Our excuses sound a lot like the excuses in Jesus’ parable. “I know you invited me a long time ago, but you know, just at the precise moment of your feast I have to go see the new farm I bought. It is the only time I can do it.” “Oh, I bought some new machinery, the demonstration is at the exact time of the feast you invited me to. I just could not reschedule it. Please excuse me.” “Oh, I just got married and you know what she’s like. Husbandly duties and all. I am gonna be busy right at the precise moment of your feast. Sorry I can not come.”
Lame excuses. Kiss-off excuses. What these excuses really say is, “I do not want to come. I do not want to sit with you. I do not want to eat with you. I do not want to be associated with you.”
This is the error we Christians make: we think we can be Christians on our terms not God’s. We think we can be His people without His feast, without His weird and awkward and dysfunctional family, without answering His summons to us, without Him all together. We think He will always be there. Like an abusive boyfriend who constantly strings his girl along we think we can just go back to God whenever we want, and use Him as we want, and he will always be there desperately waiting for us. Wrong. You can not mock God. He made you. He knows you. He knows every thought that passes through your head. He knows what is in your heart better than you do. When you are just stringing Him along, offering lame excuses you reject Him and He gives your spot at the table to some desperate beggar who appreciates it.
Of course, once you realize you are a desperate beggar and you repent, you come to your senses, realize that He is not to be taken for granted, He welcomes you back and gives you new place at His table! But stop your foolish games with God. For you are playing with your eternal salvation. Repent.
And realize that being at His table means you are all brothers in God’s family—even the sisters here today. For you are all equal inheritors, all full members of the family of God with full rights to be at His table, full rights to speak to your Father. You all have full access to the riches, splendour, and limitless grace of God’s family. That means you have been robbed of one more of our reasons of not coming to church: all those hypocrites and weirdos there. For when you are given a place at the table you become one more dysfunctional child at the table. Thus, we must love each other with the high esteem God has for us. For He does not view us merely as the dysfunctional children we are. Through your baptism He views each of you as His only Son whom He loves. For through Christ’s cross all your dysfunction is paid for, in your baptism it is washed away, and so He invites you to His table to enjoy the full rights of a member of His family. And as a member of His family He views you as better than you are, above your failings, free of your past. That is who He expects you to be even as He frees you to be it. But amazingly, failing His expectations of you does not bar you from His table. In fact, His table restores you to His good graces when you have fallen from them. Just as His coming at the end of time will bring to fulfillment who He says you are now: His perfect, beloved child.
So today, if are a confirmed member of this congregation or of one of our sister churches and you hear His invitation to come to His table repent of your absence, repent of your lack of love for His family. And if you are not yet a member of this congregation then come for a blessing and ask me after service about how to become a member so that you too may come to His table where He serves you and makes you His child and friend. Where you can break bread with your God and learn the wisdom of His wine at His table.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON