By Rev. Chris Jorgensen
June 6, 2021
Video of entire service: https://www.facebook.com/hanscomparkchurch/videos/152143550273764
Scripture: Romans 8:18-24
We are going to have communion today, and we are going to do the sung liturgy for the first time since the pandemic began. It’s been something like 15 months since we’ve celebrated communion in that way.
Now, you might have noticed in the past that presiding at the communion table is a very emotional experience for me. You might hear my voice crack a little or see my eyes well up. It’s especially hard during that sung communion liturgy because music, as our Music Director Jannene taught me, really gets under the frost line.
By this, she means that music somehow bypasses our minds and touches our hearts. So I have no promises that I will get through today’s communion liturgy without tears…and I invite you to join me if you feel like crying. I often describe the experience of crying in church as “the spiritual gift of tears,” or I’ve also been know to just say, “I don’t know. God makes me cry.”
The spoken communion liturgy also really gets to me. I can be going through the liturgy, and everything is just fine. Then I get to these words:
By your Spirit,
Make us one with Christ
And one with each other
And one in ministry to all the world
Until that day when Christ comes
In the full glory of compassion
And we feast at the table of paradise.
I was actually walking the dogs with Matt on Friday and telling him about this sermon. Even during that conversation, my voice cracked when I said those words, “when we feast at the table of paradise.”
That’s because I hope so deeply in this promise. As people who follow Jesus, when we come to the communion table, we proclaim the mystery of our faith. It too is in the spoken communion liturgy. If you know it, say it with me. We proclaim the mystery of our faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
I hope so deeply in that last part. That’s the hope that Paul is talking about in our Letter to the Romans today. One of things I treasure about this text is that Paul acknowledges the depth our present brokenness. He talks about all creation groaning and struggling as it moves toward some future moment of restoration and wholeness.
But Paul believes, and I believe, that our present suffering, our present brokenness is not the end of the story. Paul believes, and I believe that Christ’s resurrection started something. It kicked off this a kind of resurrection life for all people and all of creation. Paul believes, and I believe that we are part of God’s movement toward a time of fullness and oneness with Christ and each other … something that is truly beyond our ability to comprehend.
I say that because we don’t know how exactly this oneness and wholeness is going to happen. We know it has something to do with our faithful efforts joining with God’s power to transform the whole world. Yet we don’t know what that utterly transformed world is going to look like exactly.
But the scripture invites us to imagine. We are invited to imagine what it will be like when we live fully in God’s abundance:
- When we reach that future day when death and mourning and pain will be no more.
- When we reach that day when all hostility between people is ended.
- When swords are beaten into plowshares.
- When there are no more mass shootings.
- When there are no more people displaced from their homes because of war.
- When there are no more global pandemics.
- When our human bodies are no longer subject to decay.
One of the ways we are invited to imagine that time is with this image of the table of paradise.
At the last supper, the one we remember when we take communion, Jesus says this to his disciples. He says that he will not drink of the cup of salvation again until he drinks it new with his followers in God’s kingdom. This is the image that evokes for us a table of paradise. We imagine that the restoration of all things, when Christ is fully present among us and we are fully in Christ, will be like a banquet that is abundantly spread.
And this table of paradise, as Paul talks about in our scripture, involves all of creation. All of creation is groaning to experience that day of liberation, and it will ALL be redeemed and restored. When we take communion, we are practicing for that day. When we take communion, we are getting at tiny taste of that day. So today, when you take communion, I invite you to imagine the table of paradise. It is a day we will probably not see in these bodies, but it is our future hope.
At the table of paradise, we will feast again in Jesus’ presence, and everyone we love, everyone we have ever loved, and everyone who God loves will be there – and that means everybody. And, yes, I believe there will be dogs around our feet at the table of paradise. There will be cats who occasionally jump up and try to knock the glasses over. There will be birds of the air overhead and a breeze through the trees, and so much more life and wholeness than we can ever imagine.
May we taste this future today and spend our lives setting that table: making earth as it is in heaven.
May it be so.