"A Place at the Table" - Maundy Thursday

The Rev. Mary E. Davis

Maundy Thursday
March 29, 2018
“A Seat at the Table”
If there’s one thing our family loves to do, it’s eat. And I think that if we’ve perfected anything at all in our lives, we’ve perfected the art of dinnertime.
Well in advance, with everybody’s input, we plan our dinners for the week. We like to have our taste buds “set” for the meals ahead of time; it adds to the anticipation and enjoyment. For added clarity, at 3:15pm Every. Single. Day. the boys text me, asking “what’s for dinner tonight?” just to make sure there are no alterations to the plan. When it comes time to sit down – almost always at 6pm - everyone finds their same special seat at the table, including our puppy, who has her spot right on the floor next to me. Forks are allowed to be loaded, but no one takes a bite until everyone is seated; it’s only after everyone is present at the table that the food, drink, and stories begin to flow. Obviously, dinnertime is sacred for us.
That is, until two weeks ago, when our dinnertime routine was [so rudely and abruptly] interrupted by my surgery to place a feeding tube. Sure, it was a necessary intervention. My stomach was no longer absorbing nutrients or converting calories into energy. But when I was finally sprung from the hospital, not having eaten anything by mouth for an entire week, I was instructed continue this NPO, not eating anything by mouth, so that my digestive tract could adjust to the formula feedings with as little complication as possible.
But sick or not, at home, dinner time came like it always does. I was hungry. I missed eating, terribly. And it was dreadful, the thought of sitting there without being able to take even a single bite of delicious food. So, while everyone gathered at their place at the table, the pup on the floor, I decided to stay in the living room. My place at the table empty.
As I listened in to the family gather, and tried not to feel too sorry for myself, I realized that I wasn’t just missing the food. Dinner was so much more than that. I missed being a part of the story-telling. I missed our good-natured ribbing. I even missed the silence that falls when the boys enjoy their food so much that conversation grinds to a halt. The sacredness of dinner, I realized, goes far beyond the food that’s served. Dinner, for our family, is community. And for community to be realized, all of us needed to be at the table.
So I came back. Rejoined the family. Even with an empty plate. Now don’t get me wrong. It was difficult at first. I love food, and I love to eat good food! But I love the connection with my family more. And coming back to the table – with or without food – helped me feel full in a different way.
Well, tonight, we find a similar fullness, with Jesus and his disciples. They had all taken their places at the table, gathered for the Passover meal. Jesus knew his time is coming to an end, and that Judas, his betrayer, was sitting with them. And he knew they would all desert him by the end of the night. Still, Jesus offered them the bread and said, “This is my Body, given for you.” Then, he offered them the cup of wine saying, “This is my Blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Do this,” he said, “in remembrance of me.” Jesus knew that life would never be the same for him and his disciples again, and yet, he commanded that they come back to the table. Imagine their confusion . . . their disbelief . . . and of course, their grief after Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. I can imagine them thinking, ‘I’ll never go back to that place - - too many memories, too much pain.’ But Jesus called them back to the table and said, ‘This – THIS is where you will find me.’
And so we do. We come to the table, just like Jesus’ disciples did 2,000 years ago. The table is about community and connection that reaches far beyond the food on our plate or our physical bodies’ ability to consume it. This table (the altar) and this meal (the Eucharist) is an act of Community which includes all of us – betrayers, believers, deserters, and disciples, complete with whatever wounds, scars, and weaknesses we carry. And it is where we find Jesus in our midst.
Through this meal, when Christ sat with his disciples, broke bread and shared the cup of wine, he redefined Community. Showing us that there is nothing that separates us from God, and that at this table, there is no separation from one another.
Everyone has a place at this table. It’s where we belong to one another. Where we belong to God. And where Christ’s Body and Blood make us full. Amen.