Scott Turnbrook
December 16, 2018
Scott Turnbrook
Coordinating Minister

Reference

Matthew 4:12-17 & Isaiah 12: 1-6
The Advent of God’s Presence: The Christ Light” (Part Four of Four)

The Advent of God’s Presence: The Christ Light” (Part Four of Four) Matthew 4:12-17 & Isaiah 12: 1-6 ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ Dec 16, 18  

So, how are your preparations going for Christmas? This is a question that will irk many of us as there always seems to be so much pressure to be ‘ready’ for the ‘Big Day’, doesn’t there? And in this season of stress to ‘be ready’, we come to church and you receive the same questions. I almost feel guilty for adding further pressure to people’s busy lives by encouraging people to “slow down, prepare, lest we forget the ‘reason for the season’”. Yet…long before the retail industry hijacked this holiday as a money-making venture, the church had long been encouraging people to prepare … to prepare for the coming of the Christ. And so, in this Advent season, we prepare a place at the ‘inns of our lives’ for Jesus to be born in beautiful and blessed ways.  

This year, we have focused on preparing for the coming of Christ as we have been taking a deeper examination into the symbols that come forth each Sunday. As you witnessed, a number of symbols process forward, and as they come forward we find ourselves preparing our hearts to receive Christ in worship. This year, in the season of Advent, we took a deeper consideration into this practice by examining four of our symbols. We commenced with the Bible, then followed by the communion elements of Bread and Wine, and last week with the waters of baptism. And this morning, we conclude with examining the Christ light. It is interesting… of all the symbols, I think that the Christ light is the one that is most commonly shared. Many worship settings have the Bible on the table at worship, but not all. The bread and wine process, sometimes each week, but not in all churches. And even fewer will have the waters of baptism poured weekly. But it would be the rare, rare church which does not have the Christ light as a focal point for gathering. The Christ light is a focus on the table for worship, for a wedding, or a funeral. We see the Christ light at a church meeting, a study group, even a meditation gathering. This morning we will consider why this Christ light is so important to us. As I think on this, fundamentally, I think the Christ light is there because we are people of the light. I was at Ikea a while back purchasing a supply of candles for worship. I had quite a large supply in my buggy. (you get to know where the best deals on candles are over time). The person behind me made a joke: ‘planning a séance, are you?’ “No” I answered…“I’m a pastor and we go through A LOT of candles”. (what a way to kill a conversation)  

So, why are we drawn to the light? Why are we ‘people of the light’? What is our universal attraction to this symbol of our faith? In some ways, perhaps our attraction to light began with our deep connection with the sun ~ that golden globe that increasingly evades us in this rainy winter season. In earlier times, people believed that the sun was the centre of the solar system and, thus, the light of the world. And, to be sure, the sun truly is incredible. Existing 150 million kilometers away from the earth, it would take a baby, travelling at 240 kilometres per hour, much of its life to fly there, arriving as a septuagenarian. Its diameter is 109 times larger than our own planet earth and it’s heat source radiates 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet, despite the greatness of the sun in the sky, Christians are drawn, even more, to another son … the Son of God who we proclaim to be the “light of our world”. And so, we place the Christ light on the table as a symbol of its primacy in our faith.  

For Jesus, he grew up in the dark shadow of the destructive kingdom movements. The Romans had conquered his homeland two generations prior to his birth. Jewish history was that of one powerful Kingdom after another overthrowing Israel, destroying their land and, in many cases, dragging them away into slavery. Countries like Rome, Assyria, Babylon and Egypt were all dark kingdoms that overcame, conquered and carried them away in chains. These were all powerful Kingdoms in their day whose way of darkness had overcome the Hebrew people. Yet, there was hope. Hope for a light that would come; a light that would come for all the nations; a light that would come and shine into the darkness. In the text from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus recalls Isaiah’s prophecy spoken centuries ago, offering hope for the arrival of that light now. Isaiah prophesied: “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned”. The prophesied hope was of one who would bring light into the darkness of the times then; light into the times of the darkness now ~ Jesus is that light!  

The problem with each successive Kingdom movement was that they would overcome power and darkness by exerting even mightier forms of violence. Each successive Kingdom would be constantly fighting the existing powers of darkness with their newer, stronger and darker ways of violence, force and oppression. A violent Kingdom would rise up; it’s power would increase; and it would overthrow the current powers of the day. This new power would maintain control until a new way of darkness would inevitably rise up and challenge the order. In the past, darkness was always fought with further darkness. What was so unique in the prophecy for Israel was that Isaiah foretold of a day when a new power…a power of light…would rise up and confront the dark ways of old. It would not be one of merely overthrowing the ways of darkness with new darkness; Isaiah prophesied of confronting the ways of the past from darkness into light. Gandhi saw Jesus as a wise sage and noted that “an eye for an eye will result in making the world blind”.  

Matthew’s gospel uses an interesting Greek word throughout its telling of how Jesus responds to threats. In the ten episodes that Jesus encounters threats, the verb ‘anachoreo’ is used. In verse 12 of our reading, the text translates it as “withdrew”. Hearing that John had been arrested, “[Jesus] “withdrew” to Galilee making his home in Capernum by the lake in order to fulfill what had been spoken by the prophet. Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned”. He does not confront the powers who had arrested John, he withdraws and allows God’s light to shine in and through him.  

And what shines in Jesus is an entirely new way of life! Matthew is unique in his gospel in speaking, not of the coming of the Kingdom of God (as the 3 other gospels refer to), but rather of the coming of the “Kingdom of heaven”. At the time, the Kingdom of Heaven referred to a place ~ namely a place where people go after death. However, this made no sense in Jesus’ usage of this term. How could the Kingdom of Heaven be said to be approaching in him? How could the Kingdom of Heaven be arriving in him? How could it be arriving now? Jesus’ was giving them light to see an entirely new way of being, of living ~ the Way of the Kingdom of Heaven…arriving NOW! In fact, Jesus calls them from that time on to “repent”, which can be understood literally as being: ‘to change one’s mind’. The light has come and we are to change our minds, our understandings, our ways…we are to change our lives for the light of Christ is shining and there will now be Joy in every place!  

The great church father from the 4th Century, St. Augustine of Hippo begins his famous book Confessions writing: “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee”. I think that is why we are people of light. We will be forever restless, forever searching, forever struggling ~ fighting and rebelling ~ living in the dark until the Christ light touches us. We will be forever restless until we are touched by the light of Christ. We are people of light…attracted to Jesus’ light-ways of grace, light-ways of peace, light-ways of forgiveness. We are people of light…emanating those ways as we live the gospel on a White Gift Sunday where we reach out in amazing ways, and on a regular Sunday when we just live the ways of Christ’s light and a regular day in the middle of the year when we simply let our Christ light shine.  

And when Christ’s light is truly taken in and reflected out, that is truly a time of Joy to the world for the Kingdom is truly coming near in Christ, in the church, in you, in me.

Joy to the world, the Lord is shining.  

Amen.

From this series

Reference

Matthew 4:12-17 & Isaiah 12: 1-6
The Advent of God’s Presence: The Christ Light” (Part Four of Four)

The Advent of God’s Presence: The Christ Light” (Part Four of Four) Matthew 4:12-17 & Isaiah 12: 1-6 ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ Dec 16, 18  

So, how are your preparations going for Christmas? This is a question that will irk many of us as there always seems to be so much pressure to be ‘ready’ for the ‘Big Day’, doesn’t there? And in this season of stress to ‘be ready’, we come to church and you receive the same questions. I almost feel guilty for adding further pressure to people’s busy lives by encouraging people to “slow down, prepare, lest we forget the ‘reason for the season’”. Yet…long before the retail industry hijacked this holiday as a money-making venture, the church had long been encouraging people to prepare … to prepare for the coming of the Christ. And so, in this Advent season, we prepare a place at the ‘inns of our lives’ for Jesus to be born in beautiful and blessed ways.  

This year, we have focused on preparing for the coming of Christ as we have been taking a deeper examination into the symbols that come forth each Sunday. As you witnessed, a number of symbols process forward, and as they come forward we find ourselves preparing our hearts to receive Christ in worship. This year, in the season of Advent, we took a deeper consideration into this practice by examining four of our symbols. We commenced with the Bible, then followed by the communion elements of Bread and Wine, and last week with the waters of baptism. And this morning, we conclude with examining the Christ light. It is interesting… of all the symbols, I think that the Christ light is the one that is most commonly shared. Many worship settings have the Bible on the table at worship, but not all. The bread and wine process, sometimes each week, but not in all churches. And even fewer will have the waters of baptism poured weekly. But it would be the rare, rare church which does not have the Christ light as a focal point for gathering. The Christ light is a focus on the table for worship, for a wedding, or a funeral. We see the Christ light at a church meeting, a study group, even a meditation gathering. This morning we will consider why this Christ light is so important to us. As I think on this, fundamentally, I think the Christ light is there because we are people of the light. I was at Ikea a while back purchasing a supply of candles for worship. I had quite a large supply in my buggy. (you get to know where the best deals on candles are over time). The person behind me made a joke: ‘planning a séance, are you?’ “No” I answered…“I’m a pastor and we go through A LOT of candles”. (what a way to kill a conversation)  

So, why are we drawn to the light? Why are we ‘people of the light’? What is our universal attraction to this symbol of our faith? In some ways, perhaps our attraction to light began with our deep connection with the sun ~ that golden globe that increasingly evades us in this rainy winter season. In earlier times, people believed that the sun was the centre of the solar system and, thus, the light of the world. And, to be sure, the sun truly is incredible. Existing 150 million kilometers away from the earth, it would take a baby, travelling at 240 kilometres per hour, much of its life to fly there, arriving as a septuagenarian. Its diameter is 109 times larger than our own planet earth and it’s heat source radiates 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet, despite the greatness of the sun in the sky, Christians are drawn, even more, to another son … the Son of God who we proclaim to be the “light of our world”. And so, we place the Christ light on the table as a symbol of its primacy in our faith.  

For Jesus, he grew up in the dark shadow of the destructive kingdom movements. The Romans had conquered his homeland two generations prior to his birth. Jewish history was that of one powerful Kingdom after another overthrowing Israel, destroying their land and, in many cases, dragging them away into slavery. Countries like Rome, Assyria, Babylon and Egypt were all dark kingdoms that overcame, conquered and carried them away in chains. These were all powerful Kingdoms in their day whose way of darkness had overcome the Hebrew people. Yet, there was hope. Hope for a light that would come; a light that would come for all the nations; a light that would come and shine into the darkness. In the text from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus recalls Isaiah’s prophecy spoken centuries ago, offering hope for the arrival of that light now. Isaiah prophesied: “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned”. The prophesied hope was of one who would bring light into the darkness of the times then; light into the times of the darkness now ~ Jesus is that light!  

The problem with each successive Kingdom movement was that they would overcome power and darkness by exerting even mightier forms of violence. Each successive Kingdom would be constantly fighting the existing powers of darkness with their newer, stronger and darker ways of violence, force and oppression. A violent Kingdom would rise up; it’s power would increase; and it would overthrow the current powers of the day. This new power would maintain control until a new way of darkness would inevitably rise up and challenge the order. In the past, darkness was always fought with further darkness. What was so unique in the prophecy for Israel was that Isaiah foretold of a day when a new power…a power of light…would rise up and confront the dark ways of old. It would not be one of merely overthrowing the ways of darkness with new darkness; Isaiah prophesied of confronting the ways of the past from darkness into light. Gandhi saw Jesus as a wise sage and noted that “an eye for an eye will result in making the world blind”.  

Matthew’s gospel uses an interesting Greek word throughout its telling of how Jesus responds to threats. In the ten episodes that Jesus encounters threats, the verb ‘anachoreo’ is used. In verse 12 of our reading, the text translates it as “withdrew”. Hearing that John had been arrested, “[Jesus] “withdrew” to Galilee making his home in Capernum by the lake in order to fulfill what had been spoken by the prophet. Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned”. He does not confront the powers who had arrested John, he withdraws and allows God’s light to shine in and through him.  

And what shines in Jesus is an entirely new way of life! Matthew is unique in his gospel in speaking, not of the coming of the Kingdom of God (as the 3 other gospels refer to), but rather of the coming of the “Kingdom of heaven”. At the time, the Kingdom of Heaven referred to a place ~ namely a place where people go after death. However, this made no sense in Jesus’ usage of this term. How could the Kingdom of Heaven be said to be approaching in him? How could the Kingdom of Heaven be arriving in him? How could it be arriving now? Jesus’ was giving them light to see an entirely new way of being, of living ~ the Way of the Kingdom of Heaven…arriving NOW! In fact, Jesus calls them from that time on to “repent”, which can be understood literally as being: ‘to change one’s mind’. The light has come and we are to change our minds, our understandings, our ways…we are to change our lives for the light of Christ is shining and there will now be Joy in every place!  

The great church father from the 4th Century, St. Augustine of Hippo begins his famous book Confessions writing: “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee”. I think that is why we are people of light. We will be forever restless, forever searching, forever struggling ~ fighting and rebelling ~ living in the dark until the Christ light touches us. We will be forever restless until we are touched by the light of Christ. We are people of light…attracted to Jesus’ light-ways of grace, light-ways of peace, light-ways of forgiveness. We are people of light…emanating those ways as we live the gospel on a White Gift Sunday where we reach out in amazing ways, and on a regular Sunday when we just live the ways of Christ’s light and a regular day in the middle of the year when we simply let our Christ light shine.  

And when Christ’s light is truly taken in and reflected out, that is truly a time of Joy to the world for the Kingdom is truly coming near in Christ, in the church, in you, in me.

Joy to the world, the Lord is shining.  

Amen.

Reference

Malachi 3:1-4 & Galatians 3: 23-29
The Advent of God’s Presence: Holy Baptism

The Advent of God’s Presence: Holy Baptism” (Part Three of Four)

Malachi 3:1-4 & Galatians 3: 23-29 ~Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ Dec 9, 2018  

I don’t know about you, but one of the most beautiful things, that I believe, we have the opportunity to participate in is Holy baptism. Following the 15th Century Protestant reformation, the church slimmed the list of holy sacraments down to just two: baptism and communion. This was, of course, from the seven original sacraments which had also included confirmation, penance, marriage, ordination, and the anointing of the sick sacraments. We focused last Sunday on Holy communion, which we celebrate each month. And this morning we focus on the Advent of the Advent of God’s presence in Holy Baptism.  

But what makes baptism so truly beautiful? How is it a sign, symbol and preparation for God’s arrival? One thing that adds to baptism’s wonder, is that it is not done as frequently as many other parts of worship. Baptism certainly is not a weekly ocurance … this will be our third service this year which includes Holy Baptism this year. Indeed, baptism is a rare thing to behold. And even more rare and beautiful is that it is done only once in a person’s lifetime. While we renew our baptism each year in festivals such as Easter, this morning we had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in Liam and Ryan’s baptisms. What a priceless beautiful gift.  

But baptism’s beauty is found beyond its rarity. It is one of the few things that bridges us across denominational lines. One’s baptism connects us not just with other people of the United Church of Canada ~ as wonderful as that is. One’s baptism connects us with brothers and sisters of the universal global church. I inevitably get a question after a baptismal service about the use of the term “catholic”. “Ummm…Rev. Scott, have we changed denominations? Are we Roman Catholic now?” The answer, of course, is no. We are still United Church, but we are reminded in our baptism that we are members of the (small c) catholic church ~ meaning ‘church universal’. In baptism, we are reminded that we are members of the one church of Jesus Christ that is truly united and unbroken. So often our churches seem to disagree over every little thing matters of gender, politics, sexuality, and so many divisive factors. Yet, in our baptism, we are reminded of this one unity we have as one church, with one faith, with one baptism. Recalling Jesus’ baptism, we are reminded that we are all ‘Children of God’ united in the common grace and love revealed in Jesus. In our baptism, we are united in Jesus’ ministry in being the living body of Christ on this earth. What a truly beautiful moment for the church ~ that so often disagrees about the many ways we ought to operate. The beauty in this sacrament is that we can truly come in our common unity and wash the human separations and divisions away and celebrate that we are ‘kin’ ~ we are One in Christ.  

That is where the text from Galatians speaks so beautifully to us, even 2,000 years later. Paul, quoting the baptismal formula used in the day reminded the people of Galatia the way they were to commune ~ baptism was symbolically preparing them for how they were to be together. “There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male or female. For all are one in Christ”. No Jew or Greek ~ speaking to the separations amidst social class, Paul stripped away all the class separations and united people simply as brothers and sisters in Christ. No Jew or Greek ~ speaking to the religious and cultural separations that were growing, Paul stripped those separations away to all that mattered: our identity as brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no male and female ~ separations based upon gender lines would have no claim on them for they would be a new creation where subordinated roles of gender of the past would have no bearing into their future. All of these earthy divisions: social class, religious and cultural separations, gender…in the new community Christ has established, these distinctions are washed away. Paul concludes: “all are one in Christ”. How truly beautiful is that!!!  

There is a key word used in verses 24 and 25 that is especially beautiful ~ in the NRSV it is translated as “disciplinarian”. But in other versions it is translated more softly as “teacher”. The Greek translates literally to ‘pedagogue’. What this word referred to in the Greco-Roman household was what they called the “child leader” who was the slave assigned to supervise and guard the children. The “child leader” was responsible for walking the children to and from school, seeing that they behaved properly and were out of harm’s way. The beautiful part of baptism is how our unity into Christ through our baptism becomes our new “child leader”. As the parents ~ Tara, Michael & Kelly took on vows to allow Christ’s Way to be shared and lived with Ryan and Liam. As the Godparents ~ Karen, Candie & Brenda took on vows to be God parents in the lives of these children. And as we all stand up, on behalf of the universal / catholic church, we vow to create a community where these (and all) children can come and be welcomed and find Christ’s Way guiding their journey. That is truly beautiful! The waters of our baptism are our ‘pedagogue’ ~ they define what it means for us to be community, as we come in unity and become Christ’s people.  

Hilary Clinton wrote a powerful book that mirrors what this might look in action entitled “It takes a Village.” Her premise was a simple one: generations of people from all races and cultures and languages recognized that it takes more than just the “nuclear family” to raise children. ‘It takes a village’ was a reminder of the profound beauty of that African proverb applied on the ground in North America. As I think about it, it seems to me that every parent knows what Clinton was writing about. Without our extended family, without our support system of schools and churches and scout groups and sports teams and neighbors and son on, it is nearly impossible to raise a child. The church incorporates this perspective into the way we live out the call to be a baptized and baptizing church. Parents present their children, share their faith. And the church, in turn, promises to embrace these children and to play a supporting role in their nurture and guidance. This beautiful reality has been a central feature of what it means to be the community of faith for generation upon generation upon generation — we know that it takes a village to raise children in the faith.  

And that is why this beautiful sacrament is such a wonderful opportunity to prepare for the Advent of God’s arrival. We see the water poured and it reminds us of God’s grace. The water opens a place for it God’s arrival. We set a place of welcome…we say you are a beloved child of God (Liam / Ryan)…welcome to the village where Jesus celebrates and unites us one and all. We create a place of welcome for the children. Because long before we welcomed the child, God would first send a little child as a symbol of the Kin-dom coming. A little would be child sent into a world of darkness and pain ~ yet God would send him in order for light and peace to come. And so, we pour the water, creating a place of welcome for all God’s children!  

Come Lord Jesus come!  

Amen.

Reference

Jeremiah & Acts 2:42-47
“The Advent of God’s Presence: Holy Communion”

The Advent of God’s Presence: Holy Communion” (Part Two of Four) Jeremiah & Acts 2:42-47 ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ December 2, 2018  

What do YOU need? What do I need? When I was a child, I used to impatiently wait with unabated enthusiasm the arrival of the Simpson’s-Sear’s Christmas catalogue and I would scour through the toy section, selecting the things I need. Needs such as lego, superhero figurines, dart guns and the list would go on…and on…and (selfishly) on. Perhaps you have children and grandchildren who are doing the same thing at this time of year? As adults, we might have loved ones hinting at what they want (or need) as Christmas approaches. What do you need? What do I need? Our most basic needs, of course, are physiological. Abraham Maslow, the famous American psychologist from the last century is remembered for his hierarchy of needs pyramid which place our physiological needs at the foundation of a need hierarchy. Food, water, shelter, and warmth are basic physiological needs that are primal for all of us. As I prepare each month for our services of Holy Communion, that is one of the things I think of. Communion as a basic primal need: the need for food.  

Jesus, of course, was very attuned to this human need we share when he instituted Holy Communion. Prior to the ‘Last Supper’, Jesus had long been gathering in communion with people from all walks of life and sharing in this most basic need. While it is something that we all need – to eat – Jesus was condemned for eating with people of different races, creeds or status. He was condemned for eating with prostitutes; he was condemned for eating with women; he was condemned for eating with tax collectors; he was condemned for creating community with those ‘other’ than he was. In fact, Jesus seemed to go out of his way to demonstrate this nature of his teaching through those he would dine with, those he would include, those he would ‘break bread’ with. You see, for Jesus, eating was much more than just a physiological act to sustain the body. Eating was a way to demonstrate the inbreaking of the Kin-dom of God.  

The text that Kathleen just read for us from the book of Acts lifts up the living out of Jesus’ communion way. Just prior to this particular reading, some significant things have occurred in the text. The Holy Spirit has descended upon all the people ~ people from distant lands who had assembled with their various languages and customs and they were united in understanding and love. And then, Peter preached a deeply moving sermon, so moving that 3,000 people converted. The text we heard is what follows these amazing acts and we learn that the primary purpose for followers is to gather in community. The text breaks the purpose of Jesus’ communal gatherings into four areas: teaching, prayer, fellowship and the breaking of bread. For the purposes of our time this morning, we will be considering the later two: fellowship and the breaking of bread.  

It is important, I think, for us to understand the significance of fellowship and the breaking of bread. Fellowship was more than just an obligation to be a good neighbor. For the Jewish community, their rituals of purification were tied to the sacred bond of friendship. At the time, there was a parallel understanding in Greek philosophy of friendship as sharing ‘all things in common’. In this text, we are given a Greek term ‘koinonia’ which is that of the Holy Spirit uniting different believers into a common unity. It was not merely a warm-hearted love where one smiles at a stranger as they pass by; but rather a fellowship that produces astounding wonders and signs. It is a fellowship that overturns all material and social arrangements and shows the resurrected community of Jesus’ people as being alive.  

Seen in this light, the breaking of bread is an extension of this sacred koinonia fellowship. There was an understanding of this being a jubilee time when freedom would come for all people. The book of Leviticus records it as one of their laws (Lev. 25:10). Every seventh year was a Sabbath year that included intentional rest compared to the previous six. Farmers would rest their land, leaving it fallow, and allowing for it to regenerate. And after seven cycles of Sabbath, on the 50th year, there would be true jubilee. It would be a time when debts would be forgiven and slaves, who could never possibly earn their way to freedom, would become liberated and receive freedom. Their understanding of the breaking of bread was both symbolic as well as tangible. Devout Jewish families would commune after temple worship for symbolic meals which were equally important to the actual worship itself. But the breaking of bread wasn’t just symbolic. It was also enacted as they would have a communal understanding of their property. The selling and redistribution of property among all was a reflection of the social character of the Kin-dom of God. The table of God’s Kin-dom is big, there was room for all, they would not gather until all were included and fed. It was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Kin-dom where he proclaims: “everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come and buy wine and milk without money and without price”. This might be a poor illustration of this, but I wonder if any of you have ever experienced the “pay it forward” movement? I was recently at a drive-thru picking up a snack and the server at the window said “here you go, sir. And your order has already been paid for”. I was startled. “Paid for…what?” “The driver ahead of you paid for your order as a gift. It happens every once in a while. A generous soul pays it forward”. I was so touched, to have a stranger care for me in such a way. The community that gathered around principles of koinonia and the breaking of bread is even richer and deeper than that! Koinonia is the Shoebox Ministry and the Hot Lunch. It is the Refugee Ministry, Grief Group and the many extensions of Pastoral Care. It is welcoming a new person to church ~ picking someone up for church and going for lunch afterwards. It is checking in on one another who we are missing. Koinonia community is more than merely breaking bread. It is creating a table that extends into the way we live and love and serve. Koinonia is the living heartbeat of Christ’s love alive on earth.  

And so, when we come to this table, we are embraced in one of the most primal places of our need ~ our hungers. And we are assured that we are welcomed, fed and satisfied. We are called to live into this ‘Way’ in our faith expression as people of Christ. Living the koinonia way of fellowship ~ the breaking of bread in ways that embrace the presence of the ‘other’ at our table. One of the questions that I struggle with is the tone in which we should approach communion in our hearts. Quite often, the tone of communion is quite somber. And, in many ways this is fitting. Communion was instituted at ‘The Last Supper’ when Jesus broke bread with his friends following the Passover meal, later followed by his arrest, trial, sentencing and death. Thursday and Friday of Holy Week touches the absolute depths of human pain and suffering. It is a deeply sad time. Yet the story does not end there. Indeed, there is more to communion than Thursday. Communion is not only a re-enactment of ‘The Last Supper’, it is also when Jesus instituted what I think we might call: ‘The First Supper’. A ‘First Supper’ where all who follow experience Jesus’ Way. A ‘First Supper’ offering us a new reality of life that offers hope from despair, liberation from oppression, new life when we might have thought death was the end. The ‘First Supper’ is a tangible hope that becomes ours as we come forward, as we receive, and as we take in the mystery. To come and receive Holy Communion is to taste the meal of the Kin-dom. And that is a time that touches all aspects of our emotion. It is truly a time of celebration! For we taste the Kin-dom Way of God.  

This morning is the first Sunday in Advent. The Sunday that we prepare for the Advent of “Hope”. And whenever we take the bread and the wine, we truly experience that tangible reminder of this “hope” that is ours … now…this hope that is coming…then…this hope that is offered … through God in Christ.  

May we find the hope of God at this table…and at all the tables where we commune.  

Amen.  

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