Pastoral Series

Worship Matters: Mobile sanctuaries

  God loves food. Any time we eat, we are fulfilling God’s plan. God created the earth with a built in possibility for fertility. The human mind was fashioned with an innate creativity that figured out, with no written instructions from the creator, how to pick, prepare, cook, and even garnish the things that grew. God must smile broadly gazing down into kitchens when a soufflé or eggplant parmesan is being whipped up.

“God is great, God is good, let us thank God for our food. By his hands we are fed…” But many hands, generally unacquainted with one another, are used by God to feed us. The planter, the reaper, the separator, the canner, the driver, the grocer, the bagger, the cook: a holy brigade of hands enable something green to grow and finally be scooped up with a fork as roasted brussels sprouts.

Jesus taught us more at mealtime than any other time. The Gospels report quite a few dinners where Jesus commits one faux pas after another: chiding the cook, upbraiding the host, ruining a lovely meal with a rankling sermonette, like “Don’t invite those who can invite you back” (Luke 14); people of suspect character were dragged in by Jesus to private dinners. Jesus was obsessed with who got to eat and who didn’t, and with whom. Jesus’ dining habits tell us most of what we need to know about God’s heart, and also about the ultimate meal, the Lord’s Supper.

Like all other meals, that unforgettable feast on the last night of Jesus’ life was all about gratitude, fellowship, joy and attentiveness to God. But on that fateful night, Jesus spoke ominously of the bread and his body, and the wine and his blood – and then he got up, went out, and died. At dinner, he said “Do this.” And so we do.

Theologians have gazed at a tiny wafer, and a goblet of wine, puzzled over it, and then published thick tomes, libraries full, trying to explicate the meaning of this meal. And yet, I love it that the most unlettered people actually “get” the Lord’s Supper. Back before there was a New Testament, Jesus’ first followers, with no training and less understanding, kept doing what he told us to do. Austin Farrer described it like this: “Jesus gave his body and blood to his disciples in bread and wine. Amazed at such a token, and little understanding what they did, Peter, John and the rest reached out their hands and took their master and their God. Whatever else they knew or did not know, they knew they were committed to him – and that they, somehow, should live it out.”

When a disciple is filled with Jesus, he remembers what his physical body is to be: a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). My body assumes various roles during the day: laborer, exerciser, lounger, romantic, sleeper. But N.T. Wright vividly remind us that, when we eat and drink at the Lord’s table, “we become walking shrines, living temples in whom the living triune God truly dwells.” Before approaching the Lord’s table, our bodies seem gangly and misspent. But once we walk away, there is no longer any doubt that we are in fact “mobile sanctuaries.”

Worship matters – if it transforms you into a mobile sanctuary! More on the Lord’s Supper next time…

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