Revelation 19:6-9 CEB
And I heard something that sounded like a huge crowd, like rushing water and powerful thunder. They said,
“Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty,
exercised his royal power!
Let us rejoice and celebrate, and give him the glory,
for the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
She was given fine, pure white linen to wear,
for the fine linen is the saints’ acts of justice.”
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Favored are those who have been invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb.” He said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Occasionally, some article or another will ask the question, “If you could pick any historical figure, living or dead, to have dinner with, who would you pick?” Now, various figures have topped the lists from Benjamin Franklin to Albert Einstein, but usually, Jesus is on there somewhere too. What would it be like to eat with Jesus as the early disciples did? To share a simple Passover meal in the upper room, to break bread, and share a drink. What would he say? What questions would we ask? What would it be like to see our Savior face to face? Our hymn for tonight, “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee,” points out that here at this communion table, where we have our simple loaves and juice, here “O my Lord, I see thee face to face.” Somehow, here, this evening, our hymn transports us to that Upper Room at this table, to eat with our Lord. It’s a reminder that there’s always been a kind of mystery to this feast, something hidden in plain sight.
Something more happens at this meal, this idea that we “handle things unseen,” and it is not hard to believe when our meal tonight engages our senses. Bread, whole and then torn, broken between the pastor’s fingers. Juice, splashing and tinkling, as it pours from pitcher to cup. The feel of soft bread pressed into our hands, and the coolness of the cup as we pluck it, ringing from the tray. The grain in our mouths, followed by the sour sweetness of juice. All of this while we are in motion; as we walk, kneel, sit, and stand. Perhaps it is not so hard to imagine that “you are handling something holy; you are holding unseen grace.” After all, when else do you have to do so much for a little morsel of bread and just a sip of grape? All these words and motions impart that we are handling not just food and drink, but grace itself.
Both the hymn and the words from Revelation remind us that grace can be found in this meal, this unmerited favor of God may be encountered at this table. Revelation calls it the “wedding banquet of the Lamb,” and our hymn calls it the “the heavenly table spread for me.” Our Lord invites us to the table, for who invites themselves to a banquet? God has prepared the table, “Christ is the host,” they’ve laid out the feast, and have sent us the invitation. Grace works this same way, we cannot demand it. We cannot take it. It must be given. Jesus gives it, gives this compassion and care from the flesh and blood of his own body for you and for me. We touch it here at this table, this “bread of God” and “the royal wine of heaven.” We sit at the table with Jesus, as he shares this meal with you and me, with all of us together.
“Here, O My Lord,” tells us tonight that I can experience “the hallowed hour of fellowship with thee,” our Christ. How can the hymn be so certain? I mean there are times when we just go through the motions at this table. There are times when the pastor flubs their lines. Sometimes all we can think about is how bland the bread tastes or if the juice is just slightly off because the stewards used cranberry juice instead. What about when our minds wander? How can this hymn be so certain that I will always encounter Christ here no matter what is going on around me? After all, can we even claim God’s time and presence like this, surely, our God is like the wind, blowing wherever and whenever God chooses. How can we say for certain that we can tie our God down like this, to this place, to this time? On the other hand, “certain winds [are] known to blow consistently - trade winds,” and in “areas where the trade winds blow, the wind is to be expected; it can be counted on.” It is the same for our communion feast, Christ asks us to remember him at this meal, and our Lord, who has invited us, always remembers to be present at this simple meal to share with us a feast of grace.
We are nourished at our table tonight. Bread and juice slip unseen into our bodies to feed us from within. Grace does the same, as Christ slips in, unseen to feed you and me. You see, “[he’s] gotten inside you, and he’ll be in you when you’re back home.” This food has the power to change you even when you are distracted, even when things are off, and even when you are going through the motions. That’s the thing after all, not even the disciples fully understood what was going on when Jesus said his words about body and blood for the first time so long ago, and we don’t always understand them perfectly today. That’s the thing about grace, it works in us and around us whether we fully grasp it or not. This meal though gives us a chance to “grasp with firmer hand [this] eternal grace.”
Too soon, our time together tonight will be over. In mere moments, we will have ingested the bread and swallowed all the juice. We share just a sample, just an appetizer of the feast Revelation describes. Wedding days and banquets can take mere moments, but the wedding and banquet of the Lamb will know no end. We will have the chance to share the table with Jesus, with the other gathered guests, our neighbors and fellow children of God, for the rest of ever. The same is true of the sample of grace we get tonight, it hints at something fuller than what we taste tonight, fuller than the disciples could have grasped. Grace never runs out, and God’s favor will continue forever. As our hymn reminds us, “[feast] after feast thus comes and passes by; yet, passing, points to glad feast above.” Tonight’s meal will end, but Jesus will be there to meet us at the next and the next. Jesus will greet us and invite us to share at this table until we are all spread around it at eternity’s end.
We share this feast and go out into the night, but the love lingers. The love lingers and plunges ahead into the darkness to Good Friday and beyond. Let the love linger still as we leave this place. Like the grain and grape, let us make it tangible, something that others can see and hear, smell and taste just as the Lord commands. Let us love and nourish as our Jesus first loved and nourished us. Amen.
Pastor Paul Grossman