I Corinthians 11:23-26
How many of you remember the 2006 October surprise storm? How many of you were here for that? My family and I went without electricity for six days. Amazing, isn’t it! Electricity is just something we take for granted, and when it isn’t there – well – our lives become disrupted. What I learned – what we all came to realize – is just how dependent we are on electricity for so much. By the way – the only change I made after that storm was to get a new sump pump that works even when the power is off.
All these gadgets – all these appliances that we rely on to make our lives easier – these all rely on electricity for their source of power. For instance, we have this pipe organ over here. Like all modern day pipe organs it absolutely relies on electricity to run. Even the best of today’s organists can’t play a note without the wonder of electricity.
But you know, it wasn’t always that way. Think back. Organs – pipe organs have been around for hundreds of years – a lot longer than electricity, anyway. So you might be thinking, how in the world did they get these things to work without electricity – to work the bellows to force the air through the pipes?
Well, guess what? It came from man power. That’s right. Man power. Someone was needed to pump the bellows to create the airflow needed to play the majestic organs of the great cathedrals in Europe.
Such was the case – or so the story goes – when a guest organist¬ ¬was scheduled to play at a cathedral famous for its pipe organ. This brilliant guest organist bowed before the crowd and said, “For my first selection, I will play a piece by Mozart.” He sat at the organ, and began to press the keys, but no sound came out. He attempted a second time, but again, nothing happened.
He tried a third, time, but before he did, he shouted rather irritated, “For my first selection, I will play a piece by Mozart.” He went to the keyboard, and still there was no sound. Suddenly, he heard a voice from behind the organ, “If you don’t say we, I ain’t gonna pump.”
The organist smiled and said, “For OUR first selection, WE will play a piece by Mozart.” Whereupon magnificent music was heard by all.
I want you to remember that illustration tonight. And after tonight too. The church of Jesus Christ is the church of Jesus Christ at its best when we talk in terms of “we” and “us” and “our” instead of “I” and “me” and “my.” That’s why we gather together tonight as a congregation. Tonight we gather as a family at the church’s family meal around a table – at the Lord’s table. There is no better way that I know of for us to express “we, us and our” than at this table. Because it is here – in this place – at this table – that we are truly one.
In my back yard – oops, perhaps I should say “our” back yard since I’m not the only one who lives at my – I mean “our” house. Anyway, in the backyard where we live there is a grove – more accurately – there used to be a grove of Black Hills spruce trees. When we first moved in nearly 21 years ago, I counted 65 if them. Today, there are just 5 left. Disease took some, but most were lost to wind storms over the years. Blew them right over.
Those trees in my – I mean our – backyard were planted by someone years ago as saplings. They grew up together. They survived the years by growing up together and being together. The root systems of these trees are shallow, and they became interwoven – each one connected to the one next to it. And that is where the strength of the trees came from.
But when the land was cleared to build my – I mean our – house on the lot, the trees on the fringes – having lost the support of the neighboring tree that had been cut down to make room for the house, were easily susceptible to the winds that brought those trees down. These trees grew up interdependent on each other.
I want you to see this as a great model for the church of Jesus Christ. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are dependent – we are interdependent – on each other. What that means is that in the church, there isn’t room for a lone ranger – go it alone all by myself – approach to faith. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a team. We are family. We are a community. A Christian in isolation is a contradiction in terms.
But here’s the problem. We live in a world that is teaching us to be – shall I say – fiercely independent. For instance, the mission statement of the Clarence School District is a great statement – except for one word.
“The mission of the Clarence Central School District is to produce independent, lifelong learners who are responsible, contributing members of a diverse society.”
I like that part about being “responsible, contributing members of a diverse society,” but I trip over that word independent. Certainly we don’t want to produce dependency. But I would have preferred that those who produced that statement would have used the word “interdependent,” so that we would have, “…interdependent, life-long learners.”
Well – nobody asked me. And hey – don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that independence is a bad thing. However, taken to an extreme – if we were all to live our lives independently – going our own way – so busy with our own agendas – we might very well end up being isolated from each other. And that is not good for society – and it certainly is not what the church of Jesus Christ is all about.
That is one of the reasons why tonight is so special. At the table of the Lord we are reminded once again, that we are indeed a community – we are indeed a family – the family of the Lord. And I am delighted to welcome 28 fourth graders – young members of this family – to the table as full communicants. They’re not all here tonight – spring break and all that – but we welcome these young disciples to the Lord’s Table for their First Communion tonight.
So the Lord’s Supper – Holy Communion – Eucharrist – it has many names – is the family meal in which we participate tonight. It has its beginnings in Passover. That’s what Jesus was celebrating with his disciples on that last night they were together.
One of the things that I told the fourth graders about in preparation for this night is the story of the Exodus. We looked at the story of Moses, and how God used Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.
And we learned how Passover got its name. You all remember the story, right? You remember that the clincher in the story – the event that finally convinced Pharaoh – the king of Egypt – to let the people go – took place one night when God sent death upon the first-born in all of the households in Egypt. But the angel of death “passed over” the homes of the Israelites – where the blood of a lamb had been painted on the doorposts.
For centuries now, the Jewish people have been celebrating this act of God’s deliverance – as an act of remembrance – in the festival of Passover. In fact, Passover was celebrated just a few days ago. Our Jewish friends begin the Passover meal with the youngest child asking, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The father then tells the Passover story.
When our Jewish friends tell the story – and eat the Passover meal – it is a celebration. It is a celebration of freedom from slavery in Egypt – a celebration of new life.
And quite frankly – it is the same thing for us. “Why is this night different from other nights?” It is different from all other nights because on this night we gather to tell the story – the Savior’s story. We celebrate our freedom – the freedom Christ gives us from our bondage to a different kind of slavery. A slavery to sin – to guilt – to death.
My friends – let me tell you that we are a family of faith, and we share a common desire to be fed by God – both by the Word of God – and through the real food of bread and wine which is the body and blood of Christ.
Let me go back to what I said in the beginning about electricity. It’s the power we need to make all of those gadgets we rely on work – and quite frankly – the gadgets that we are so dependent on that when we don’t have them – we find it difficult to live without them.
The power we need to live the life that Christ calls us to live comes from:
1. The person and the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
2. God’s Word to us – the Bible.
3. Through Christ’s presence to us in bread and wine and
4. Through spending time together in worship and service and fellowship together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
These are our sources of power. These are what we hold in common.
So as we gather tonight – here in this place – to eat and to drink – to participate in this – the church family meal – let’s let go of our independence. Can we focus instead on our inter-dependence? Like trees whose roots are intertwined to give strength and support to each other – I hope you will recognize how much we do need each other. This is not just a once and done event. This is a place where we need to come together – as often as we can – as the family of God that we are.
We are a community. We are a team. We are – family. So come. You come. Come as brothers and sisters in Christ – here in this place – together at the Table of the Lord.