Summary: The Lord’s Table not only calls us to remember the past, or to celebrate the Sacrament in the present -- it also demands that we envision the future.
There is a new day dawning at our church.
The Holy Spirit is alive and at work in amazing ways at Good Shepherd.
We have a new youth director coming in August.
We have a new Director of Christian Education who is revitalizing our educational ministry.
Our Enhancement Campaign is off to a great start and in the next few weeks we should see some dynamic changes in our facilities.
Our elders had a retreat last month and they are working together better than ever.
Last week our youth were on their annual choir tour. Next week the youth will be on a mission trip. Later this month we will have a mission team in Haiti. So many great things are happening!
It is a new day at Good Shepherd. And we can give thanks that the Holy Spirit is so very dynamically at work.
I think one of the problems in the church is that very often people do not expect the Holy Spirit to do anything.
I have told some of you the story that my professor from Seminary told me – Tom Long, before becoming a seminary professor, served in a small, rural pastorate and he was teaching a Confirmation Class. Three little girls composed the entire enrollment of the class and Tom was doing his best to teach them the deep truths of the Christian Faith.
In one session, he was teaching them about the Christian calendar – you know, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter – and they pretty much knew all about it until he got to Pentecost and none of them had a clue what that day was about.
So Tom began to explain, “Pentecost was the day that the church gathered together for worship and the Holy Spirit came to them like tongues of fire and sat on the heads of everyone, and everyone began speaking in different languages.”
As Tom tells the story, two of the little girls took this in stride but the third girl’s eyes got as big as saucers and finally she was unable to contain herself any more – “Gee, Reverend Long, my family must have been out of town that Sunday.”
The wonderful thing about that story is that for that little girl, there was the expectation that God might do something wonderful and incredible one day – that in the middle of her tiny congregation, as the offering plates were being passed about and as people were nodding off during a sermon – God might suddenly appear.
For many of us there is the loss of that sort of expectation.
When we gather around the Lord’s Table, we should be filled with expectation about the future.
When we gather here, we need to be aware of the past, present and future – but most of us are only aware of the past and the present, and we neglect the future.
In terms of the past, we know what that is about. The front of the Lord’s Table says, “Do this in REMEMBRANCE of me.” So when we break the bread we remember the past – recalling how Christ’s body was broken for us. When we pour the wine into the cup, we remember the blood that was poured out for our redemption.
The past is clear at this table.
And so is the present.
When we gather around this Table it is in this moment. WE are the ones who gather. We do this NOW. And we in the present receive this blessing.
The present is clear at this table.
But the future is not so clear and we often tend to ignore it.
John, in his book of Revelation, did not want us to ignore the future tense of this Table. For him it was important to understand that when we eat this bread and drink this cup we were not only looking back at the past or experiencing the here and now of the present – we were looking forward with great expectation toward the future.
John was not alone in his understanding of the future tense of the Table of Christ. Paul wrote in his New Testament book of I Corinthians, (1 Cor 11:26): “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Every time we gather at this Table the future is upon us.
In Revelation, John expressed the future tense of the Lord’s Table in verse 9 of our New Testament lesson: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”
John was not presenting a new and radical concept in his book of Revelation – this wedding feast, or Messianic Feast, was something that God’s people had been looking forward to for quite some time.
Throughout the Old Testament period, Jews were looking forward to this great Messianic Feast. For the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, the future Messianic Feast was filled with promises (Isaiah 25:6-9). It was a time in which the Lord Almighty would gather His people to a table for a feast. God would destroy whatever divided or oppressed people. Death would be destroyed. Isaiah put it this way: