Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sermon from May 15, 2011; Acts 2:42-47

Rev. George Miller
Acts 2:42-47
“Our Daily Bread”
May 15, 2011

Last week, we heard Luke’s account of the resurrection; how the risen Christ was made known at a table through the breaking of bread.

Today’s scripture from Acts is written by the same author and makes not one but two references to breaking bread.

“Day by day…they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.” Know what that reminds me of?

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.”

Give us this day our daily bread/ Day by day, they broke bread at home.

It’s no secret that a consistent theology of mine is hospitality; the importance of shared meals and welcoming people to eat together.

I’ve had some memorable meals (and the waistline to prove it). Beef bourguignon, birthday celebrations, after church lunches and afternoon cocktails.

But I never had a meal like that of a certain pastor who was asked to dinner by one of his church members, someone who was notorious for being a bad housekeeper.

When he sat down at the table, he noticed the dishes were the dirtiest he had ever seen. Running his finger over the grit and grime, he asked his hostess in the most delicate way possible “Were these dishes ever washed?”

“Oh yes,” she replied, “they’re as clean as soap and water could get them.”

He felt a bit uncomfortable, but blessed the food anyway and started eating. Despite the dirty dishes, the food was actually delicious.

When dinner was over, the hostess took the plates and walked outside to the backyard shouting “Here Soap! Here Water!”

Now, this story never actually happened, and if it did, woe to that pastor. It’s far-fetched, meant to create a response.

Today’s scripture also sounds a bit on the far-fetched side. The author is relating about a time in the church when everything seemed golden.

The resurrected Christ had ascended and the disciples were left in Jerusalem to be his witnesses to all the ends of the earth.

The day of Pentecost arrives and with it the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and things are happening all over.

Peter, filled with passion, gives an incredible sermon. He tells the people about Jesus, he calls them to repent, and he reminds them of God’s promises not just to them but to their children.

That day, 3,000 people were baptized and joined the 12 disciples in their ministry. 3,000 people, about a 1/3 of Sebring.

Perhaps what’s even more amazing is that these enthusiastic events were not a one time deal that faded away the next day.

No, what we hear is that God gets busy creating a new community; a community in which everyone devotes themselves to learning. They live together, sell their belongings, and give the money away.

And day after day, they were together! Day after day they’re in the temple; day after day they’re sharing meals with gladness; day after day they’re praising God; each and every 3,012 of them.

For those of us here who are extroverts, this sounds like an awesome thing. For those who are introverts, this can sound quite horrifying; doing everything together.

Now, did this really happen as written? Or, is it possible that the author exaggerated a bit? Could 3,012 people really live in such a way?

Or is the author is looking back with a bit of nostalgia, trying to hold onto an ideal?

That’s for each of us to discern; but let’s not lose the message, which is: through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, God did something so new in which Christ was becoming known to more and more people, and heaven really was a place on earth.

And as stated before, there were a lot of shared meals and a lot of breaking bread together with glad and generous hearts.

Give us this day our daily bread/ Day by day, they broke bread at home.

Daily bread. Day by day. So, so important.

First, meals were a great equalizer for Jesus. He ate with everyone: rich and poor, tall and short, at a table or outside. The way Jesus ate leveled the social playing field, making everyone feel welcome.
For anyone who felt like an outsider, a nerd or a face without a name, this was revolutionary.

This trait of Jesus not being picky with who he ate with irritated some, for example the Pharisees who grumbled about how he welcomed and ate with sinners. (Luke 15:2).

Which brings us to a second point: Jesus’ eating with sinners was an embodiment of God’s forgiveness.

Remember growing up: if we misbehaved we were sent away from the table. That was a powerful act of exclusion that said because of our actions we were not suitable to eat with the family.

Even if you were given a plate of food to eat in your room, it didn’t taste quite the same.

How did you know you were forgiven, that you had paid your dues? You were allowed back to the table to share in the same bowl of mashed potatoes, the same roast beef, and the same hot butter biscuits.

And it felt like heaven.

Which brings us to the third point: shared meals recalled the Last Supper and the promised messianic banquet we would one day all share.

As Luke 25 recalls, it was during his last meal that Jesus took the loaf of bread, gave thanks, broke it and passed it to them, saying they were to do this in remembrance of him. Afterwards he promised that one day they would eat and drink at his kingdom table.

The importance of breaking bread together: it was how Jesus leveled the social playing field, it was a tangible sign of God’s forgiveness and it was how Jesus wanted us to look back and look ahead.

No wonder why the Resurrected Christ was made known through the breaking of bread in Emmaus.

Which brings us back to the Lord’s Prayer: what if the expression “Give us this day our daily bread” is not just a plea to having enough food?

What if it also a way to say “Give us in every day a chance to break bread with each other in fellowship”?

What if it can mean “Give us the daily chance to have the playing field leveled; give us a chance to not feel like an outsider, a nerd, or a nameless face. Let us be an insider while maintaining our own identity as a Mary, as a Gene, as a Reynaldo, as a Connie, as a Sandra, as a Tom”?

What if “Give us this day our daily bread” can also mean “Remind us again that our sins are forgiven and let us sit side by side and share a meal with our family in Christ”?

What if it’s another way to say “Let us eat together so we are reminded of the promise that we will all have a place at the kingdom table”?

Day by day, they broke bread at home/ Give us this day our daily bread.

In conclusion, we may never know if Luke’s memories of the earliest church were completely accurate, or if he was looking back in hopeful nostalgia.

But it doesn’t change one of the lessons we learn: that in the community of Christ, a meal is not just a meal, but it is a chance to experience Christ amongst us.

Any time we get to be together and break bread is a chance to remember we are all equals in Christ.

To remember that we too have a place at the kingdom table.

That in Christ we all have the assurance that our sins have been forgiven and we have been washed cleaner then any soap and water could get us.

For that we can all be grateful.

All thanks and blessings be to the Spirit that works to unite us, to God who forgives us and to Christ who feeds us.

Amen and amen.

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