|Palm Sunday, Year A||April 5, 2020||Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday||Matthew 26:18|
|Lent 5, Year A||March 29, 2020||Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A 2020||John 11:1-45|
|➤Lent 4, Year A||March 22, 2020||Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||Psalm 23|
|Lent 3, Year A at the Cathedral||March 15, 2020||Third Sunday in Lent, Year A||John 4:5-42|
|Lent 2, Year A – March 8, 2020 – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||March 8, 2020||Lent 2, Year A||John 3:1-17|
|Lent 1, Year A||March 1, 2020||First Sunday in Lent, Year A||Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11|
|Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020||February 25, 2020||Ash Wednesday, Year A||Joel 2:1-2, 12-17|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 23, 2020||Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 17:1-9|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 16, 2020||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Sirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 3:1-9, I Corinthians 13: 11-12; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 9, 2020||Epiphany 5, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12];Matthew 5:13-20|
|The Presentation||February 2, 2020||Presentation of Jesus in the Temple||Luke 2:22-40|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2020||Third Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 4: 12-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting||January 19, 2020||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting||Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2020||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 3:13-17|
|Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2020||The Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
Lent 4, Year A
Sermon Date:March 22, 2020
Scripture: Psalm 23
Liturgy Calendar: Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C
“Lord, you spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over.”
This familiar verse from Psalm 23 reminds us that the Lord is spreading a table before us in these troubling times.
And yet, one of the tables that God prepares for us, the table at St Peter’s, is off limits because of the coronavirus pandemic and our need to stay at a distance from one another.
Not having access to God’s table at church gives us greater incentive to look for the tables that God is always preparing outside the walls of the church.
Now, while we can’t come kneel around God’s table at church for the time being, let’s go on a search for the many tables that God is always preparing for us in all sorts of places.
The Allegory of the Long Spoons is an allegory which you may have heard in one form or another. According to Wikipedia, this allegory is attributed to Rabbi Haim of Ramshishok.
In this allegory, God takes a person on a visit to hell and then to heaven. In hell, people sit around a table. A bowl of delectable stew is in the middle of the table. And everyone has a long spoon. However, their arms are bound with wooden slats and they cannot bend their arms to get the food into their mouths. What a mess! People have spilled the food and wasted it as they’ve tried to feed themselves. They are angry and unsatisfied.
Then God takes the person to heaven. And in heaven, the people are also sitting around a table with a bowl of delectable stew at its center. They too have long spoons and their arms are also bound with the wooden slats. But these people are full and contented, laughing and enjoying the company of one another.
The visitor is puzzled. What is the difference here? As the visitor watches, she sees a person reach with his long spoon into the bowl of stew, and then reach out to feed the person across the table. And then the person who has just been fed returns the favor.
Everyone is fed, because the people in heaven are happy to share and to help one another.
We’ve seen a lot of news about people going to the grocery store and hoarding food and supplies because they are afraid that they won’t have enough if they get sick and are homebound for weeks. And then someone else gets to the store, and the eggs are gone, and there’s no bread, and someone just took the last carton of milk.
But if we know that God provides for us, we know that God’s table has a bountiful supply of whatever we need, and so we can trustingly take only what we need, so that God’s bounty is available for the next person who comes to sit at God’s table.
God’s table is spread in the grocery store. Our decisions as we shop will determine whether that table is like the table in heaven where people share, or the table in hell, where everyone is hungry and miserable.
Every time we share with others, we are making God’s abundant table a reality here on earth. Thank you, everyone, who made our food distribution possible last week for those who come to the table at St Peter’s every month for food. They found food ready and waiting for them when they got to St Peter’s. They found God’s table spread for them when they got here. We were putting our “long spoons” to work.
God spreads a table, full of God’s abundance, wherever people are actively working, in whatever way, to get food and other supplies to people who are in need.
Another place that God sets a table is in our own homes. I’ve been thinking about how eating around our tables at home would change if we took seriously the idea that God is sitting down with us every time we eat together. The Moravians sometimes sing a prayer before meals as a reminder that every time we gather around our tables at home, God is present with us, and that God has provided what we are preparing to eat. Here’s the Moravian prayer.
“Be present at our table, Lord. Be here, and everywhere adored. By thine own bounteous hand our food, may we receive with gratitude.”
Gratitude is an essential part of setting the table. Even in difficult times, having gratitude for our countless blessings reminds us that God does indeed provide for us, and that we can live our lives in thanksgiving, even when times are hard. A table set in gratitude opens our hearts to finding God present with us not only at the table, but in every moment of our lives. And a table set in gratitude brings joy to those around the table.
You can also find prayers in The Book of Common Prayer on page 835 under the heading, Grace at Meals.
One of these graces acknowledges God’s bounty for all throughout the whole universe.
“Blessed are you, O Lord God, King of the Universe, for you give us food to sustain our lives and make our hearts glad; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
And the following prayer reminds us that when we sit down at God’s table we are to remember to share what we have with others.
“Give us grateful hearts, our Father, for all your mercies, and make us mindful of the needs of others; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
The Jewish people have a custom of setting a place for Elijah at their traditional Passover meal, the seder. A children’s book entitled A Place for Elijah, by Kelly Easton Ruben, tells the story of a family who sets the table for Passover, including a place for Elijah. When the electricity goes out in the apartment building across the street, people start arriving at Sarah’s apartment. Sarah’s parents keep inviting people in to join the Passover meal, and as these unexpected guests take their places around the table, Sarah keeps setting another place for Elijah. And then all the chairs are gone except for that one last place when the door bell rings again. Sarah wonders how she will be able to keep a place for Elijah now that the last place will be taken. The young man is invited in, and guess what his name is—that’s right, Elijah!
That story helps us to remember that Jesus sits with us at our tables, and that Jesus is present to us when we are truly present to one another.
The 23rd psalm ends with these words. “and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In the Lord’s house, the Lord has set a great banquet table abundantly supplied with all that we will ever need in this life and in the life to come, and we all have seats at that table, if we dare to enter in and take our places.
Even though we can’t gather around the table at church right now, we can still gather around the tables God has spread for us outside the church walls.
For we are at God’s heavenly banquet table every time we welcome God to our tables, every time we find God present in one another, and every time we reach across our tables and reach out to share God’s abundance with one another.