Sep 8, 2016
Sermon Text Podcast to follow. This sermon refers to the meals on wheels service run by St Stephen's Uniting Church in Toowoomba.
One of the mottos that has been used in relation to meals on
wheels is that it is “more than just a meal”. Two years ago we
heard a member of the State council of meals on wheels tell the
story of a life saved because a volunteer discovered a client very
unwell ath their house. This story is one of many. Indeed I have
personal experience as a family member of Meals on Wheels
volunteers from the Geebung service alerting me to the serious
state of my mum’s health. Beyond this the volunteers often go to
very lonely people and bring human contact into their lives. For
many people this may be a valuable point of contact in their week.
Even if they have supportive friends and family this is true. Which
one of us would be unhappy about a person voluntarily visiting us
five days a week and spending a few friendly minutes with us. How
many of us have friends or family who live outside our homes who
are so dedicated.
Indeed what is true of meals on wheels is true of every shared meal. No meal share with another, whether it is a pie bought from a sales assistant in a shop, or a Sunday roast eaten around the family dining table is just a meal. It is a social interaction. It is a meeting of people. I think this is a big part of life and faith. Yes we need shelter from the rain. Yes we need clothing from warmth and to protect us from the sun. Yes we need food but we also need relationships. We need love. Without this we do not thrive. We are not fully ourselves.
This was true in Jesus’ time too. I think it is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago in Jesus’ time, but in Jesus’ time they were much better at recognising it. For them, more important than what you ate, was who you ate with. They recognised a meal as a social interaction much more than as a means of sustenance. For us we have the saying “you are what you eat”, in Jesus’ time it was “you are who you eat with”. [Repeat.] For us we have the saying “you are what you eat”, in Jesus’ time it was “you are who you eat with”.
Jesus as a teacher and healer who was inspiring people and building relationships including calling disciples was someone who others wanted to be near and he wanted to be near them, and in his culture the greatest way to show that was by sharing a meal either as a guest or as a host. In our culture and time we still see this. You know that someone has some real interest in you, wants to get close to you, when they invite you out, or to their place, or they accept your invitation.
As someone who believes in the incarnation, believes that Jesus was not only a great person of God, but that he was God truly among us as one of us I believe that God in Jesus chose to eat with us. He invites us to his table and he accepts our invitation to eat with us at our tables.
When the Pharisees and Scribes in today’s stories about the lost sheep and the lost coin complain about Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors they are complaining that Jesus is either making himself a sinner or a tax collector or he’s making sinners and tax collectors, people of God, and if I’m right about who Jesus is he’s making them the children of God. In our terms, Jesus is saying that if a tobacco company executive, a debt collector, a drug addict, a really selfish person who only talks about themselves, a person who sells their souls not because they need to but because they want a better lifestyle, a person who lives for consumer goods, if they come and if they want to listen to me and eat with me then they are the Children of God and that is a good thing.
We may not like that, but as negative and as awful as our media especially the news can be, when we hear of one child who survives an earthquake and comes alive from the rubble, or one person who escapes a fire, our hearts soar. It’s crazy to leave 99 sheep in the field and go looking for one. But when that one is found, we do rejoice with the shepherd. Who cares about one missing coin in a whole house when there are other things to do, but when it is found, when the keys, when the broach that was a gift, when the letter or the photo that was lost appears we rejoice and we love to share that joy with others.
That Jesus is saying is what it is like with God, and he’s saying to the pharisees, to the people of God, to the church, that’s what it should be like with us. It could be argued that meals on wheels is a bit pointless. Those who receive the meals are for the most part are those who are nearing the end of their lives. They do not make a valuable contribution to our community. And those who could make a contribution should be feeding themselves. But meals on wheels is not about economics or even just feeding the hungry, it’s about more than just a meal. It is about relationships. It’s about the joy and pleasure that comes in sharing in the lives of others.
That is not only what meals on wheels are about, it is what God is about and it is what the church, and the Christian life could and should be about. We see this in Jesus who ate with everyone and was happy to be welcomed and to welcome all to the table.
For those of you who know this welcome of God, who have received Jesus at your table, hear the words of Jesus to the Pharisees, look to his example and invite people to your table, to the church’s table and accept their hospitality even if they are a tobacco company executive, a debt collector, a drug addict, a really selfish person who only talks about themselves, a person who sells their souls not because they need to but because they want a better lifestyle, a person who lives for consumer goods. For there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 respectable people who do not need to repent.
If you have not experienced this love, this welcome of God then you are invited, come to the table, there is a place for you. Invite us and invite Jesus to join you where you are. We would love to share your friendship and break bread with you. God in Jesus longs to be your friend, to be your host and your guest. Invite him in to share with you and you with him. Amen.