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Plymouth United Church of Christ
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Eau Claire, WI 54703
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“Everyone At the Table”
Sermon, Year A, Proper 22, October 5, 2014
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: Matthew 21:33-46 (Parable of the Wicked Tenants)

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” Jesus says after this parable.

Who are we rejecting who might be or become a cornerstone? Or who have we rejected in the past who has become a cornerstone? Who are we rejecting? Who do we reject? Who do reject as the Church, as Jesus’ followers, as Jesus’ body around the earth?

Who do we reject? Perhaps other traditions within our faith, maybe, such as Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox. Although we in the United Church of Christ tend to get along with those. Maybe, from our perspective, those we reject might be more the Pentecostals, Charismatics, snake handlers, traditions such as those.

What about other faiths? Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhists, even atheists. What about them?

And who do we reject as a community, who might become a cornerstone? Immigrants, foreigners, our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, people who live on the streets, women who work on the streets, people with tattoos, bikers, gamblers, people with addictions, people who are mentally ill, men with hair that’s too long or women with hair that’s too short, all people we might reject. The parents of the crying baby on the airplane. The kid at school that’s wearing old and uncool clothing, or that doesn’t have a smart phone, or gets a reduced cost lunch. Or maybe we reject that kid’s parents.

Might any one of them, or more than one, be a cornerstone that is being rejected?

We don’t know.

We don’t always know. Any one of them, many of them, might be used by God. Might be used as a cornerstone. Any one of us could be used as a cornerstone. We don’t know who that’s going to be. And so to reject someone, that’s a pretty big move. You could be rejecting one of God’s cornerstones. Certainly rejecting one of God’s people, even if they aren’t a cornerstone. Especially if, when we say “no” to someone, we add words to the effect of “because God disapproves of you” or “because the Bible says you are not one of God’s people.”

We don’t know. We can’t know. And so we ought to be careful. We never know who God is going to use.

To read through scripture – the full narrative of the Biblical story – we see a constant theme of inclusion. Of including people on the outside. And a constant theme in the stories of time and time again of God using those who are rejected, those who are the least, those on the outside, the younger, the weaker: those are the ones that God uses over and over and over to fulfill God’s plans. Because the ones who thought they were “in” weren’t willing to listen to God’s new ideas, God’s changing plans, God’s changing ways. People like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Esther, David, Paul, the disciples, all were on the outside in one way or another. Even Jesus was on the outside.

Today is World Communion Sunday, celebrating Communion around the world, as a church that is not always good at working together, unfortunately. United in Jesus, but not always united in mission or in service to the world. But it is a day to remember, or to strive to remember, that we at least share that commonality in Jesus. That we are Jesus’ followers, however imperfectly we do so. And to remember that we share common sacraments, especially Communion, this table that has been set before us. A day to remember that we share Jesus’ table. That the sacrament of Communion is important in the life of the church. And to remember, hopefully, that whatever we think about Communion, we don’t have all the truth. Though we do sometimes fight over it because we think we have all the truth, and get in a situation of thinking that other church doesn’t do it right so they can’t be included in ours, or they won’t include us in theirs. We really don’t have all the truth, so let us not cast out a possible cornerstone of thought or a possible cornerstone of a person by denying them access to the Bread of Life or the Cup of Salvation.

Let us remember that we are a community, and as a church we are called into that community. Not to be insular, but to serve the world. To go into the world to bring healing, hope, health, mercy, love, kindness.

We read the Ten Commandments here, which are also about community. They aren’t just a set of laws of God saying “Don’t do this” and “Do this” from an abstract position of power, but it’s about community. About being in relationship with God. This is what a relationship with God looks like. This is what a good right relationship with one another looks like. Don’t go after other gods and don’t cast out your God. And don’t cast out other people through murder, disrespect, or theft, or bearing false witness, or objectifying them. This is about living in community. These are a people who have just left slavery in Egypt and are in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. To a new way of life. God offers them a framework for their new way of life saying “This is what it should look like when you live together.” This is about community.

I particularly like that the Commandments include the admonition that even the slaves and the foreigners are included. Not just a select people, but for everyone who is living with them at the time. Even the slaves and the foreigners are part of this community and are protected by God’s covenant. All are covered. All of the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. Whether citizens or foreigners. Whether you are normal or kind of weird or off to the edges. Whether a Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, whatever you are All part of God’s umbrella. Whether you are a rock & roll person or a country & western person, or a classical person. Whether you are a professional dancer or you are in a faith that sees dancing as a sin. All covered by God. Farmers, teachers, business owners, slaves, professors, nurses, doctors, stay at home moms and dads, retirees, CEOs and the guys who work the mailroom, all part of God’s world. We are all in it together. All are welcome to this table.

That’s one of the radical things that Jesus did was to provide a table to which all are welcome. All are invited. You don’t have to do anything special or be anyone special. All are invited to the table. We celebrate that today with our Communion.

Think of the rotation of the earth, when the first Sunday morning Communions started on this planet, maybe about 15 or 16 hours ago as the earth spins and the sun first rose over the International Date Line bringing Sunday morning. People first waking up and heading to their churches in the Philippines, New Zealand, and Japan. Then over to Taiwan, Russia, India... Turkey, Sweden, Nigeria, South Africa... England, Morocco, Ivory Coast... Iceland, Newfoundland, Maine, Brazil. A wash of Communion going over the planet. And now in Wisconsin and the Yucatan peninsula. Costa Rica, Peru, California, the Galapagos. I’m not sure if there is a church there, but if there is they will be celebrating Commnion. Then Hawaii, Fiji, Easter Island. I’d like to think that even the workers and scientists at the science stations in Antarctica, more than likely a few receiving Communion. A wash of grace embracing the earth in a cycle of people waking up as the earth rotates and heading to their churches to come to the table to be fed, or are having the bread and wine come to them to be fed. Touching humanity. All of humanity. The woman whose husband has just died, and the one who’s just had a miraculous cure. The depressed and the happy. Those who are alone, and those who are with many. The child who is hungry with food, and the child who is full and healthy enough to play football. The child hungry for attention, and the one who has enough. Those who live in safety, and those being targeted by militaries, terrorists, or their abusers. All the ones around the earth who are being told ,”You’re awesome! You’re wonderful!” and those who are being told, “You aren’t good enough. You don’t measure up.” Those in hospitals and nursing homes, those in yachts and on airplanes. In homes and in churches, God’s grace for all, moving around the earth that we all call home.

Let all be welcome at this table. This Communion table that we share in the church, and also at the tables in our fellowship room to be fed there as well with the food that we make with our hands and with our love. And may this table, this Communion table, be a cornerstone of faith with a willingness to share. The generosity and love shared at this table, let that also be a cornerstone of the faith.

I finish up with a poem that I found this week, written by Jan Richardson, a woman who writes liturgy and poems. This is one she wrote specifically for World Communion Sunday:

[I don't want to print the poem here, as it would probably violate copyright law plus I want to make sure that you, the reader, go to Jan's page and she gets the hits; so go to Jan Richardson's page and read it there]. Amen.
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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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