Reflection given by Rev Dr Phil Wall
Meetings, meals and more!
This morning’s service included a wonderful ‘Open the Book’ storytelling, the sharing of Holy Communion, and a rearranged church meeting…so we told Phil to keep the reflection brief!!! Here’s what he managed…
So as you came in today, you will have been given a present – the book ‘Celebrate Together’. It’s a fun, colourful book telling you all about the Jubilee – which we’ve spoken about before. You might remember that I told you that every 50 years, the nation of Israel was encouraged to have a time of celebration and a reset to a more just society so debts were forgiven, slaves were feed, and land was returned. Well, this year is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Reformed Church – a time of unity and hope – and there are all sorts of parties going on across the UK to commemorate the past 50 years and look to the next few.
And I think a good party is the perfect way to celebrate a Church Birthday because Jesus was a real party-goer. His first miracle – the water into wine – was all about keeping the party going and from that point on he hosted, attended, and told stories about parties. Of course, inviting Jesus to your party could be a risky thing, because you never quite knew what he was going to say or do…
Reading: The Big Party – The Lion Storyteller Bible (Luke 14:15-24)
I wonder what you learnt from that story?
Perhaps it made you think about how we can sometimes be like the guests who were invited to a party but were too busy with other duties and worries.
Perhaps it made you wonder about how we could go out onto our streets and tell those who feel forgotten that God loves them.
Perhaps it reminded you of last week’s service, when we had the privilege of inviting Sienna Grace and all her family to a baptism party, expecting nothing back from them in return.
For me, it says all those things but also something else about our grounding in God.
You avid readers of the newsletter might remember that last week’s thought for the day was a quote from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus – a childhood friend of Lynda apparently – who said ‘change is the only constant’.
Well, I think old ‘clitus was half right for I’d want to say that change and the ever-faithful love of God are the only constants. And I think it’s interesting that down through the centuries, both our Jewish and Christian forebears have regularly held communal meals to remind them of God’s constant presence and abounding love in a world of continuous change.
The Passover meal reminds our Jewish siblings that God did not abandon them in Egypt. The Festival of the Booths reminds them of God’s provision in the wilderness. The parties around Purim speak of God saving their ancestors through the amazing Esther.
For Christians, of course, the Communion meal is our central feast of remembrance and thanksgiving – where we gather to remember God’s ever-present love. Whether we celebrate it once a week or once a year, when we break bread and pour wine together we remember all those meals of Jesus – the miracle at Cana, the feeding of thousands, the meal with Zacchaeus – but we especially remember that meal he celebrated in an upper room.
At a time when things were about to really change for the disciples, Jesus shared a meal with them, reminding them to love one another and telling them that whatever was about to happen, God was with them, and always would be. The following Sunday, he shared another meal with friends by the roadside, when – after reminding them about God’s presence and promise throughout the scriptures, he broke bread again, revealing to them that even when they had thought all was lost, God was yet with them, turning the world’s judgment, hate, and violence into forgiveness, love, and hope.
That’s why we eat crumbs of bread and drink little glasses of grape juice – that’s why we invite others to this meal, just as God invites us – because it reminds us that whatever change may come; whatever losses we may suffer, pandemics we must endure, church moves and climate crises we must face, there is nothing – nothing imaginable or unthinkable, in the present or the future, in life or in death – absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of God made known through Jesus. Amen.