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The Welcome Table

Date: 
July 3, 2016
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
Text: Luke 14: 1, 7-24

SPIRITUAL:  I’m Gonna Eat At The Welcome Table   (#424 – Chalice Hymnal)

 

THEME:   All God’s children will sit together at the welcome table.

 

NOTE: This sermon encourages and relies upon input from the congregation.

 

INTRODUCTION

  • I’m excited about the sermons that I’ll be preaching this summer… many of them will be based on Negro spirituals.
  • Spirituals were the songs created and sung by the Africans who were captured and brought to the United States to be sold into slavery.
    • They were deprived of their languages, families, and culture, yet their masters could not take away their music.
    • The slaves adopted Christianity, the religion of their masters.
    • Their songs, which sustained them in their bondage, expressed their desire for a better life in this world and the next… in song they cried out to God for freedom.
    • Their songs expressed not only their sorrows and struggles, but also the faith and hope, which gave them the courage to carry on.

 

  • I’ll have quite a bit more to say about spirituals next week, but this morning I want to allow time for you to “write” the sermon… this type of sermon is one I love to preach.

 

SING THE SPIRITUAL –   I’m Gonna Eat at The Welcome Table (printed in bulletin)

 

FINDING A PLACE TO SIT…

  • What do you remember about the cafeteria at your Middle School or Junior High?
    • I remember that the cafeteria tables were not always “welcome tables.”
    • Groups formed quickly: the jocks, the bookworms, the band kids, the nerds, the popular kids, etc.  Woe to the eighth grader who sits at the wrong table!
    • The students of color often segregated themselves, as did the students who identified with various ethnic groups…
    • I remember how terrifying the cafeteria could be… maybe even more terrifying than gym/PE for a junior high student…
      • finding the right table…
      • finding out where you belong…
      • finding out if you were welcome… genuinely welcome
    • Imagine being a brand new student moving to a new school halfway through the school year… where should you sit to eat your lunch?
      •  “Can I sit here?” – “I guess so, if you have to.” 
      • It’s a little bit like going into a church for the first time and wondering where to sit and wondering if you are genuinely welcome or are folks just being polite/nice?
      • I’ve had that same experience at wedding receptions to which I have been invited just because I performed the ceremony and they needed somebody to say grace… the hosts are never quite sure at which table to seat the pastor because the pastor is such an “odd duck” that they don’t know where he or she will fit in comfortably…
      • Experiment: the next time you go to Cape Cod Hospital, check out the cafeteria at the height of the lunch hour… observe who is sitting with whom… it’s a bit like junior high…
    • The tables in the junior high school cafeteria were not always welcome tables, especially if you were just a little bit different in any way…
    • I wonder where Jesus would sit… the scriptures tell us that Jesus ate with the sinners and the tax collectors… (Mark 2:13-17)

 

THE SPIRITUAL

  • When the slaves sang, “I’m Gonna Eat At The Welcome Table,” what were they singing about?
    • Slaves had no possessions… the slaves were stolen from their homes with barely the clothes on their backs…
    • They certainly did not own tables, nor were they given tables to eat from…
      • Slaves were often fed from a common trough like animals…
      • The children were often fed on the top of a tree stump…
      • Their food was a watery, tasteless mush…
    • They could see their masters’ tables spread with the foods they could only dream of…
    • They dreamed of a time when all God’s children would sit together at “the heavenly banquet” described in the Gospel reading…
    • They dreamed of a table where even the “nobodies” would be welcome -  A table where the distinctions between free and slave would not exist.
    • The desire to eat with others is “hardwired” into human beings…
      • People have always gathered in groups to eat…
      • Most of us enjoy the opportunity to gather with family and friends around a table, especially during a holiday…
      • Growing up, our kitchen table was the heart of our home, the hub of our family activity, the place where you were always welcomed, loved and accepted…

THE WELCOME TABLE

  • When we speak of the “Welcome Table” here in church, what do we mean?

 

 

  • The Communion Table is before us… it is not our table, it is the Lord’s table.
  • It should be a table where all are genuinely welcomed…
    • I have been to churches - attended worship services - where I was not welcome at the Lord’s table - not allowed to participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper… it’s very uncomfortable….
    • I would never choose to be the pastor of a church like that…
    • Here at DUC we celebrate “open communion” – all are welcome at the table of the Lord…
    • No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here…
    • It is important for all of us to understand this, especially as we seek to build upon our

Diversity or anti-discrimination statement written in 1984 and reaffirmed by the congregation in 2005… as we move forward in this year, we will look to becoming officially recognized as an “Open and Affirming” congregation.

  • I remember a friend telling me about growing up in his Italian home… he said, “Sunday dinners were always wonderful!  It didn’t matter how many friends you showed up with. Everyone was welcome! My mother prepared food enough for an army. If you showed up, you got fed! There was always room at the table and there was always a meal to share.”
  • That’s my idea of the church’s “Welcome Table.” There will always be room at the table and a holy meal to share.
  • The communion table here at DUC should be a table where everyone, even the “unwelcomed,” are welcomed with radical hospitality.
    • The labels worn beyond the church should be stripped off once the church is entered.
    • The distinctions that might set us apart elsewhere should not exist within the church…
    • Our goal should be to build the “beloved community” with courage, and justice, and compassion.

 

    • May this table, the Lord’s table, always be a “Welcome Table” and may this church always be a “Welcoming Church.”

 

 

SERMON SEEDS

  • The Books of American Negro Spirituals – James W. Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson
  • Negro Spirituals: Songs of Survival – Tom Faigin (www.jsfmusic.com)
  • The Gospel Truth About The Negro Spiritual – Randye Jones
  • Origins of the Spirituals – Erin Zimmerman
  • When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough – Lillian Daniel  (chapter 12)
  • The Welcome Table: Welcoming the Unwelcomed – a sermon by Rev. Dr. Walter Fluker

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