CVAS Junior School Worship
26 May 2019
Christ Church Cathedral Grafton
[ video ]
The Table stands at the centre of our worship today.
It is always so for Christians.
We have lots of symbols, but the Table is the one that is distinctively Christian.
Not a book to be mastered, but a Table at which we each have a place.
Not even the cross. The bread and fish of the Eucharist are much older symbols for Christians. The cross comes to prominence only after the Empire has co-opted the Church for the sake of power.
The Table is a sign of community, a sign of hospitality and a sign of abundant life.
We are people who are learning how to say YES to God, YES to life, YES to hope, YES to love. The Table calls us to the lesson, and the Table provides an opportunity to practice our capacity to accept their gift of life, to share it with others, and to live life to the full.
During the last two terms, our Year Four students have been exploring the significance of the Table: the Table of Jesus, the Table of the Lord.
Today several of them will claim their place at the Table of Jesus.
The table of the universe
I love the imagery of our first reading.
Lady Wisdom has built a house and prepared a feast to which we are all invited.
What a beautiful way to speak about creation. About life itself. The mystery and wonder of being here, of being alive. Of the whole universe: it is a palace built by wisdom for us to inhabit.
That is not a scientific explanation, but it is certainly an evocative poetic word picture.
God has built a house and set a table for a massive banquet.
We call that banquet: “life”.
Life is good.
We are invited.
All of us.
Not just a chosen few.
The bread we bless, the cup we share
Our second reading invites us to notice what is on the Table.
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
The universe can be imagined as a marvellous house designed for our delight, a table groaning under the weight of good things for us to enjoy.
What is served up for us at the Table is nothing less than the life of Jesus.
Again, and as always, we are working with poetic symbols. But they are symbols of generosity and abundance, of life and love, of hope and compassion.
As Christians, we experience the irresistible love of God most clearly in the person of Jesus: who he was, what he said, and how he acted.
God’s love is not limited to Jesus, but that is our path into the compassion of God.
So the bread and wine that we take and bless at the Table are symbols of Jesus himself, his body and blood as it were, being placed in our hands and taken into our very selves.
When taken literally it turns to dust, and especially so when we hate other people because they understand the mystery of the Table differently.
But when accepted in faith as a sacred symbol, the bread and the cup are (as St Paul wrote almost 2000 years ago) a way for us to participate in the life and the character of Jesus himself.
At this table, we find our identity
At this table, we find our unity.
At this table, we find the grace needed to live with hope and compassion.
The multitude fed
Our Gospel today is one version of a much-loved ancient Christian story in which Jesus fed a huge crowd of people with just a Junior School lunch box.
Again it is a poetic story.
We miss the point if we ask, “Did it happen?”
We get the point if we ask: “What does this mean?” That is a much better question.
In the story Jesus has a huge crowd of people with him some distance from a convenient market town: 5,000 men according to Mark; 5,000 men, not counting the women and children, according to Matthew. Even 5,000 hungry men is a catering challenge. But Matthew is suggesting a vast number of hungry mouths.
So what does it mean that the only miracle story to occur in all four Gospels is Jesus feeding a great crowd of people?
What does it mean that Jesus did not first check their beliefs, or their intimate relationships, or their social media history, or shake them down for a donation to the Cathedral heritage fund?
The open table is the ultimate Christian symbol of God’s generous love for us all.
The love that brought the universe into being in the first place.
The love which continues to pulse at the heart of creation.
The love which invites us to flourish and be fully human, fully alive.
The love which is the ultimate reason why the Cathedral set up CVAS 21 years ago.
The love to which we can all say YES, at some stage in our lives, when the time is right.
The love which the Table of Jesus represents, and to which it is never too late to say YES.
As we welcome several of the Year Four students to claim their place at the Table of Jesus this morning, we join them in opening our hearts—our innermost selves—to that divine love which we see in Jesus and, in our better moments, which we see in each other.
Come to the Table.
Take the bread. Drink from the cup. Claim life. Reject fear.