20th August 2023 – Eating together

20th August 2023 – Eating together

Matt 15:29-39

Who is hungry this morning?  Hear from this reading that God has compassion on us.  He knows our needs, our weaknesses, our failures.  Jesus was aware that they would need to eat, without anyone complaining to him; he provided for them, and he provides for us.  So we are going to join together in a meal and celebrate that provision.  Back in Bible times eating together was a major part of all the Jewish festivals – they are called ‘feasts’ for a reason!  Fellowship offerings would be brought to the temple, sacrificed and not given up but taken home and eaten with the community.  And that fellowship in feasting together is something we do well to remember.

In those times people would share stories.  Stories of life, stories of God.  And as Jesus calls us here together to his table, we come to reflect on his story, but we also reflect on our own story, and the stories of others – those we love and those we struggle to love.  We are not isolated people who happen to be in the same place, like those on the mountainside with Jesus.  Our lives and our stories are intertwined, held together by the great story of encounter with the God who loves each one of us.  As they feasted on the loaves and the fish, all those people would go home and tell that same story; it was a part of their lives, an experience they shared together.

What is your story this morning?  I wonder what stories you might share over this meal?

During this meal we will take a break as Jesus and the disciples did in their last meal, to also share communion together.  It was originally, and for a long time in the early church, celebrated as part of a meal like this; although probably not quite in this way!  Anyone is welcome to take communion if you believe and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour; it is a sign of communion both with us as a church, with the wider church in the world and with God himself.  If you don’t want to take part in that part of the service, please do not feel any pressure to do so, you are still welcome to be here with us.

But before we do any of that it is good to take time to examine ourselves before God.  To confess to him those things we have thought, said and done that are wrong, to say sorry, to turn away from them and seek his forgiveness.  So in a time of quiet now let us do that together.

Lord you know we are not perfect.  You know we are weak, we fail, we fall.  As we acknowledge the inadequacies of our own story, we say that we are sorry.  For those times when out of weakness and ignorance we have not found space in that story for you, or others.  As you had compassion on those who were in need on that mountainside, would you have compassion on us in our need of your mercy and grace.  Forgive us for those things we have thought, said and done, and those things we have failed to do.  Transform us into people who are more like you.  Help us through the power of your Spirit to receive your forgiveness and to show grace and mercy to others.  Amen.

The act of communion is an act of peace, and we approach it in an attitude of peace and love toward one another.  Jesus said “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  In some churches you will find at communion they offer peace to one another as part of the communion service.  We aren’t specifically going to do that, but I do invite you in this time where we eat together, to take the opportunity to reconcile with anyone with whom you are not at peace in this community.

At an appropriate time in the meal we will play a song; this is your cue to finish what you are eating, pause your conversations and sing together as we prepare for communion.

Before we all get up and get our breakfast, then, let us pray.

Lord thank you for your provision of food, and for your provision of fellowship.  Thank you for Jesus who enables us through his love and his death on the cross to be part of this community together.  As we rejoice in one another and we rejoice in you, may we know your presence with us and your blessing upon us.  Bless our eating together, bless this food to our bodies and the gift of communion to our spirits, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Now I invite you to help yourself to food and drink, the grill is on if anyone wants a bacon roll, there’s toast, cereal, fruit.  But as we eat and enjoy time together let us remember the God who provides it all.

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