In the King’s Company

This coming Monday morning (July 29th) I will be at Perkins School of Theology to preach in the chapel for the Course of Study School.  A group of my heroes in ministry are licensed local pastors.  The sacrifice is great; the commitment is high; the service is a blessing.  Here in Central Texas we are proud that Rev. Jeannie Treviño-Teddlie, Director of Mexican American Program and a member of the Central Texas Conference, leads the Course of Study School. In preparation, memories flood back into my life.  Each of us lives our own biography of grace.  God in Christ through the Holy Spirit is active in our lives moving, weaving among in ways seen and unseen.  As I gaze out on this chapel I cannot help but remember 40 years ago slipping into take a seat before I intended to quit seminary.  In the moments of quiet before the service I just prayed quietly and ruminated lost in my own thoughts.  And then the tap on the shoulder came.  It was a friend.   (That guy is now the District Superintendent of the San Antonio District in the Rio Texas Conference.) “It is good to see you back,” he greeted me, wrapping me in a bear hug.  “Come, on.  Let’s move closer to the front.  You get fed quicker.”  And with that he dragged me up to the front three rows.  It is hard to explain but I came out of that service a different person because I had feasted in the King’s company. Move to the front, my friend said, you get fed quicker.  In an odd way, I think he is right.  At stake in this sacrament is the heart of the Christian gospel.  We are invited to lay aside our prison garb.  Do you remember the old words?  “Yea that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, …  draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort ….”(The Book of Worship for Church and Home, 1965 edition, “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion,  p. 17). I am sharing a sermon based on Jeremiah 52:31-34 and I Corinthians 10:14-17.  In my old Interpreter’s Bible commentary on Jeremiah, given to me when I was first ordained a Deacon by the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee of First United Methodist Church of Austin, Texas, is the following notation in the exposition section.  “Man [People], it has been said, is a god in ruins.  Would it be better, perhaps, to call him an exiled king?  For there is something about Jehoiachin that makes him typical, perhaps a symbol, of something in the human condition.  He must have been a lonely king, a king without a people; or if a people, than a people in captivity – like himself” (The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume No. 5, Commentary on Jeremiah, exposition by Stanley R. Hooper, p. 1141). Do you know the chains of prison?  I think I do.  My hunch; no it is more, it is my conviction, is that we all do.  In this enlightened age we shy away from the word sin and yet the reality burrows deep into the marrow of our being like a tick on a dog.  I invite you to pause and take your own inventory.  What are the bars of your prison?  Where are the walls that have held your captive to lesser living? As you engage in a personal inventory, do not stop at simply the personal level.  Much of our imprisonment, our sin, is corporate in nature.  What are the bars that hold us in check as society, nation and culture from being – how does that ad put it – “all we can be.”?  Press on the walls of greed, indifference and pride.  Imagine our own Bastille Day. And now, take the biblical reality into your being.  Become again, or for the first time, your own Jehoiachin.  “So Jehoiachin discarded his prison clothes and ate his meals at the king’s table for the rest of his life. The Babylonian king provided him daily provisions for the rest of his life, right up until he died” (Jeremiah 52:34). “Since there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share the one loaf of bread.” At the King’s table, the altar table of Holy Communion, we are united in Christ with each other.  To be sure this is a memorial meal but it is more.  There is the real presence of Christ at the table.  Once again we kneel and experience again (or perhaps for the first time) the loving embrace of the Lord Jesus Christ over our lives.  We are invited into the Kings Company. I look forward with joy to our sharing on Monday at Perkins.