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  • Rev. Annie McMillan

“It is Right to Give our Thanks and Praise”

Just over two years ago, I preached on the Luke text we heard. Jesus was just beginning his ministry, so it’s appropriate that we heard what that means for him: Jesus will sit with sinners, eat with outcasts. The poor and forgotten are especially important for him. Over the next few chapters, he’ll bring sight to the blind, heal, forgive, teach, and welcome everyone, especially those who felt the most forgotten. Indeed, the word used for “poor” “has to do with economic status as well as other factors that lowered one’s status in the first-century world: factors such as gender, genealogy, education, occupation, sickness, disability, and degree of religious purity. Jesus’ mission is directed to the poor in the holistic sense of those who for various reasons are relegated to the margins of society.

One of the things that I learned as I researched was that the tense here isn’t your basic one-and-done present tense. When Jesus says “this scripture has been fulfilled,” it’s in the reoccurring perfect tense. So Jesus is saying something more like: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled and will keep being fulfilled and therefore will keep needing to be fulfilled in your presence.”

This text invites us to act: to be part of the continuing fulfillment of the Scripture. When we celebrate communion, the person presiding over the table says a prayer called the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. Towards the end of this prayer, I often ask God:

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here

and on these gifts of bread and cup.

Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ,

that we may be for the world the body of Christ.

By your Spirit make us one with Christ,

one with each other,

and one in ministry to all the world.

Only the Spirit can make the bread and the juice be as the body and blood of Christ. Only the Spirit can make us one with Christ. But we have a part to play in the rest. We’re made one to be the body of Christ in the world. That means that we are called to fulfill this Scripture, sharing good news with the poor and welcoming everyone, especially those who feel the most forgotten.

What would it look like to share good news with the poor? “What kind of messages and realities would constitute ‘good news’ for” those who are in poverty or relegated to the margins of society. Part of this is connections: building relationships and being there to find out what they need, the best ways to actually help. After all, Christ sat down with people; he talked to them and ate with them: from those we’d expect, to those we might squirm at sitting beside.

The church in Corinth had difficulty with all of this. They were experiencing major divisions, especially between “the haves and the have-nots.” To give a little context: during this time in the church, the “Lord’s Supper was a meal eaten by a community in private homes, pot-luck style. The Lord’s Supper happened as part of the common meal. Therefore, in someone’s home, at the table, there are those who don’t wait for others to start eating and those who disregard individuals who have nothing to eat.” They’ve forgotten what it means to be the church, the body of Christ.

So Paul inserts into his letter words they would have known; words we have come to know as the “Words of Institution.” Paul teaches them and us that “Christ was broken, bled, and died that we might live and know how to live together in unity, knowing how to treat each other. His death is our salvation; it gives us new life as individuals and as a believing community.” We are about to pray this prayer, asking God to make us one with Christ and in Christ- one body, one faith, one baptism. We are about to ask the spirit to make us the body of Christ for the world just as this bread would be the body of Christ for us here. We are about to hear those words of institution: “that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”

As we prepare to come before the Lord, think about what these words mean as they are said. And know that the Spirit of the Lord who walks beside us, pushes us from behind, and dwells within us invites us to these things. The Spirit who was at Jesus’ baptism, who filled Jesus as he began and then throughout his ministry, who inspired the prophets and the apostles… this same Spirit works within us, is upon us, inviting us to ministry. May the ever-present Spirit continue to work within you that you might hear that invitation throughout your life.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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