Week 4: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies . . . my cup overflows . . .
More Sheep, No Walls
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: Psalm 23; John 10:14-16; Ephesians 2:13-22
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
It’s strange that they left Jerusalem then.
After seeing Jesus alive again in the Upper Room, some of his disciples went north to Galilee. They seem aimless; finally Peter decides to go fishing.
They’d failed Jesus in every imaginable way. Betrayal, running away, denying any ties with him. They cowardly abandoned him to his death. In the Upper Room they had very little time to talk with him. They must have dreaded the confrontation that they thought had to come, telling him why they’d left him in his deepest need. Maybe that’s why they ran away home.
As morning came with no fish caught, just as when they first began to follow Jesus, a stranger directs them to recast the nets and they catch a huge amount of fish. But that’s not the miracle here.
This is the miracle: as they came to shore, there was a charcoal fire burning with fish and bread on it. Jesus was making a meal for them.
In that culture, you don’t eat with your enemies. To eat with someone and then betray them was a despicable act. These disciples had done just that. They were clearly his enemies by any cultural standard.
But Jesus spread a meal out on the beach and said, “Come, and eat breakfast.”
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” David sings.
Do you see? David believes that the meal the true God spreads before him is a meal of reconciliation with his enemies.
How have we missed this? David knew how to sing of God’s protection from enemies. Psalm 27, Psalm 46, Psalm 91, all beloved, all speak of God’s protection from armies, earthquakes, poisonous enemies.
But when David sings to his Shepherd, he rejoices in the meal the Shepherd puts out in front of him and his enemies. This can only be a meal of life and forgiveness and welcome and healing. Because when you eat with your enemies, they are no longer your enemies.
Listen to your Shepherd:
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
There are other sheep. Sheep that don’t belong to our fold. That means sheep we don’t know, but Jesus does. It also means sheep that we don’t consider part of us. Enemies.
Sundays this Lent we’ve been hearing about not rejecting others from God’s love. But Jesus challenges you to go further. He wants all God’s sheep together, even enemies. Maybe you don’t think you have enemies. Jesus also means people who hurt you, treat you badly, hate you. People who make you sad.
They’re mine, too, Jesus says. I invite everyone to eat and be filled at the meal I prepare for you. Praying for your enemies, loving them, is just the beginning. Christ’s invited them to the dinner party, too.
Christ’s Supper feeds us for our journey. It also breaks down walls.
We gather for Eucharist every week because we want to eat at Jesus’ table. We want forgiveness and life and salvation, the gifts Christ offers in his body and blood. In this meal we are made one as a community and blessed with the life and love of God.
But when our Good Shepherd throws a feast it’s a feast of reconciliation for all. Enemies are brought to the table and cease being enemies. Those who hurt or hate us are part of our flock, too. All creatures are brought together.
In Christ’s flesh, Paul says, in this body and blood given at the cross and offered in this Lord’s Supper, all divisions are healed. All walls are broken down. The hostility we have with any of God’s children is ended.
What if we saw the Lord’s Supper not as a meal for insiders, but saw it as David saw the Shepherd’s feast, as Jesus saw it? What if we proclaimed the Eucharist as Christ’s gift to the world, offering bread and wine, the very life of God, as a way God breaks down walls and opens arms to embrace?
We don’t even eat it with all other Christians now. What a disgrace. We start there. And then follow where God’s Spirit leads us.
This is the abundant, overflowing cup David proclaims.
When all things, all creatures, all creation is restored, God’s abundance will pour out on all and all will be filled, satisfied, loved, blessed, and live in peace.
It sounds like a naïve dream to the world. But you and I belong to the Good Shepherd of the whole creation, who will have everyone at the dinner party, who spreads a table in the presence of everyone. God’s meal will do the healing and reconciling. It’s not naïve, it’s the very plan of God for the healing of the world.
Just invite as many as you can – even those who hurt or hate you – to come to dinner. Christ will take care of the rest. Because everyone is, after all, a sheep of this Good Shepherd.
In the name of Jesus. Amen