Early last Tuesday morning I was waiting for a bus. Heading downtown for a 7:30 meeting, I walked out of my building at 7:10 a.m. I turned the corner and started down 14th Street just as a bus was arriving at the stop. I ran down the block in hopes of catching the bus only to watch it slowly pull away. I was one minute too late.
I continued to wait, looking up the street, looking at my watch, and worrying about being late. Soon, another bus was in sight. It approached the individuals standing at the bus stop, a rather long line by now. And, it went right on by. In fact, it whizzed right on by - passing each one of us.
We had been denied.
We were denied access because the bus was already too crowded. Ten minutes later another bus arrived. We finally boarded, crowding into the already full aisle for the ride downtown. It was 7:45 when I finally arrived at my meeting.
I do not like being denied.
I went to worship with my fiancee this week. Craig is a Roman Catholic. We went to Mass on Saturday night, and I found it to be a tremendous blessing to be in worship on a Saturday night. It was a blessing to hear the texts read and proclaimed - the same texts I would read and proclaim on Sunday morning. It was a blessing to hear the music and to sit in the quiet. I was so grateful for the time to pray - the space to center myself and dedicate Sunday's worship to God, asking God to already go ahead of us and fill the space where the Mount Vernon Place congregation would worship the following morning. Yes, the service was a blessing. But, I cannot go to worship with Craig without feeling denied. I cannot attend Mass without feeling as though I am left out whenever it comes to the Eucharist. It is clear that I am not welcome at the table. Even though I have the authority in the United Methodist Church to pray, "Pour out thy Holy Spirit upon these gifts of bread and wine, making them be for us the body and blood of Christ," I cannot partake of the feast with my fiancee. I am not allowed at the table where he partakes.
One of the things I love about the United Methodist Church is our founder, John Wesley's, beliefs about the Lord's Supper. Wesley taught that Holy Communion is a means of grace - it is a way in which we can experience the presence of God in our lives and the power of Christ's forgiveness. The Lord's Supper is a visible sign of an invisible grace. And, Wesley believed that all should come to the table - that it was a converting ordinance - that the bread and the wine had the power to transform lives. Wesley even said that we should come when we do not feel like coming. I love this theology. And, I love remembering who exactly was at Christ's table on the night in which he gave himself up for us.
On that Thursday night, Christ gathered twelve men around a table. They were ordinary men. They had seen Christ perform significant miracles but they still doubted their faith. They were people who promised to stay awake for the night only to fall asleep. They were individuals who Jesus knew would deny him. Still, Jesus gathered with them around the table. Jesus invited them to eat with him, and he gave thanks for them. He then offered them everything that he had.
People filled with doubt.
People who would deny Jesus.
People like you and like me....were all invited to the table.
I love the Lord's Supper. I yearn to both celebrate and partake of the feast. The Sundays on which we celebrate Holy Communion are my favorite Sundays because I have the awesome task of taking a little bread and a little juice and asking God to bless them, making them become the body and the blood of Christ. I then get to see all kinds of people coming forward - those who believe and those who doubt, sinners and saints, children and elderly individuals - all coming forward to the table - receiving signs of the greatest gift ever given.
Each Sunday, I tell individuals how the table does not belong to me. It does not belong to Mount Vernon Place. Rather, it is the table of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Look who he invited.....no matter who we are, what we have done, who we have loved, or who we have failed to love....we would surely be invited. Again, look who he invited - the ones who would betray him!
The body of Christ broken for you.
The blood of Christ shed for you.
Thanks be to God. The access will never be denied.