Sermon – April 17, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35
My mother’s parents lived 300 miles away from us. They came to visit us at least once or maybe twice throughout the year. Once each year, usually in the summer, we’d travel to see them. Sometimes we took the Greyhound bus, which was a LONG trip. Other times we drove. The standard dinner on the night we arrived was spaghetti with meatballs. The sauce would have cooked all day. How my grandmother never burnt that sauce, making it on an electric stove, I’ll never know. I cheat and make it in a crockpot. The sauce was very simple – tomatoes and tomato paste. There weren’t a lot of spices, but there was a secret ingredient that was never written down in the recipe and that I learned only when I actually watched my grandmother make the sauce…it was baking soda – just a tiny bit to neutralize the acid in the sauce.
The meatballs were wonderful with parsley and romano cheese and a little egg in them. They were individually fried in olive oil and added to the sauce. The meal included additional freshly grated cheese, as well as a loaf of my grandfather’s homemade Italian bread, baked early in the morning.
The table would be set with a clean, white table cloth – can you imagine kids and spaghetti sauce and a clean white tablecloth? My grandmother had the whitest whites you can imagine.
Spaghetti and meatballs was the dinner of love…the dinner of welcome. That’s probably why my favorite thing to do on a Sunday evening when I’m in Lexington is go to Joe Bologna’s and get their “all you can eat” spaghetti. It’s the closest I’ve found to the taste of my grandmother’s food. It reminds me of her immense love for her family and her joy in seeing us and welcoming us to her home.
This evening, we hear about Jesus taking a ritual, annual meal and giving it new meaning. Jesus takes simple parts of the meal – bread and wine – elements included in the most basic of meals, and infuses new symbolism in them. These elements represent the ultimate love of God for all people – Jesus’ body and blood…the very essence of life… given to save us…given out of deep love for us.
Whenever we see these common elements, we are reminded of Jesus’ love for us. When we gather together in Jesus’ name, bless and make these common elements holy, Jesus is present, binding us together into one.
A document and teaching of the early church, possibly as early as 150 years after the death of Christ, says this: As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one, so may Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom;(Didache 9.8, http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html)
The meal…this simple meal of bread and wine, has bound us and all those before us, to that first meal in that upper room in Jerusalem. It binds us in community to each other and to Christ, just as it bound the disciples to Christ. It reminds us that the everliving Christ is right here in our midst and nothing can separate us from the love of God. It reminds us to be Christ to the world, to love one another like Christ has loved us, so all will know we are Jesus’ disciples.