The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Black Sheep Banquet --
aka, The Lord's Supper

In his book "Sunday Dinner," William Willimon notes that Jesus' critics had problems with his constant association with black sheep. Having dinner with sinners and tax collectors was just not the thing to do if you are an up‑and‑coming prophet.

Jesus not only had dinner with sinners, he called them into discipleship ‑ and sinners responded with adoration and worship. The ones who have been forgiven much respond with "extravagant and reckless" worship.

But, Willimon says, that only leads to more questions, as "the other guests began to say to themselves, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?" (Luke 7:49)

Who is this rabbi who cavorts and frolicks with the black sheep, and then even dares to sit down to Sunday dinner with them?

Willimon is surely right when he suggests that those who practice "closed tables" miss the point: The body was broken and the blood was "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:26) ‑ for "many," not just "some." Nonetheless, there is occasionally a "tragic misunderstanding" on the part of those who believe they are "unworthy" and should avoid Communion. It is a misunderstanding with a seed of truth: as the liturgical confession proclaims, we are indeed unworthy to even "gather the crumbs" from the Lord's table. The only One who is worthy is the Lamb that was slain, which enables all who are unworthy to come to the Table humbly and to rise in the boldness of grace, proclaiming that "Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again."

This fountain of grace is available to all who seek him! You might even say it is especially available for those who feel unworthy, those who see themselves as black sheep.

There was a time in my spiritual journey ‑ when I was designing worship with the unchurched in mind ‑ when I wondered what significance there would be for a nonbeliever to take part in Holy Communion. Could they even understand what it was all about?

Then I learned that John Wesley believed that Communion was a means of grace whereby the Holy Spirit could ignite a spark in even the coldest heart. And then I remembered my first Communion, as a new Christian, when I didn't even know enough to do anything other than take the bread, missing the cup altogether.

As I bowed at the altar rail, eyes closed, with heart and mind in prayer, all I knew was that I was still a black sheep ‑ but a black sheep whose wool was now white in the eyes of the Savior.

The wonderful good news is this: Even if I did not know that, God's grace was sufficient and Christ was still present. Nothing I had done, or could do, would change that unalterable fact.

In this postmodern, post-Christian era, it is important to remind everyone that the Lord's Table is a banquet table set for black sheep.

As the late Mark Heard wrote, "We are soot-covered urchins, running wild and unshod."

It is a story we must constantly retell.

Grace and peace ...