?Matthew 28:18-20

I was flying back from Washington, D.C., through Dallas, Texas. It was a flight that was oversold, and I made my way to the third or fourth row from the back. I initially had been assigned a middle seat; but as I checked in, I had changed it to an aisle seat. As I sat down, I saw this big, muscular guy in a T-shirt by the window with tattoos all over his arms. I looked at him, and he looked at me; and I know we both were hoping and praying that that middle seat would remain empty, even though we knew it was an unlikely possibility. He had his little stack of materials on one side of the seat, and I had mine on the other side of the seat; and it looked like it was going to end up that way. Here we were, crammed in, our knees practically touching our chins.

Then I saw a most amazing sight. There was a chap up at the front of the airplane on the first row of coach trying to cram a suitcase into the overhead rack. He couldn’t get it in. There it was, with much hanging over the edge. Then he came back down the aisle, and I realized he was going to fill the middle seat.
He was an ebullient chap. His opening words, as he slid over me, were, “See that suitcase up there?”
I said, “Yeah, I’ve been watching.”
“That’s my suitcase,” he said.
I replied, “I know.”
He said, “It’s going to be interesting to see what they’re going to do with that.”
I said, “It will be.”
He sat down and began to talk nonstop. I thought, Oh no, one of these! Fortunately, I had my Bose headset ready to go onto my ears at the appropriate time; but, being a pastor, I felt I had to be a little bit discreet as to how I made that particular move. He began to open up about his life—told about the fact that he’d been an alcoholic and for two years now had been in a 12-step program. We engaged in very interesting conversation, and I really got into it.
But in the meantime, they came on the loudspeaker; and the stewardess said, “Will anyone own up to having this suitcase up here that’s hanging over the edge?” He was very happy to do so. He took off down the aisle and had to check it in before we could leave. He came back to his seat and talked and so forth.
Then, somehow, it leaked that I was a pastor, at which point, the chap against the window said, “You are? A brother in Christ!” And he shook my hand, and this guy in the middle was stuck. Then he said, “See these tattoos on my arms?”
I said, “Yes, I’d noticed them.”
He said, “They’re the thorns of Christ.”
I said, “They are?”
He said, “Yes!” and then he pulled up his T-shirt, turned his back to me, and there on his back was the most beautifully tattooed image of Christ on the cross from the torso up with the crown of thorns, the passion of Christ and the thorns then going on down the arms. I mean the full back. I didn’t think to take out my cell phone and take a picture of it. In fact, I don’t know how to do that. I regret that I don’t know how to do that.
I asked, “Where do you go to church?”
He replied, “Calvary Chapel … Chuck Smith.”
And I thought about this guy in the middle. Really, it was of the Lord.
He promised to come to St. Andrew’s for Easter.
But it was “show and tell time” for the chap next to the window. Now, I don’t have that on my back. And I doubt that there are many who do. But today is “show and tell time.” That’s what the sacrament is all about.
This is a time for men and women who truly profess a faith in Jesus Christ to come to the table, showing and telling what Christ has done for us. This is an open table. It’s open to all who have repented of sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. The table at St. Andrew’s is open to all who repent and trust. The only one who does not qualify is a person who refuses to admit he is a sinner and  refuses to put his trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
As we come to the table this morning, I’d like some pictures to be etched in your mind.

First, the picture of a family reunion.
How many of you remember those big, old-fashioned family reunions? I remember, although my mom and dad and my sister and I lived in Boston, in the summers we were in Indiana; and we’d go up to Michigan. We’d have these wonderful family reunions for the Huffman clan in Indiana and for the Bricker and Grable clans up in Michigan. There had to be 150-170 people of all ages, from little babies to persons in their 90s, pushing 100. They came in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life and all economic backgrounds. Some had become “successful” economically, moving away from the agrarian roots. Others had continued to farm the land and raise their children and grandchildren in the same communities. Others had traveled the world widely and moved to metropolitan centers.
I miss those old family reunions. But that’s what this is at the table. This is a family reunion of persons of all ages, shapes and sizes, economic backgrounds. When we spread it out to realize the nations of the world that gather at the table, what a privilege it is to do this in remembrance of Him.
I used to get bored with Psalm 136 because it was so repetitious, but now I love it. It’s a psalm of thanks to God; it’s a psalm of remembrance. It’s a psalm of the family of God celebrating what God has done. Let me read some of it to you:

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
who spread out the earth on the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

This is a family reunion. Look around this room. Think of the various churches in our community and throughout the world, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Family reunion is the first picture I’d like you to have in mind.

And the second is that of a symphony orchestra and choir.
Imagine a conductor, dressed in a tuxedo, steps out here and has about 200 people in the orchestra and choir. He lifts the baton. And let’s imagine what would happen if, at the moment he lifts the baton, everyone begins to sing, play or whistle their own favorite tunes. And even Susan Boyle steps to the front and begins to sing—that Scottish woman who took the world by storm for a few days, her 15 minutes of fame.
No, instead, when the baton is raised by the conductor of an orchestra and choir, there is the joining of individual tastes in music, types of voices—sopranos, altos,  tenors, baritones, basses—and all these various instruments; and the ages and experiences combine in a magnificent presentation of Franz Schubert’s “Mass in G” in what we call concert. That’s right. All the differences in individual tastes in music and personal backgrounds are brought together in a symphony, a united effort. And that’s what we have here at the table.
Paul chided the church at Corinth. They had great variety in the church at Corinth. They had wealthy people. They had poor people. They had slaves. They had abused the Lord’s Supper. They had come for the common meal; and those who were wealthy were able to come earlier, and they began to drink too much and eat too much. Then those who were their servants and slaves came later, and the choice food was gone. It wasn’t a very pleasant sight.
You say, “Even in the early church?” Yes, even in the early church. Paul had to address the issue and tell them that they needed to understand that they were coming together in all of their backgrounds and differences; but they needed to function in the same music, on the same page, in a loving, caring occasion.
There’s a third picture to add to that of the family reunion and symphonies and choirs.

Think of a memorial service.
We used to call them funerals. We call them, in our Christian tradition, memorial services because of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—the fact that we have an opportunity to celebrate not just the life of the person but what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
As we come to the table today, this is a memorial service in memory of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13 has a great benediction with which I’ll close the service: “Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
A memorial service. Let’s celebrate in memory of what He has done for us in the life to come, which empowers us to live at a higher level in this life with meaning, with forgiveness, with a sense of purpose and strength to live and to be equipped to do the job that He has for us to be
kingdom builders.

Finally, the fourth of these pictures is the banquet.
The late, great Scottish preacher Ian Pitt-Watson told a story of a king who was displeased that there was not much joy in his kingdom. People were no longer smiling. They were so busy doing the work of survival that there was not much joy. So, he called for a great banquet, got the largest place in the capital city and invited many. As they came into the banquet room that was sumptuously prepared, he had his servants tie each guest’s left arm behind their back and put their right arms in a long cast. Well, the people thought that was strange. But they came in and went to the places where their name cards were, and they sat down.
They saw all this sumptuous food in front of them, and they couldn’t move their left arms. As they reached out their right arms, they were knocking over wine glasses and beverages glasses, going for this magnificent food. They’d get it either with a fork in their hands or in their fingers; but they couldn’t get it in their mouths, until one enterprising chap looked at the person across the table and said, “My name’s
so-and-so, what’s yours?” Then he said, “Could I feed you?” And the person said, “Well, certainly. May I feed you?” What had been a large gathering of isolated individuals very quickly became a great, joyous occasion of people helping people, getting to know each other and sharing.
That’s what this table is about. It is the table of our Lord. So whatever picture the Lord lays on your heart as you come to the table—that of the family reunion, or the symphony orchestra and choir, the memorial service or the banquet—come to the table. For that fellow on the airplane, that was show-and-tell time. For you and me, it’s now, as we come to the table.

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About The Author

Dr. John A. Huffman Jr. served many years as pastor of the St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California. Early in his ministerial career, Huffman served as an assistant under Norman Vincent Peale, pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. He has published several books, including “The Family You Want,” “Forgive Us Our Prayers,” and his memoir, “A Most Amazing Call.” He has served on the boards of several influential evangelical organizations, including Christianity Today, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, World Vision and the National Association of Evangelicals.

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