Today our altar table is dressed in red, the color used to celebrate high moments in the life of the church, which for us is the beginning of Trinity’s 160th anniversary.
In 1854 the Christian Society at Freeland (now Collegeville) was organized and incorporated on Oct. 5, 1855.
The intention was to be a congregation with a Communion table open to all Christians whether baptized as infants or adults, the intention we recognize on this World Communion Sunday when we hear Jesus’ complicated story about a mob takeover of a vineyard business.
We might think it was the leaders of the temple who were running a corporation that served only themselves, and thus Jesus’ pronouncement was directed only at them: “…the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.”
But, when we remember Matthew’s Gospel was written to be read by the followers of Jesus, the struggling to survive church in Jerusalem, God’s vineyard, the same pronouncement serves as a warning: “Use it or lose it.”
The charge to Christians: first, to give the imagery of a vineyard’s harvest of grapes its communal meaning, carried over from the Hebrew people in the leisure time fellowship where all were welcome – family, villagers, stranger, traveler and foreigner, that still happens, as in Europe and ethnic communities, when a wedding, birthday, anniversary involves everyone, who sip the fruit of the vine that makes the heart glad when hearing the table grace:
“How good it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in peace.”
And second, to give the imagery of a vineyard’s harvest of grapes its sacramental meaning, carried over from the Seder meal on that night before Jesus’ arrest, trial, and sentence of death by crucifixion, when He raised the third of four chalices and broke the centuries’ old silence with the words,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”
The poured out life of Christ that marks those who receive Him as a redeemed, rescued, restored, renewed child of God, in and through whom Christ lives and continues His work in this world. And, each time the fruit of the vine is served and received in Holy Communion, Paul’s confession is personalized:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings
by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
As long as Jesus’ followers hold to the imagery of the vineyard’s fruit of the vine and live out its communal and sacramental meaning, Christian communities will not hear: “…the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people
that produces the fruits of the kingdom.”
That is why our altar table, set for Holy Communion, is dressed in red; it is a silent reminder of the communal legacy that the founders of this congregation have passed on to us and all who will come after us.
On the other side of the altar table members constructed a building in 1922 to serve the community in the name of Christ. It was to be a place to come together to learn how to live a Christ-like life, provide a space for ministry to others, and most of all – offer a table fellowship for all people.
The cup of blessing,
a savoring of the binding love of Christ in Whom our life finds its sacramental center on this side of the wall, where we receive the bread and cup of Holy Communion.
In countries around Jerusalem where Jesus told His complex vineyard story and we hear as today’s World Communion Gospel,
Christians are trying to escape from terrorists’ vendettas to alienate them. They have no home, no church, no gathering place, only a make-shift table with bread and cup.
As they commune, they find their community through you and me and all other Christians, sharing and receiving the living bread of Jesus’ life and the saving cup of His poured out love.
The inheritance savored on this World Communion Sunday.
Come, to receive the legacy and carry it forward. AMEN.