Tapping to the Table

(Tapping pulpit with cane…) I know this (cane) doesn't mean anything to you. But it's special to me. It belonged to a cherished person in my life, Uncle Harvey. His eyes saw nothing. But I long ago figured out he was neither blind nor without light. (Another sermon!) Without this, Uncle Harv, in his 90's, couldn't get around. He couldn't even eat. 'See, he could only find his way by tapping to the table. Oh, we needed to be thoughtful. Once this dear saint lived with us, we couldn't move the furniture around our new house without alerting Uncle Harv. Those were his landmarks for getting to the table. And there wasn't a dinner at home that wasn't announced by two sounds, his slippers scuffling across the carpet and the sound of this very cane, tapping to the table. I hope you can see that image in the eye of your heart.

[Now, in Westchester County, Pa., the good Methodists there built a new church. Open House! Everybody proud; a great day. At the end, the preacher went around to secure the building. Hmm. Sounds from the youth room. Tapping sounds, hands running along the walls sounds. "I'll catch'em in the act!" he thought. "The nerve, messing up our new building already!" He opened the door, ready to pounce on these youthful sinners. But there was only one. He was not misbehaving. 'Just lost. And tapping to find his way out of this strange and foreign place, the best he could. The boy was blind, of course. And looking to find his way to supper. (Scholl)]

This is World Communion Sunday. And I'm here to say: this is the way all of us come to the bread and the cup. Tapping to the table. Blinded by sin. On our own, we're unsure of this new place where we are. And even in faith, unsure of the world we're walking toward. We're in need of something or someone who can show us the way. Here's the good news. We have something far better than an old cane or a kind arm. We have the Shepherd's Crook to guide us and the healing heart of Jesus to help us to his table. There, he opens our eyes and feeds our souls. And he tells us to go our way. Our joy is to help others tap the landmarks that can bring them to the table. Are we ready? Where are we bound?

We come tapping to Jesus' table, blinded by sin. We just don't see straight. Our eyes are so set on, well, things! We come to want them. We come to worship them. Ahh, that's the rub. Our culture is awash in empty sexuality. We are repeatedly taught to value it above intimacy. With each other. With God. So we are blind to both. For God's sake, let's talk about this with our kids. (And each other.) "Are you ready for some football?" threatens to become our deepest spiritual question, stadiums our cathedrals, tailgates our communion tables. Tap, tap, tap: where are the landmarks in our spirit journey? How come we can't see straight? Our eyes are shut. Well-published reports tell us cheating rules, as our kids say. (Maybe churches should declare the Sunday nearest April 15 a day of repentance. 'Course, not this one, not us.) The world's politicians and nations declare their will, God's, if they care what God wills at all. The only way to World Communion's Table today is a tap at a time, because so often, we look on each other and see not sisters and brothers, but only trees walking!

O, this is a personal condition! When I look on the cross, it pains me. I have pained Jesus, pained God. Solution? I just turn a blind eye to the cross. And cost of discipleship. Me, 'convinced Christ is Lord, but not converted in everyday life. You know Paul's words. "If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. I could be a prophet, have a mountain-moving faith, but if I fall flat in love, it's no use." I rarely admit it to myself, you, or heaven. But the truth is, I'm too noisy, don't know all I pretend, do a poor imitation of love too often. Tap, tap, tap. I need to be helped to the table today. And you? It gets "worser". Love is patient and kind. Too often, like this year's Orioles, I'm "O for ½ the season!" How's your average? Love is not jealous, boastful, arrogant or rude. "Ah, hem," let's move along. Love doesn't insist on its own way. (Lord, lighten up!) It isn't irritable (Don't ask Beverly) or resentful. Love doesn't rejoice at wrong, but right. Tap. Tap. Tap. How 'bout you.

Here's the good news. We have more than an old cane & a kind arm to lean on. We have the Shepherd's Crook to guide us and the healing heart of Jesus to help us to table.

Christ invites us to move from cane to crook today. From trouble to table. He sings to us, long before Bill Withers, "Lean on me, when you're not strong. I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on!" The song is right, "We all need, somebody, to lean on." Thank God for the Shepherd, the Good Shepherd Jesus, and for his crook. More than a cane to lean on, a utensil to tap with, the staff of the shepherd protects us from every danger (to the soul). It lifts us up, snatches us smartly, from every ravine of wrong and dark place of the spirit. Its straight edge, his teaching. Our measuring stick for a right, true life and faith. It's curve, like a loop of love, a lasso of healing and mercy. Oh, and let us never forget there is a peculiar miracle in this saving staff. It takes the shape of a cross when needed. And it's arm, strong enough to bear the weight of the shepherd when he needs to hang on it. And he is strong enough to bear the weight of this world and all its sins, and mine, and yours. And the scales of sorrow and sorry-lives fall away, and we can see before us, the table to which he invites us.

Mark's Gospel has it right for our time, as for his. Jesus still comes to Bethsaida, the place where the blind are brought. Places like this very house, and our very hearts. He still asks us, who've heard his stories and lessons, read his miracles, and actually experienced them, "How come you have ears to hear and eyes to see, and don't?" You are sightless in your souls. Don't be faithless, but believing! Let me show you what I can do to bring you to the light." Enter this sightless sufferer. Jesus takes him by the arm and leads him out of town. Arm in arm. I can hear Jesus asking how long he's been in the dark. 'What happened. 'About his life, family. 'Have they stayed, or abandoned him. 'What of his faith. 'How is he in his soul. I can here this blindman asking Jesus about forgiveness. (After all, many say his sightlessness is a punishment for sin.) What about hope, heaven, life, eternal life? Is Jesus really is the One? And Jesus tells him. (All the while, guiding his steps and guarding his way.) By the edge of town, these two are strangers no more. Jesus touches his eyes with cleansing hands. "'See anything?" Pause. Squinting. Bewildered excitement "I see men walking, but they like… trees." Jesus desires to give a perfect sight. He repeats the process. And the old saint sees everything clearly…… says Scripture. (After all, Jesus' face is the first sight he sees!)

Friends, Jesus is prepared to take you by the arm today. Are you willing? You can lean on him. No cane required. Just like that other fellow in the dark. Ask Jesus. Listen to Jesus. Let him lead. And in some quiet place, he is ready with his cleansing, healing touch. The scales will fall away from our eyes. And we will see as never before. A meal with him, at the table he himself has set… with a place for us! And then he tells us to go our way. And to help others tap the landmarks that can bring them to the table. Are you ready? Will you come? [After all, and all these years, Ben and the choir are right. We are bound for greater things]

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