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Eating to be a Blessing

Listen to this Sermon!Well, I have been very excited for this Sunday. Not because of the SuperBowl later this afternoon – although I am looking forward to that – but because we’re tackling a subject that’s very dear to me. That subject is eating!

We’ve been going through our B.L.E.S.S. acronym over these past few weeks. And in case you’ve missed a week or two, let me give you a quick recap.

We began by talking about how greatly God has blessed us. Everyone of us are truly some of the most blessed people in the world. But God hasn’t just blessed us so that our lives can be comfortable and easy. Rather, God has blessed us, so that we can be a blessing to the people around us. And we do that all to the glory of God.

So using this B.L.E.S.S. acronym, we’ve been learning how we can be a blessing to the people around us.

The B stands for …. Begin with Prayer. It’s the kinda prayer that goes like this: “Here I am. Send me. Please God, give me a divine appointment for me where my blessings can meet someone else’s need.”

And I trust that as you’ve been praying that prayer, God’s been answering it. I hope by now you’ve all had the awesome experience of being God’s delivery person – delivering God’s blessings to the people around you.

The L stands for Listen. And there were a couple of lessons on listening. The first was to listen to the Holy Spirit. We talked a bit about listening to the nudges of the Holy Spirit as He guides us along on our blessing delivery route. The other lesson was to actually listen to people. Don’t just wait your turn to talk – actually listen to people. Hear what they’re really saying. Ask the right questions to find out what their real needs are.

And now today, we get to talk about the E in bless. And the E stands for Eat! And hopefully by now I’ve stirred up your curiosity. What on earth does eating have to do with being a blessing to the people around us?

We’re going to look at two different stories today and both stories are about Jesus eating. The first story we’re going to look at is in Matthew 9 – starting at verse 9.

 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”
12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Matthew 9:9-13

Now this is a pretty cool story – but it get even better when you understand who these tax collectors and other disreputable sinners were. Often in our minds we equate these tax collectors with today’s IRS or Revenue Canada. But that’s being way too kind. Even though most people don’t love paying taxes, I think most of us realize the tax man is just doing his job. If someone in our community happened to work for revenue Canada, I don’t think we’d avoid him on the street or slash his tires or egg his house.

But if you were a tax collector in Jesus’ day, you might just face that kind of stuff. First of all, tax collectors were considered to be traitors. The Romans had conquered Jerusalem in 63 BC and these tax collectors were fellow Israelites who collected taxes for Rome. So in reality, these tax collectors were working for the enemy. So that was bad enough, but to make things worst, these tax collectors weren’t paid a salary – they got paid by collected taxes above and beyond what Rome demanded. So if Rome demanded that someone pay 5 coins, the tax collector might collect 7 coins, keeping 2 for himself. And so you can imagine how easy it was for most of these tax collectors to start getting a little greedy – and instead of collecting 7 coins and keeping 2 for himself, why not collect 10? Or 15?

So these tax collectors were notorious for being dishonest, greedy traitors! Everybody hated them. Everybody it seems, except Jesus.

Our story begins with Jesus noticing Matthew – who was a tax collector, sitting in his tax collector’s booth, and Jesus invites Him to “Come, follow me and be my disciple.” That in itself is amazing! For Jesus to choose someone who was seen to be the worst of the worst of sinners, to be his disciple – to be one of 12 guys who would form the beginnings of the church – that’s crazy.

Then, Jesus goes to Matthew’s house and has a dinner party with all of Matthew’s disreputable friends. Now try to put this in today’s context.

This would be like Jesus going to a seedy part of Edmonton and hanging out with some drug dealer’s and addicts, pimps and prostitutes, maybe some people involved in human trafficking. Not exactly your typical church crowd… These guys are society’s lowest. But there’s Jesus, hanging out and having dinner with them.

And you need to know that eating meals in Jesus’ time was an even more significant social event that it is today. Typically, the people you eat with are the people you want to be associated with.

Its like how if you’re a red-neck, your going to put on your flannel shirt and go to your buddy’s tail-gate party in the parking lot. But if you’re one of those rich, high society type people, you’re going to put on your tuxedo or lavish gown and attend the cock-tail parties of the rich and famous. No red-neck wants to put on a tux and go to a cocktail party. And no social elite wants to put on flannel and go to a tail-gate party. Neither group wants to be associated with the other.

And in Jesus time, it was even more so. So when Jesus attends Matthew’s dinner party with these people – these disreputable sinners, these lowest of the low – it like He was saying “You guys are my kind of people. You guys are ok in my books.” Not that Jesus approved of their lifestyles and the things that they did – but he accepted them fully as his friends. By simply eating with them, he was validating their worth. Something that the Pharisee’s would never do.

Think about the people you eat with. Who do you invite over to your house for lunch? Who invites you to their house? Usually – it’s your friends. It’s “your kind of people” – the people you want to be associated with. The people you care about.

When you invite someone to eat with you, you’re sending an subliminal, but very clear message. You’re really saying “Hey – you matter to me. I value our relationship. I want to spend this chunk of time with you.”

That’s a pretty powerful message, isn’t it? That’s the kind of message that builds true friendships. When Jesus goes and eats with these tax collectors and other disreputable sinners, he’s telling them very clearly – “You guys have value. You are welcome in my group of friends.”

Do you think that kind of message would impact people? Do you think it would make an impact on your community if you started invited all kinds of people over to your house for dinner? Not just your church friends – but the down-and-outers? The disreputable? The outcasts? Would that make an impact?

Well, let’s see… Turn in your Bibles to Luke 19. Here’s our second story about Jesus eating. And it’s actually very similar to the first. Luke 19 – verse 1.

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said.“Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Sounds very similar to our first story, right? We’ve got tax collectors – Jesus is hanging out with them, and the righteous people are grumbling! But look what happens.

8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
Luke 19:1-9

Isn’t that fantastic! Why do you think Zacchaeus responded the way he did? Do you think that on the way to Zacchaeus’ house, Jesus gave him a scathing sermon on the evils of stealing and greed? Probably not. I don’t think that Zacchaeus need to be told that He was a sinner. I think he probably knew that. But what He really needed to be told was that God loves sinners.

And Zacchaeus got that message loud and clear. When Jesus looked up into that tree and told Zacchaeus that He wanted to go be his guest for dinner that day, that spoke volumes to him. Here he was – a pathetic little man in a tree, despised by everyone else, guilty of mountains of sin – and Jesus wanted to hang out with Him? Jesus cared about him? Can you imagine? And as a result, salvation came to Zacchaeus that day.

Could that kind of stuff happen in Mirror or Bashaw or Alix? Could people come to know and love God because you simply invited them over for a meal? It might not happen as quickly or as dramatically as it did with Zacchaeus… But I believe that simply eating with the people in our community will open the doors for us to make disciples.

Why? Because I believe that our community knows very well what sin is. They know that it’s wrong to steal and lie and cheat and sleep around and do all those other things found in the ten commandments. And they know that they are guilty – they know that they are sinners! But do they know that God loves sinners? That God forgives and accepts sinners?

I know that’s the message we preach here in church, but is that the message we are sending to our community by our actions? Do we illustrate God’s love and acceptance for them by simple actions like eating with them? Inviting them to be part of our lives – even while they are still messed up sinners? I mean, we’re sure not perfect. We’re just about as messed up as they come! And God loves us, doesn’t He? Sure He does. He loves us so much that He went to the cross for us.

You’ve all heard and probably memorized Romans 5:8 that says… “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” But do we follow His example even a little bit?

Could our neighbors say “While we were yet sinners, these Christians invited us over for dinner? While we were yet sinners, they showed genuine interest in our lives?

Think about the people who live right close to you – down the block or down the gravel road. Probably most of your neighbors don’t know Christ. But they know you. They probably know that you’re one of those Christians – one of those Christ-ones…

How well have you shown them the kind of love and acceptance that Jesus showed Matthew, and Zacchaeus and all those other notorious sinners?

I want to challenge you today to make a resolution. When I was a kid, one year my mom made a New Year’s resolution that she would bake at least one pie every month that year. And boy, I tell you, my brothers and I made sure she followed through with her resolution. And she did. We enjoyed at least 12 pies that year. Well, I’m going to ask you to make a similar, but slightly different resolution.

Would you resolve to invite at least one non-churched person/couple/family to eat with you at least once a month for the rest of this year? I know you have full and busy schedules – I do too – but I know you can fit in at least one meal per month. This is eating evangelism – it’s about as easy as it gets to make disciples. Not that you need to preach a sermon at them or go through the four spiritual laws after dessert, but just simply invite them over to eat with you. Your invitation alone speaks volumes to them.

And everyone can do this. You say you can’t cook – fine. Eat out. Take ‘em to a nice restaurant. You can afford to eat out? Fine. Buy a bucket of ice-cream and invite them for dessert. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive – BBQ some hotdogs! It really doesn’t matter what you do for food.

What’s important is that people know that you care about them. That you are genuinely interested in their lives. I can’t think of a better or easier way to bless the people around you than to eat with them.

So would you make this resolution with me? To invite at least one non-churched person/couple/family to share a meal with you at least once a month for this next year.

Let’s begin blessing our community simply by eating with them. And perhaps they’ll be like Zacchaeus or Matthew, and who knows how God will take that little blessing and use it to launch their lives in a totally new and awesome direction.

Wouldn’t that be a story – that our community was totally transformed for Christ – all because we began eating with them! It’s so simple – but it’s so powerful! Let’s make that resolution today!

Part II

With all this talk about eating, I think it’s only appropriate that we share a meal together this morning. We’re actually going to invite all the S.S. classes to come back and join us in a few minutes for communion, but before we do that, I want to talk to you about food for a minute.

Eating is one of the very few activities that every person on earth takes part in. Not everyone watches tv. Not everyone plays soccer. Not everyone drives a car. Not everyone goes to work each day. But everybody eats. Everywhere you go on planet earth – at any time in history – you find people eating. Eating is a central part of our lives! The New York Times did a survey a couple of years ago and found that on average, people spend one hour and seven minutes every day eating. One hour and seven minutes is a good chunk of your day.

So it makes me wonder, “Why did God create us to need food?” Why did God design our bodies in such a way that we need to constantly put this stuff called food into our mouth and into our bodies?

Why can’t we live on solar power? Why didn’t God make us to be like the grass or the trees and just absorb the sunlight, using photosynthesis to sustain our life? I mean, God is creative – why food? Why couldn’t our life be sustained by some kind of particles in the air that we just absorb? Why did God make us to need food?

Now I don’t claim to fully understand the mind of God. I don’t always know why He does what He does. But I do know that every that God does, He does with a purpose. So what could be the purpose of designing our physical bodies so that we constantly need food? Well, perhaps some of the reason might be to provide us opportunities to eat together like we’ve been talking about, but I think there is a further reason as well.

Take a look at John 6:35.

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
John 6:35

Jesus is drawing attention to the fact that whenever we eat food – be it meat & potatoes, pizza, noodle, rices whatever…. we feel satisfied for the moment, but guess what? A few hours later, we’re hungry again. We need to eat again.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus makes this statement just one day after he feeds the crowd of 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes. They had all eaten as much as they wanted and there was 12 full baskets leftover. But now, it’s the next day. All that food has long since been digested and they are hungry again.

And its at this point that Jesus says that He is the bread of life. He is the living water. In other words, while physical food cannot permanently satisfy and sustain us, Jesus can and He does. He is our permanent satisfaction. He is our sustainer. Apart from God, we have no life – both spiritually speaking and physically. It’s God who provides every meal we eat. In fact, it’s God who provides every breath we breath. If God decided that this moment was to be our last, we would be done!

To remind us of this, God designed our bodies to need food on a consistent, regular basis. The fact that we have to eat three times a day reminds us (three times a day), that we are totally dependent on God for our very life – both physically & spiritually. Our physical hunger is a reminder of a spiritual truth. It’s actually pretty cool how God has designed our bodies so that our stomachs would remind us several times a day that we can’t live without Him.

I think this is one of the reasons the Bible teaches us to fast. We don’t talk a lot about fasting in our culture, but the Bible does. If you pay attention, you’ll see that there is all kinds of fasting in the Bible. And I think one of the reasons that the Bible teaches us to fast, is because feeling that hunger when we go without eating for set period of time, reminds us of how desperate we are for God. And I think we often need that reminder: Perhaps that’s why we get hungry at least three times a day.

And that’s probably another sermon for another series somewhere down the road, but I did want to just briefly touch on that today, because today we are going to share communion – the meal that God choose to be the symbol of His new covenant with us.

I don’t think it wasn’t coincidence that God choose food to be a symbol of this covenant. Think about the covenants that God made in the past. When God made a covenant with Noah – to never flood the earth again – God choose the rainbow to be the sign of that covenant. When God made a covenant with Abraham – that his descendants would be God’s special, chosen people – God choose circumcision to be the sign of that covenant.

But when God made His new covenant with us – where anyone can be forgiven and accepted by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – God choose the sign of that covenant to be a meal – to be food and drink – bread & wine. Why?

Because just like we are physically dependent everyday on food to survive – we are spiritually dependent on Jesus’ death & resurrection for our spiritual life. When we eat this meal together – we are declaring that our very life comes from God. If it weren’t for Jesus broken body (symbolized by the bread) and his spilled blood (symbolized by the cup), we would have no life. While our physical body may be sustained by bread and wine, our spiritual life is sustained by Jesus Christ.

Look at 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.”26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26

So as we share communion today, remember two things:

#1. Remember that just like you depend on food (bread & wine) to stay alive every day – you also depend on Jesus death & resurrection for your true, abundant, eternal life. Remember that at this meal this morning – and all your other meals this week.
#2. When we eat this meal – we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. That’s like a preaching a sermon that God loves, and accepts, and forgives sinners! Let’s proclaim that message to our community through our actions as well as our words. Let’s illustrate God’s love and acceptance for them through something as simple as sharing a meal with them.

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