Meals make us human. But this meal, that you are celebrating for the first time today, is the most important of all. Every meal shared around a table connects us to each other. This meal connects you to Jesus. Every meal creates community. This meal creates you anew in Jesus. Every meal gives us part of the world. This meal gives you heaven. Meals make us human, but this meal makes you one with God.
These arguments are, briefly, all balderdash. Yes, the stories are strange and filled with mystery. No, they do not create one consistent picture of that morning and the days that follow. But the doubt and confusion are written into the story from the start. This is not a confidence game or a fraud or a metaphor. The stories would look totally different if they were. The people who were there believed this had happened. What and how, exactly, they couldn’t say. But it was unbearably, unbelievably real to them.
Everything is falling down, but we try to preserve it, to build back, to add our own layer, to add our own wall to the project that is never finished. We pass what we love along, hand to hand, in a great chain whose links all die before the treasure ever reaches safety.
Jesus does not enter this world, or this holy city, as a violent revolutionary or a conquering general. He offers his followers no visible protection and no obvious victory. He enters this world where power alone rules, and where morality, law, and justice are just bedtime stories we tell to hide the truth, as a very different kind of King.
I used to think that human beings were the only creatures—aside from the angels—that worshiped. That we lived in this vast silent dead universe, and only our tiny songs of praise were the only worship that filled it up.
I think I was wrong about that. Now I suspect that we’re the only creatures that don’t worship. That cease from worship.
A congregational meeting should have been called and a budget should have been drawn up. We set aside 25% of the ointment for Jesus and sell the rest. 25% of ointment revenue goes to social ministry, 25% to reimburse Martha for this big dinner, 15% to replace the fridge that we bought with a trash bag full of nickels in 1955, 10% for cash reserves.
And the older son felt the terrible weight of those years of work that he and his father had done, without his younger brother and the property he had taken away, and he knew that all the toil and anger and bitterness and poverty were for the sake of this one moment.
That’s the belly-god for you, though. He says “fill me up,” and you try to do it but he’s never full. He says “empty me out” and yet he’s never empty. He’s an easy god to worship, because he’s always with us and he’s never, ever satisfied.
Would it have really been so bad for one of the Israelites to say, “God, please give me the cash value of my share of the manna and my piece of the promised land, I don’t really want to be part of this any more?”
There is something in human beings that powerfully resists goodness. Something that powerfully resists God. They have ears but do not hear, as the Old Testament says. Jesus heals but in healing shows us how sick we are. Jesus forgives but in forgiving shows us how sinful we are. Jesus teaches good news but in teaching shows us how much we don’t know. And it can be painful to see and hear these things. It can be easier to shut them out.