Sermon
October 5, 2003
First Congregational Church, 36 Main Street, New Milford, Ct  06776
Rev. Michael Moran
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Scripture Readings

Matthew 26:17-30

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ ”

So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

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Sermon: Only Taste and See

This morning we opened our worship with the words of Psalm 34

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

Supposedly these words were spoken by David, the second King of Israel, about 1,000 years before Christ. He sang them as a hymn to God’s salvation because he escaped death. David was in danger and he sought the protection of a Canaanite King. But after hearing the King’s servants talk, he realized that his reputation as a soldier threatened his safety – the king wouldn’t protect David because the King was afraid of him. So David pretended to be crazy - He scratched marks on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle run down his beard. The King then said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is mad; why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen?” And so they let David go, and he escaped.

This was the kind of cleverness that people expected of a King – someone who could trick and outwit the enemy – who could slip out of their grasp and get to safety. Maybe that is why they were so unprepared to accept what Jesus did when he allowed himself to be captured by the authorities who wanted to be rid of him. The very thing that King David escaped, Jesus walked right into – knowing full well how it would all end – with his death.

Jesus knew that the authorities wanted to kill him, but he also trusted that God had a purpose for what he would go through – that somehow his suffering would help others – would become, in fact, the power of salvation for a desperate situation – the situation of a world gone wrong.

I’m not sure if Jesus knew himself exactly how this was supposed to work, but he trusted that in the hands of his disciples the story of his life and death and resurrection people would always be remembered, and that all who heard it would see a victory even greater than that of King David – a victory that would put those same words of praise on their lips:


I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

Jesus knew how hard it would be for his friends to understand this, and so right before he was to be betrayed and arrested he arranged to have one last meal with them. And at that meal he did what we read about in the Gospel lesson from Matthew: he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Whenever you do this remember me.

When we recall and share that meal, we are doing what David declared in his psalm: O taste and see that the Lord is good.

We see a table that is set to satisfy the soul – set with just a little food, but with abundant love. The taste of the bread is made rich and the taste of the cup is made sweet when they open our eyes to God’s grace and fullness of God’s love for the world in Christ.

In fact, the Bible teaches that it is more than mere satisfaction that is at stake here, the Bible teaches that this is about salvation of the soul – about Jesus refusing to escape death so that he might rescue the soul under the spell of sin and bring it to life.

Sin, salvation, even soul – these are not words we use often in our daily lives, or even in our church life, but they are central to the meaning and mystery of this table.

In the story and setting of this table we see a visible representation of his words: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

When we know the story of what Christ did, we see this table as our invitation to come before God with all our sorrow and sin, all our weariness and anxiety and offer it up to God’s healing and care. For God took all that and bore the weight of it on the cross, to open the doors of heaven not just to the winners, the righteous, the ones without stain or shame, but to any and all who embrace forgiveness and let the grace of God warm their hearts and change their ways.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

We celebrate an open communion. This sacrament is for all who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God's people. Let us join together in a prayer of thanksgiving
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