In this morning’s gathering at Calvary Community Church, we spent time meditating on the story of Jesus and two travelers, outside Jerusalem on Resurrection Sunday, found in Luke 24:13-35. One of my observations of that story is that I think the moment of recognition of Jesus by those two travelers, as he blessed and broke the bread (Luke 24:30), was that this moment for them was a reminder of Jesus instituting what we now call Communion. So that I think it right to say that the life-giving presence of Jesus is revealed in the sacrament of communion.
Now, take that moment in the upper room, and put it together with this moment in the room at Emmaus, and what we learn from these texts is that The Table itself is a reminder of what Jesus had said, “Suffering, then glory” (Luke 24:26). For at The Table, we look into the past, and remember the suffering of the Christ on his cross for us. And, we look into the future, and remember the promise that one day he will come back, the return of the King, and make all the sad things in this world untrue as he ushers in the fullness of the kingdom of God.
Had I not run out of time in the service this morning, right before we shared The Table together it was my hope to use another story as an echo of this truest of stories from Jesus. It is found near the end of The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien, when Sam and Frodo find themselves on the slope of Mount Doom, having just thrown the ring into its depths. That moment, and what comes next, are another way to think about our future because of the King.
“I am glad that you are here with me,” said Frodo. “Here at the end of all things, Sam.”
“Yes, I am with you, Master,” said Sam, laying Frodo’s wounded hand gently to his breast. “And you’re with me. And the journey’s finished. But after coming all that way I don’t want to give up yet. It’s not like me, somehow, if you understand.”
“Maybe not, Sam,” said Frodo; “but it’s like things are in the world. Hopes fail. An end comes. We have only a little time to wait now. We are all lost in ruin and downfall, and there is no escape.”
Ever felt that way in your own story? Keep reading…
Side by side they lay; and down swept [the great, giant eagle] Gwaihir, and down came [his fellow eagles] Landroval and Meneldor the swift; and in a dream, not knowing what fate had befallen them, the wanderers were lifted up and borne far away out of the darkness and the fire.
When Sam awoke, he found that he was lying on some soft bed, but over him gently swayed wide beechen boughs, and through their young leaves sunlight glimmered, green and gold. All the air was full of a sweet mingled scent.
He remembered that smell: the fragrance of Ithilien. “Bless me!” he mused. “How long have I been asleep?” For the scent had borne him back to the day when he had lit his little fire under the sunny bank; and for a moment all else between was out of waking memory. He stretched and drew a deep breath. “Why, what a dream I’ve had!” he muttered. “I am glad to wake!” He sat up and then he saw that Frodo was lying beside him, and slept peacefully, one hand behind his head, and the other resting upon the coverlet. It was the right hand, and the third finger was missing.
Full memory flooded back, and Sam cried aloud: “It wasn’t a dream! Then where are we?”
And a voice spoke softly behind: “In the land of Ithilien, and in the keeping of the King; and he awaits you.” With that Gandalf stood before him, robed in white, his beard now gleaming like pure snow in the twinkling of the leafy sunlight. “Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?” he said.
But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”
“A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then, as sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.
“How do I feel?” he cried. “Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel” — he waved his arms in the air — “I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!”
Gandalf later shared with Sam, “…[And so] in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King. He has tended you, and now he awaits you. You shall eat and drink with him.”
Yes, you will, fellow follower of our King, Jesus.
By his cross, you have been delivered from the fire. He has tended you, and he now awaits word from the Father for the day of his return, when you shall eat and drink with him. Until then, his Table shall always be a reminder and a promise for the day that will surely come.