Our Old Testament reading today spoke of Abraham desire to eat with three visitors who arrived at his tent. Our New Testament reading spoke of Paul’s desire to break bread with members of the church of Troas. We can all relate to stories involving food because all of us eat. A study concluded that an American who lives to age 70 will have spent 6 of those 70 years doing nothing but eating. Think about that for a moment; we will spend more than 6 years of our life just chewing and swallowing food.
But eating is not simply about giving our body the calories it needs to survive. Eating is most often done in the company of another person because eating is a social activity that feeds our need to relate to other people. Everyone here needs food for the body and fellowship with other people. We were not designed to live completely alone. In fact, the very first thing God said was “not good” was loneliness. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). So, in addition to pangs of hunger emanating from our stomachs demanding that we eat, we have pangs of loneliness that demand that we fellowship with other people. Eating and sharing a meal are good for us because it meets many needs.
Now God makes use of our need to eat and be in fellowship with others to address a broader truth about us. That truth is that each of us is made up of a body, a mind, and a spirit or soul. Our bodies are made of flesh, blood, and bone that we can examine with our own senses like sight, hearing, smell, and touch. No one disputes we have a physical body. We also have a mind that is the accumulation of our experiences. Our mind gives us the capacity to remember and to imagine. No one disputes we have a mind. We need to be careful about what we fed our minds. But we are more than mind and body. We are also made up of a spirit. Although we cannot sense our spirit by sight, hearing, smell, or touch, no one really disputes we have a spirit whether they believe in Christ or they believe only in the power of crystals. We have a spirit and just like our bodies and minds our spirit needs to be fed. Not sure you believe that? I have met people before who have plenty to eat and have people in their life. There minds are active and engaged but they will tell you that they feel defeated and hopeless. They feel that way because their spirit has been wounded by the trials of life. Their spirit has been injured by the behavior of another person or by mistakes and missteps they have made in life. Their body, mind, and social life may be well fed, but they are defeated in the spirit.
And while we are made of body, mind, and spirit, it is our spirit and spiritual life that determines our destiny and overall pattern of our life. If someone is defeated in spirit, it does not matter how physically strong their body and mind are, they are a defeated person. Conversely, if someone is strong in their spirit, it does not matter how physically strong their body and mind is, they are a strong person.
So when we turn to the Bible and we read about food, meals, feasts, and banquets, we discover that these things of the physical world are used by God to represent or symbolize larger spiritual truths. Meals, feasts, and banquets in the Bible are intended to be a vehicle, a means, by which we are fed spiritually in our relationship with God. Afterall, our relationship with God determines the destiny of our life now and forever.
We had two stories today in our Scripture readings that involved meals. One was from the Old Testament involving a man named Abraham. The other story came from the New Testament involving a man named Paul and a group of his friends. While both stories share a moment of physical eating, as we will see, the meals involved a significant spiritual purpose. When we conclude our worship service today, we too will have the opportunity to share a meal together that feeds our spirit in an awesome way.
Our first story began with these words, “The Lord appeared to Abraham.” God, accompanied by two others, was on the move and enter the story at the heat of the day near the great trees of Mamre where Abraham was dwelling. Upon seeing these three visitors, Abraham responded to God’s presence by bowing down low, a sign of humility and said, “Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed.” Abraham more than anything else wanted to fellowship with God. He had a deep-seated need to do so. Abraham teaches us here that the closer our personal relationship with God, the more we want to be in His presence. Think about it for a moment. There are people we have met in our life that make us happy just seeing them. Because they do so, we want to see them more often. That is the type of relationship God desires with each of us. When I was growing up, God was portrayed as a sort of super police officer keeping track of me for the sole purpose of finding things I did wrong so he could punish me. Tell me the truth. If you had someone like that in your life, would you really want to spend time with them? I did not. This is one reason the Apostle Paul said in the Book of Romans, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” We need to change our mindset about God so that we can understand what it means to worship him and know his will. God wants fellowship with us because he loves us.
In our Old Testament story, God came to Abraham for fellowship and Abraham’s mind was properly focused and desired to sit and eat with God. Can you imagine eating with God? Again, back to my childhood, I can remember we would say grace before a meal – three times a year. We would say before dinner on Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. It was always the same, “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.” As a kid, it made me think that God came down from heaven on those days and He was at the dinner table with us. Now I know, that is not true. God is always at that dinner table. So now, every time we eat, we have a prayer, a conversation, directed toward God who is seated with us, thanking him for being with us, for giving us the time and food to eat. We raise up prayers for those we have talked with that day or who are experiencing a difficulty of life. We do not say a repetitive rote prayer. We have fellowship with God. In that fellowship at the table, our bodies are fed, our minds are engaged, and our spirits are nourished. That is what Abraham was teaching us in just a few verses here.
Our second story from the Bible today, also deals with a meal. The story comes from the Book of Acts, that is the Acts of the Apostles of Jesus, Chapter 20, beginning at verse 7. The writer of the book, a man named Luke, wrote, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” There are a couple points we want to know about this simple verse. When Luke wrote, “On the first day of the week,” he is referring to what we now call Sunday. The first day of the week was considered the day of the week in which Jesus rose from the dead. It was and remains the day that Christian celebrate God’s decision to initiate fellowship with all of humanity. Jesus, God in a human body, came from heaven to earth to restore all forms of fellowship; between humanity and Himself and between humanity. Jesus came to address sin, once and for all time and for all people. Jesus came to be seen, heard, and experienced as a means of leading all of us from sin and as a means of restoring fellowship. God proved all that Jesus said and did by resurrecting him from the dead. If the resurrection never happened, as Jesus said it would, then the restoration of fellowship with God never happened. But the good news is Jesus did rise from the dead and, therefore, we can have fellowship with God through Him. Christians then chose that day, the first day of the week to gather and celebrate fellowship with God and one another.
Second, Luke said “we came together.” The “we” here is the early Christian believes. Third, Luke said, “we came together to break bread.” To break bread is to eat a meal together and feed their bodies. But more than that this meal, the breaking of this bread, was a way to reenact the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples to feed their spirits. You see just before Jesus was arrested and killed, Jesus shared a meal and used bread and wine as a symbol of what he had done for all of humanity. Jesus asked his disciples to repeat this meal as a way of engaging their minds to remember what Jesus taught them and did for them. Jesus knew we needed ways of expressing and remembering the restoration accomplished by God. Breaking bread was a means to remind Jesus’ followers that they have fellowship with the Almighty, and we can restore fellowship with one another. Briefly, let’s see this gathering played out.
Verse 7 continues, “Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. [No doubt those lamps were generating some added heat.] 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus [probably trying to get some air], who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. [You can almost see this young man, perhaps a teenager, tired from working that day, warm from the lamps, trying to listen to Paul, and all the while drifting off.] When he [Eutychus] was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’”
Let me make three quick points. Through Paul, the young man experienced and the congregation witnessed the power of God like few others. God, using Paul as an instrument, resuscitated, and brought Eutychus back to mortal life. That is just an awesome moment from the history of the church. Second, we need to be mindful of our youth that worship services keep them engaged and we keep them away from open windows. Third, a warning from this account offered by the great 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon still applies, “Remember, if you go to sleep during the sermon and die, there are no apostles here to restore you!"
Finally, Luke brought us to the conclusion of this account that after the miracle, “11 Then he [Paul] went upstairs again and broke bread and ate.” Think about this scene. Paul was giving his farewell sermon. A young man fell out of a third-floor window to his death. Paul interrupted the service rushed down to the street, threw himself on the young man and restored his life. The group was exhilarated and overjoyed but never forgot the reason they came together. They came together to break bread. Neither death nor life would keep them from fellowship with God through the remembrance of Jesus.
The proclamation of the good news of restored fellowship with God remembered through the breaking of bread, was more significant to Paul and the early church than the miracle of restoring a young man’s mortal life. Take that in for a moment. What we will do here in a few moments when we share what we now call the Lord’s Supper is spiritually more profound and more significant than anything else we could do or witness today. It means Christ died for us and our separation from God is over. It means the divisions between us need to melt away. It means Christ will come again. It means Christ came back to life and now sits with God speaking on our behalf. If you have never publicly acknowledged Jesus who made this possible, listen to this invitation in Jesus’ own words, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Jesus is inviting you into fellowship with Him, with the person seated next to you, and with me. That is the power of the Word of God and the spiritual significance of what we are about to do. Come to the table, let us break bread, and be blessed. Amen.