The way many churches exclude the Lord’s Supper from their regular worship service deeply concerns me. The Lord’s Supper forces the church to look itself in the mirror. When Jesus welcomes the congregation to the table of fellowship, we are confronted with the reality that he is far more welcoming and hospitable than we are. Christians can often be fickle people. On the one hand, this is understandable. Christians have an objective standard from which to judge right and wrong. This is a good thing because Christians have a moral and ethical compass with which we can navigate the swells of an increasingly relativistic society.
On the other hand, this can be a bad thing. Christians are often prone to use God’s objective standards to shun and exclude people when the God they worship is neither shunning nor excluding.
Look around the congregation.
How many people can you count that you would not invite to your table? There are great sinners in the congregation. There are people you don’t like. But all of these people are welcomed to the Lord’s table at the his invitation.
Jesus once told his disciples that he will draw all men to himself when he is lifted up (Jn. 12:32). What happened to Jesus when he was lifted up? He was broken. What happens to the bread when the minister lifts it up before the congregation? It is broken. The Lord’s Supper is much more than an act of remembrance for individual Christians. The Lord’s Supper is a participatory event where all men find themselves drawn to Christ’s broken body.
When Jesus’ body was broken the walls of separation between Jew and gentile, male and female, slave and free, black and white were broken as well (Gal. 3:28). This happens in the Lord’s Supper. People who would not dine together at their own tables are brought together at the Lord’s Table, they are brought together by the broken body of Jesus Christ. At the Lord’s Table, we participate in and show forth the great reconciliation of mankind.
Moreover, because the table is fenced, it is not up to us whether or not our neighbor will participate or not, it is up to use whether we will participate or not. At our own tables, we decide who we will invite and who we will exclude. At the Lord’s table, we are all invited, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28), but we are also told that we are to examine ourselves (1 Cor. 11:28).
When we are invited to the Lord’s Table each week, we are taught to look at our own hearts in regards to fellowship rather than to our neighbor’s faults. Sinful hearts look outward for excuses not to commune with others, sinful hearts turn in on themselves. In the Garden, Adam’s sin was a sin of consumption and blame shifting. When he was confronted, Adam shifted the blame on Eve, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12). In the Lord’s Supper, we are invited to eat rather than prohibited. Further, as we participate we are conditioned to remove the plank from our own eye before commenting on the speck in our neighbors (Matt. 7:5).
Look around the congregation.
How many people look just like you? Are they all white (let’s hope not)? Are they all black (let’s hope not)? Are they all republicans or democrats (let’s hope they’re libertarians)? No, there are people from all walks of life, all races, all socioeconomic classes, and all ideologies being drawn to the broken body of Christ.
In a world where selfishness has become a cultural virtue, the Lord’s table is hardly a place to perpetuate selfish interests. At the Lord’s Table, you dine with and commune with people you might never dream of inviting to your own table. But there you are, partaking of the same loaf and drinking from the same cup. In this act much is being proclaimed. Who you eat with says a lot about you and at the Lord’s Table we eat with Jesus, this cannot be overlooked. But while we eat with Jesus we are also eating with other people who are eating with Jesus.
The Lord’s table proclaims not only that we belong to Christ, but also that we belong to one another—all our differences and problems included. God’s people are not static in our relationships. Both vertically with God and horizontally with each other our relationships are dynamic. The Lord’s Supper images the dynamic nature to the life of Christ’s Body. We are growing, albeit with growing pains, further and further into the image of Christ, the head of the Body (Eph. 4: 15-16).
The church is a body of many members. Further, God’s word serves as a two edged sword cutting to the hearts of his people (Heb. 4:12) who have become living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). Throughout each service God’s word has cut His church into pieces just as the levitical sacrifices are cut into pieces (the sermon). But the service does not end here. The church must learn that we are only broken by God’s Word because the Word of God was broken for us: “This is my body broken for you.” Moreover, as the body of many members (the church) partakes of the broken body of Christ we are made whole again by our participation in the one loaf (1 Cor. 10:17).
Perhaps the reason there is so much strife in the church nowadays is because we are not communing with one another as we ought. Our ultimate allegiances need to be formed not by who we would invite to our tables but by whom Jesus, weekly, invites to his.
Just food for thought.