Sunday, April 5, 2020
Jesus instituted ‘The Lord’s Supper’ with His disciples around the dinner table. This meal was familiar to them all at this specific time of the year. It was a family meal in every Jewish household to which every member of the family was invited to participate. Indeed, the Passover meal tapped into a tradition that reached all of the way back to Moses and the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 12).
COME TO THE TABLE
So, the Lord’s Supper, as instituted by Jesus, was part of a family meal around a table. Here, the entire Jewish family was welcome (Exodus 12:47).
Today, however, when we gather around ‘the Lord’s Table’ we may think of a wooden table with “Do This In Remembrance of Me” engraved across the front. We may also think of communion trays for the bread and trays for thimble-sized cups for the grape juice. In many congregations we may also have collection trays beside them, making the point that this part of the service is not a part of the Lord’s Supper; it is a separate act of worship.
These are not the kind of tables that a person would find in an average home. These are almost exclusively found in church buildings. Neither would we likely find the ‘utensils’ in any of our homes. These would only be found in church supply catalogues for these special tables in these special buildings with special rooms that we sometimes call, “sanctuaries”. *
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
Throughout the first century the church enjoyed these “Agape Feasts” or, as we might say, “Love Pot Lucks”. Over time, however, the Lord’s Supper became more formal and ceremonial. It continued to be about sharing in the body and blood of Christ. What was different is that it evolved into a ritual that each person did without regard to the person sitting next to them or the people around them. Somewhere along the way, the social aspect of the meal was lost.
This is not to say, necessarily, that there is a right and a wrong way to remember Christ’s sacrifice except for the example Paul gives us of what was happening in the church in Corinth. There, some were gorging themselves during the meal without regard to others who would have to walk away from the meal hungry because the food was gone. The very idea of excluding anyone from the table was horrifying to Paul! Instead, it would be better for them to eat at home, he would tell them, rather than eat and drink God’s judgement upon themselves (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)!
COVID-19 AND COMMUNION?
This time of self-isolation and social distancing during the Covid-19 crisis means that almost all of what we do in public is now only allowed at home. What a perfect time to return to the night Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, duplicating the practice of the early church! Here is a simple outline of how we can ‘return to our roots’ of our Christ-centered faith:
- Gather the entire family around the dinner table for a meal.
- The head of the family takes a loaf of bread or cracker or unleavened bread and prays a blessing over it as a reminder of the body of Christ–the bread of life–that was broken for us.
- The bread is then passed around the table for everyone else to ‘break’ for themselves. This includes everyone, not just baptized believers. And there is no rule about the size of the portion except to make sure that everyone is able to take what they wish.
- At this point the meal begins. While eating the meal it would be a great time to ask everyone to share what Jesus means to them and how He has changed their lives. To talk about the hope that Jesus’ sacrifice has planted in their hearts and how important God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy is to them. Reading portions of Psalms 115-118 may be a great way to relive that Passover meal.
- As the meal concludes and everyone is satisfied, now pray a blessing over ‘the fruit of the vine’ as a symbol of the blood of Christ that was poured out for everyone. Pour the grape juice into each individual’s glasses. As everyone drinks, have each person share the importance of forgiveness and cleansing.
- Close the meal with a prayer that God will empower His Holy Spirit in our lives to help us live like God’s kingdom people, holy and acceptable before His throne.
And so, we realize that the entire process of the Lord’s Supper is a social one that brings people together as the body of Christ. This happens at so many levels. Our lesson today is broken into three parts.
Part 1 is our welcome and focus upon today’s emphasis as we consider The Lord’s Supper.
Part 2 is a sharpening of our focus upon the importance of the social aspect as we gather around the table. We conclude with a commission to all to take this time to integrate the Lord’s Supper with a table meal of the day.
Part 3 is a simple communion service that is similarly conducted every Sunday morning in our worship assemblies.
May God bless us as we realize new and different ways to worship our Savior and our God by revisiting the core of our example: Jesus Christ.
* Much research has been done on the evolution of the Lord’s Supper meal transitioning to the formal ritual we now do in our church buildings. Among Churches of Christ a recent author is John Mark Hicks who wrote a book entitled Come To The Table. Click HERE for a Biblical Archaeology article that summarizes the discussion and offers other references for further study.