This is the story of how I fell in love with a table…
From growing up in the church, there are two things I remember about communion:
1) I remember it passing me by because I was too young, apparently. So I watched my parents receive. I could smell the grape juice on their breath when they would whisper something to me afterwards. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t included – because I knew that I was included in every other meal my family had.
2) When I was “old enough” to receive, we had another pastor at that time. What I remember was how this pastor seemed bored with communion and in a hurry to get on with the real show. He said the same exact lines every time at the speed of an auctioneer.
Twenty years later, I have been in ministry my entire adult life. Communion was something we did, but it felt kind of foreign, awkward, and even at times like a nuisance.
I would hear my pastors say things like, “Where can we fit communion in?” and “Let’s bump it this month, we have too many other things going on in our services.”
Now, as a lead pastor myself, I was wrestling with these conflicting emotions…
I knew that communion should be deeply important, significant, and meaningful. But I was also struggling to feel passionate about it. Something just wasn’t clicking for me, and I knew it. Maybe it was because I had only seen communion done at church in a hurried, “We gotta get this done so we can move on,” kind-of way, or the super-sad and somber, “Be scared, because if you have some hidden sin and you receive communion today, you might keel over and die” approach.
This tension set me on a journey of discovery. I was determined to find what I had been missing in communion.
So I read. And listened. I even prayed about it too.
About two years ago, a pastor I had been enjoying listening to, and who came from a similar church background as I did, was talking a lot about communion. In fact, he seemed obsessed with it. He used this invitation in his church before communion was served:
This meal didn’t originate with the church, but it came from the Lord.
It is ready for those who love Him, and for those who want to love Him more.
So know that you are invited, you who have much faith and you who have little. You who have been here often and you who have not been here long. You who have tried to follow and you who have failed.
Receive, because it is the Lord who invites you. It is His will that those who want Him should meet Him here.
Then I came across a video of Rev. Michael Curry talking about communion (Eucharist in his tradition). I cried when I watched the video. Then I used in our church and cried again each time it was played.
There is something so beautiful about this table that we gather at, receiving the bread and cup together.
Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
That is the invitation: Come. Receive. All you. All Y’all.
It is His table, not ours. But He invites. There is a place at His table for us all.
Recently, a blogger criticized Rachel Held Evans for sharing her doubts publicly. In his critique, he issued a “Farewell” to her (from Christianity, I assume). She replied in the comment section of his post, saying…
“You can’t ‘farewell’ me from the Table because it’s not your Table. It’s not your denomination’s Table. It’s not Calvin’s Table. It’s not my Table. It’s Christ’s Table, and all who are hungry are welcome.”
To this I shout “Amen!”
Something has happened to me. I’m not sure exactly when or why – but somewhere in the past two years while on my quest to find beauty and significance and a love for communion, I fell in love with a table.
Maybe the fresh made, pan-fried, and lightly-salted communion bread helped. Maybe it was looking out at my diverse congregation – seeing the young and old, the rich and poor, the black and white, all receiving together from His table…
Whatever the various reasons, I have fallen in love with a table – and I hope you will too.
And The Table Will Be Wide by Jan Richardson
And the table will be wide.
And the welcome
will be wide.
And the arms
will open wide
to gather us in.
And our hearts
will open wide
And we will come
as children who trust
there is enough.
And we will come
unhindered and free.
And our aching
will be met
And our sorrow
will be met
And we will open our hands
to the feast
And we will turn
toward each other
And we will give up
And we will taste
And we will become bread
for a hungering world.
And we will become drink
for those who thirst.
And the blessed
will become the blessing.
will be the feast.