In a blog post surrounding the broad issue of corporate worship, I brought up several elements of our worship gathering by asking,
Are there ways we can renew a sense of community around the sacraments?
It might be helpful to think about each one at a time. I will throw out some of my initial ramblings, and you can contribute to the mess, if you like (ha!). I want to start with one of the more evasive,
- The Lord’s Supper
Of all our various practices this probably seems the least communal—most of us are prone to experience this rich act of worship in isolation. We take a wafer and some juice, or wine, and reflect quietly on the finished work of Jesus on the cross. During this act, we are proclaiming “the Lord’s death until comes” (1 Cor. 11:26, NASB) as a way to remember him (Luke 22:19). Yet, how much more intense were early Christians when they engaged in this ancient, Christ-ordained act?
The Early Church didn’t eat wafers by themselves; they ate a feast with each other!
In fact, Paul’s beef with the Corinthians was over their factions, cliques, and ethnocentrism. It was to his chagrin that he had to call them out on their lack of community,
But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore, when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-20).
How did Jesus practice the Lord’s supper?
Now, there’s a good question. Jesus celebrated “communion” with his closest friends, in a house, at a table of food (see Luke 22:7-21). Now, let’s think about this gracefully…because there is a reason we have the cute wafers and little plastic cups of juice at our corporate gatherings—try inviting everyone from your church over for dinner—my question is more geared towards smaller communities within the church.
Is there a way we can bring back the “Supper” in the Lord’s Supper together?
In his book, A Meal With Jesus, Tim Chester points out the many times Jesus is pictured eating with people in Luke’s Gospel,
- In Luke 5 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi.
- In Luke 7 Jesus is anointed at the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal.
- In Luke 9 Jesus feeds the five thousand.
- In Luke 10 Jesus eats in the home of Martha and Mary.
- In Luke 11 Jesus condemns the Pharisees and teachers of the law at a meal.
- In Luke 14 Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals rather than their friends.
- In Luke 19 Jesus invites himself to dinner with Zacchaeus.
- In Luke 22 we have the account of the Last Supper.
- In Luke 24 the risen Christ has a meal with the two disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in Jerusalem (p.10)
To top it all, Luke emphasizes that Jesus came into the world “eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34)
Considering this blatant purpose statement, it would appear that sharing meals with people was an important aspect to the Lord’s mission.
How many outsiders have you eaten with recently? Got any stories or experiences?
A Meal With Jesus is a book written by British pastor Tim Chester, and is a short theology of food. That’s right…food. The punchline of the book is that “Jesus came eating and drinking.” The premise? Jesus’ basic missional strategy was to eat with people, from the religious astute, to the marginalized, meals were a powerful means that the Son of God used to give people a taste of the kingdom (pun intended). While Chester gets a bit poetic with food (it’s charming), his main point is maintained with elegance and compassion: The single best way to bring your neighbors to the possibility of savoring Christ is through your hospitality. There is no better way, nor is there a more enjoyable way to be on mission, and in community than to eat a meal with someone. I’ve read a lot of books, but few of them will have such a meaningful and practical effect on mission as this one.
Here is a quick excerpt on the book by Tim Chester…
I highly recommend this book, especially to those who earnestly desire to be on mission in their community but are not sure how to do so. This book is for you.
Amazon: A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (paperback)