Before you serve communion today …

I was one of six kids, so I ate dinner every night at a table that sat eight people very tightly. To make matters more uncomfortable for me, I was the only left-handed person in our family. There was no seat at the table that didn’t earn scorn and derision. Most of the time I ate with my elbows drawn in, so as not to be picked on by the brood. It was an awkward way to eat. Add to that the fact that I have almost no eye-hand coordination (I can’t catch a baseball with a satellite dish). Between being left-handed at a crowded table and clumsy on my best days, I had probably a fifty-fifty chance on any given night of knocking over either my tea or someone else’s.

Bless my dad’s heart. He hated dinner being interrupted by spilled drinks. He’d get frustrated by it. He’d say, “Can’t we eat a single meal without someone spilling something?

Well, no. Evidently not, Daddy, because you had five right-handed children and one left-handed one and because of that equation, spilling was mostly inevitable. That’s how our family was made. The only way to avoid the spill would have been to seat me at a separate table. But wouldn’t that be strange and even a bit cruel? After all, I was still part of the family and we all instinctively knew, even if I spilled more often than not, that there was a place at the table for me. 

My family dinner experience inspires two thoughts about the Family Table of the Lord:

First, the Lord’s table is not meant for a party of one. Communion has a deep and fundamental meaning for Christians. The best image for it is the Table, where we come together to share in the body and blood of Jesus. When we take the elements set at this table, we commune, and not just with God. When we take these elements, we admit our participation in the Body of Christ. We are that body. Since the ascension, we who commune around the table of the Lord are the Body of Christ.

So while the act of taking communion can be deeply personal, it was never designed to be an independent act. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence supporting the idea that the Lord’s table should ever be reserved for a party of one. Communion is a sharing — a sharing in the suffering of Jesus and a sharing in the body of Christ on earth. The table connects us.

Second, people who sit at the table of the Lord are prone to spill (and as it happens, our Father is okay with that). It is how his children are made. At the table of the Lord, spilling is a good thing! This table not only connects us, but sends us out to spill over onto others as we share our stories, invite others into this communion, offer them a place at this table.

This meal is worth sharing and the DNA of this family makes us prone to want to share. People who sit at this table have a predisposition toward spilling over onto other people because we believe that we all belong to each other.

Pastors, before you serve communion today, make sure you’re on board with what the sacrament is meant to do in the life of your community. It is not primarily a ritual. It is not primarily a way for people prone toward introspection to curl in toward themselves and away from the community around them. It is a gathering of the family. And when you serve, make sure your people understand that when they share in this meal, they are committing to the expectations of this family table: people who eat at this table have to learn how to spill.

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Enough.

I went to church on a Saturday morning to meet a group of folks who wanted me to offer communion to their group.  The first person I saw was one of the leaders. She drove right up next to me in the parking lot, rolled down her window, and said, “The dog ate the communion bread.”  I thought she was joking, but she looked at me with dead seriousness and said, “No, really.  How can a miniature dachshund need that much communion bread?”

What a powerful analogy for what has happened to so many people in this world.  So many people I know are such good people, such intelligent people, but somewhere along the way, something happened.  Either they got hurt by the church, or they found such hypocrisy among Christians that they couldn’t see the point of it.  It is as if the dog has eaten their communion bread. Its as if Satan, or life, or fallen human beings – the world has stolen their right to be in communion with God.  And the terrible result for too many of us is that we no longer trust God.  We are suspicious that maybe he does not have our best interests at heart.  We secretly wonder if, given an inch, God would try to make us walk a mile we don’t want to walk.

After all, if God is so good, why is life so hard?elohim

This question baits the enemy of our souls.  If he can get us to suspect God’s motives, he can yank us right down into misery and anger.  All the anger, fear and loneliness we feel has a single root cause.  It grows out of a basic distrust in God — in his power to provide, in his sovereignty, in his desire to do for us.

The antidote is in the names of God.  We discover in his names the character of the One worthy of our trust.  Yahweh:  “I Am.”  Emmanuel:  “God With Us.”

Figuring out who God is is fundamental to how we relate to him.  Thomas Merton says: “Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you and offers you an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon.”

Jeremiah Smith says this: There is nothing more important, no higher priority in your life, than for you to figure out who God is. It affects everything else in your life. You choose how to approach situations in your life based on your understanding of who God is and what He’s like.

In the quest to know him, where do we begin?  I believe we begin where the Bible does, with the name that assures us God is enough.  Whatever our sin, brokenness, problems, whatever else in our lives vies for our attention, God is enough.

Elohim.  Enough.

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