Thursday, April 18, 2019

An Open Table (God's Extravagant Love)

One of my favorite things about my church is that Communion is served at an open table.  That means that anyone can come and partake of God's holy meal. 

And I do mean anyone

You don't have to be a certain age; you don't have to have taken a class.  You don't have to be a certain gender or race, of a certain economic class or level of education, or have a certain sexual orientation.  You don't have to be a member of our church, or any church.  You don't have to understand what Communion is about--because let's face it--do any of us truly understand the mystery of God with us in this holy meal?  All that's required is an open heart and a desire to seek after God.

And here's why: It's not our table.  It's God's table, and God gets to decide who is welcome, not me, not you. 

Who did God Incarnate invite to His table?  Whom did He break bread with, hang out with?  Jesus hung out with the margins of society: the sinners, the seekers, the questioners, the sick, the poor, widows and orphans, children.  Jesus hung out with the people who knew that they needed Him.

You know who Jesus didn't hang out with? 

Jesus didn't hang out with religious leaders who knew the rules so well they were able to exploit them in any way they wished, and often did, to their own profit.  Pharisees, who thought they could earn their salvation by following the law.  It's not that Jesus didn't want to spend time with the Pharisees or that He wouldn't have welcomed them. He invited them, too.  But they didn't want to spend time with Him.  They were so sure that their way was the right way.  They were so sure that they didn't need Jesus because they had the law.

I remember feeling taken aback by this wild, open invitation to the table the first time it was issued to me.  It felt so reckless, so extravagant.  When I was small, one had to fill out a little card and hand it to the usher in order to take Communion in our church.  It was such a big deal for church kids to go to Communion classes and to celebrate First Communion.  It was a right of passage, and it made us feel a little more grown-up.  I remember going to churches where I wasn't allowed to take Communion, because I didn't believe the "right" way--their way--and Communion is sacred.

Those churches are right: Communion is sacred, but it isn't sacred because of us.  It isn't sacred because we carefully curate its participants, ensuring that all those who partake are holy enough.  Communion is sacred because of the One who serves it, and the One who meets us in its mystery.  Communion is sacred and holy because of the One who invites us into relationship through the sharing of a meal.

Today's the day the church celebrates the first Communion, ever.  Come.  The table is set.  All are welcome.

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