Sunday, June 13, 2010

Church as Table Fellowship

Growing up as a Baptist in the south, “dinner on the grounds” was practically the third ordinance of the church after Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In fact, most of us considered Baptist potlucks as a continuation of the Lord’s Supper. How wrong we were because we usually confined our table fellowship to those like ourselves. Jesus practiced a different standard both in those he selected as dinner partners and in the institution of the Lord’s Supper (or communion).

The final biblical image of the church presented by Curtiss Paul DeYoung in Coming Together in the 21st Century: The Bible’s Message in an Age of Diversity, is table fellowship. Jesus was notorious for inviting anyone to the table where he was eating, whether he was the host or someone else was (Mark 2:15-16 and Luke 15:2, for example). DeYoung points out that “Jesus even shared a table with Judas, who was preparing to betray him in a few hours.” From a theological perspective, Jesus even saw table fellowship as a sign of the kingdom (Luke 14:15-24; 16:19-31).

Many of us remember not only the days when African-Americans and Euro-Americans did not sit down at the dinner table together, but we also remember the first time we broke through that barrier. For many of us, it happened within the context of Christian fellowship. By breaking bread together, we were not only nourishing our bodies but our souls as well. We were acknowledging our relationship to those who were our brothers and sisters and from whom we had been separated for too long.

Whether it is the dinner table, the café table at Starbucks, or the Lord’s Table of the communion, all must be welcome if the church is true to the desires of its Master. Jesus was ready to sit down with anyone. Are we?

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