What is the Lord's Table's Role in Worship?
For me the Table of the Lord is the central act of worship. Regular attendance at the Eucharist serves to remind us all that Jesus is truly present with us as we take this journey of faith. Bread and wine stand forth as witnesses that the Logos of God became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). AI am the bread of life@ Jesus tells the crowd in John 6. In him we find the answer to our spiritual hunger and thirst. Come and eat, Jesus says to us, eat of the bread of heaven.
For Jesus table fellowship offered a way of inclusion. The accusation was that he ate with sinners and tax collectors. In doing so he declared them clean, fit for relationship with God. Jesus does the same for us, by inviting us to the Table we, like the sinners of his day, are declared clean and welcome at his Table so that we might join in fellowship with him and with his people.
At the table we also celebrate the presence of the crucified and buried one who is raised by God from the dead. It is this risen Christ who cleanses us from sin and raises us to new life. When we come to the table we bring our biases, bigotry, racism, suspicions, our hatred, and hear the call to let go of them and embrace our neighbor. Jürgen Moltmann writes that Athe Lord's Supper takes place on the basis of an invitation which is open as the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross. Because he died for the reconciliation of `the world,' the world is invited to reconciliation in the supper.
The table of the Lord is a place of welcome, a place where distinction of race, gender, social class, age, sexual orientation, they are irrelevant. The Table is a place of unity and transformation, a place where Jesus Christ is encountered through the activity of the Spirit. In his vision of the heavenly realm, John the Elder heard the promise that those who are invited to the Amarriage supper of the Lamb@ are blessed (Rev. 19). In the Eucharist, we hear Jesus call us to salvation. Human evil through itself at Jesus, seeking to destroy the one sent of God. The effort failed, to the benefit of all creation. The seed of Abraham, the descendant of Isaac, proves to be a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:1-3).
The celebration at the table is an act of hope. Paul writes that "as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (vs. 26). Even as the table looks back to the decisive events of the cross it also looks into the future and the completion of God=s act of reconciliation. Therefore, we may Arejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lord has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure -- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints" (Rev. 17:7-8).
The Table looks forward to a wedding feast to which the world is invited. No matter our backgrounds or theological differences, the Table offers us the opportunity to experience a moment of God's grace that is powerful enough to break down any barrier we put up. As Paul has said: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are made one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). Therefore, whether we are black or white, young or old, male or female, rich or poor, Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox, we are one in Christ when we share in the bread and cup. Although barriers remain that keep us from enjoying full table fellowship, this vision of the Lamb=s wedding feast stands as a sign that the barriers will not prevail.