Summary: The Lord’s Table is a place of connection and community, not of individuality and isolation; a place where one can be understood in the midst of an overwhelming world. It is a place of acceptance.
A number of months ago, Margaret and I had the privilege of touring Italy, along with several of you and a number of other people. It was a wonderful experience, most of it. Most of it, but not all.
The part that was less than wonderful came early in the tour, when we had a few free hours in Florence. Margaret and I decided to set out on our own to find the Uffizi Palace and the Ponte Vecchio. Using our sketchy, off we trudged, in what seemed to be the right direction. The farther we walked, the more obvious it became that we had it wrong. What to do?
Reading signs was not much help. Yes, I took Latin in high school, and once Latin had been spoken on the streets of Florence. But that was hundreds of years ago. Not much help today. And asking for … well, the trouble is, you see, the Italians were so Italian. They gestured, they waved their hands, they spoke vigorously, but who could understand them? The problem is that the Italians were so Italian and we were so American that we did not make any connection. So we trudged. We hiked, in the heat of August; we peered at our map, we tried to figure out where we were. We were hot and tired and frustrated and felt kind of stupid … until.
Until, straight ahead of us, across a wide intersection was a beacon of light, a rest for the weary, a balm in Gilead. Can you guess what it was? Can you imagine what made us feel comfortable and hopeful and refreshed, just looking at it?
I’ll give you a hint. Golden arches. Big Mac. Coke and fries. McDonald’s! Who would have thought that we would travel half way around the world, to a land filled with exquisite cuisine, to a city known for its architectural gems, to find joy in a Coke and shelter under the golden arches!? But we did. We did. Why? Because we perceived that there, in that spot, around those tables, there was a little piece of home, somebody might understand us, we could get a touch of refreshment for the journey. Praise the Lord, even for Mickey D’s!
For all of us who walk alone need a place of connection. All of us who live in our own little worlds need a place of understanding. All of us who are trying to go somewhere need a place that measures our progress in the journey. We need a place where we are understood. That is what the Table of the Lord is all about. The Table of the Lord is a place of connection for those who walk in loneliness. It is a place of understanding for those who feel overwhelmed by the world. And it is an arena where authentic hope can be found. To have all of that is a blessing indeed. And to ignore all of that is a terrible judgment.
Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.
The Table of the Lord is a place of connection and not of individuality. It is a place of community and not of isolation. The Table of the Lord is not just about your private walk with the Lord, all by your lonesome. It is about connecting, before God, with other believers. We call it “Communion” for a reason; “Communion” really means “fellowship”. It means not only a personal relationship with God; it means also connection with other believers. The Table of the Lord means that we are not alone, not here, not anywhere; we are in fellowship with the Lord and with one another.
The Bible tells us that when we come to the Table, we are to “discern the body”, and that, in fact, if we do not, we are eating and drinking judgment to ourselves! That’s pretty heavy duty stuff. It means that if we come to the Lord’s Table, just to have some little private séance with Christ, we are way off the mark.
You’ve heard about the old fellow whose prayer was very clear, but also very wrong – the fellow who prayed, “God bless me, my wife, my son John, and his wife; us four, and no more!” Suppose I come to this Table, and I don’t really care about what is happening with my brother or my sister. Suppose I come to this Table, wanting just to have a good time in the Lord. Suppose I have never really seen, never really heard, never truly understood who it is that is sitting on the pew with me. Do you know what? If I do that, I am not discerning the body, and I am in trouble. I am eating and drinking judgment on myself, because the Lord Jesus is very clear, “Forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE those who trespass against us.” “God has given us the ministry of reconciliation”. If I come to this Table and think I can receive reconciliation with God, but have no interest in reconciling with my brother whom I have wronged, or with my sister, who has wronged me, then I leave this Table judged. I leave unblessed, unforgiven, judged, if I do not discern the body.