When I was 16 I got a job at a grocery store. It was a rite of passage in my hometown; you get a job at the grocery store and start making pocket-money by bagging groceries, sweeping floors, and straightening the stock on the shelves. The first week I was on the schedule, I encountered a crisis of faith. The schedule for Sunday had my name on the list. Didn’t they know I was a Christian? Didn’t they know that I had to be at church? For the first time I had to choose between meeting with the saints and doing something else, and it was guilt inducing.
After talking it over with my parents, I decided if I left as soon as my shift was over I could make it to the evening service. I imagine our church was like every other American Church; Sunday night was a repeat of Sunday morning, except at the end of services we excused everyone who could not be at the morning service to go off to a little room and take communion. That first Sunday after my shift was over I rushed out the door of Kroger and made it to my pew. I sang, bowed my head for the prayers, listened to the sermon, and felt a little grown up when they excused all of the working folks to go off to that little room and have communion. I really thought I would feel justified because I had kept the law found in Acts 20:7. Since God was happy with me, I was pretty sure that He would let me into Heaven. The truth is there was something missing in that little room with 10-15 adults pinching off a cracker and taking a swig of juice before they headed off to the Mexican Restaurant.
That was a long time ago, and thankfully I am not that same 16-year-old kid who believed baptism and weekly communion was the magical key to appeasing an angry God. I still believe there is something awesome that happens at the table. I’m in love with the fact that the early church met every day around the table. I love that Paul made time in his travel schedule to take communion with the Christians in Acts 20 and that he instructed the church in Corinth to make sure that when they came together it was for the better (1 Corinthians 11:17). I love that the early church knew that something special would only happen around the table.
There are a few sacred places on this earth, and the table is one of those sacred places. Everyone who gathers at the table confesses their brokenness and acknowledges their place among other broken people; who may have sinned differently than you but are just as broken. We gather to remember the body of Christ that was sacrificed daily for 33 some odd years, then sacrificed on the cross, and the body of believers that were drawn to the saving grace of God. We gather to remember the blood, the life blood, of our Savior who chose us to be His. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, children, homeless, professional, student, and retired all gather on equal ground claiming that we belong to one another and to Him. And thankfully we are not left alone in that gathering.
The Hebrew writer says in Hebrews 12:22-24: you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands of angels gathered together with joy. You have come to the meeting of God’s firstborn children whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all people, and to the spirits of good people who have been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the One who brought the new agreement from God to his people, and you have come to the sprinkled blood that has a better message than the blood of Abel.
When we gather at the table there is so much more going on than taking a small pinch of cracker and a sip of juice. We gather at the table and are joined by thousands of angels gathered together with joy. That is mind-boggling for someone who grew up with an unhealthy Touched By An Angel mentality of angels. When we come to the table we are joined by the Angels of Revelation 4 who cry out Holy, Holy, Holy as well as the Angels Deborah sang about who fought for God’s people in Judges 5:20.
The Hebrew writer also reminds us that when we meet at the table we are at the meeting of God’s firstborn children whose names are written in heaven. Our community is a world-wide fellowship. Communities in Brazil, Russia, Cambodia, South Africa, New Zealand, and countless languages, meet to remember the death of Jesus Christ by sharing at the table. They gather to remember the resurrection by experiencing the joy of this community. It doesn’t matter if you are in a small wooden building with 10 folks or you gather around the table with 2,000 of your closest friends, when you meet in that gathering you are joined by the family of God.
That’s why the table matters. It’s at the table where we have the opportunity to meet with God, the angles, those who have gone before us, and His children. The table is where we get to remember our Creator and Savior who saw us at our worst and loved us enough to reach down and bring us to Him. It’s at the table where we are reminded of how deep God’s love is and we are compelled to share that love with others. It’s at the table where we are overwhelmed in the fact that forgiveness is real and available. It’s at the table where we understand that grace is truly amazing. And at the table we are reminded of the faithfulness of God and bolstered in our hope for our future. That’s what happens at the table, that’s why the early church met at the table daily, and that’s why today the table matters.