Thursday, February 23, 2012

We Need The Table of Jesus

A couple of years ago I wrote a book about the Lord’s Supper, titled Shadow Meal: Reflections on Eucharist. After doing some speaking engagements on the book and trying to promote it (as authors have to do), I discovered something interesting:

It was more attractive to Catholics than to Protestants.

This is strange to me because the book is both personal and theological. It’s about my own journey as someone raised up in low church (as in non-liturgical/non-sacramental), trying to figure out why the Lord’s Supper has meaning. Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, was kind enough to write the foreword, and in it he spoke of his own similar journey. It seems that I’m not alone.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word Eucharist. It’s a very un-Protestant word, and maybe was off-putting to some. Even though it means Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, we Protestants don’t use the word as much as do our Catholic friends. But I’m thinking these days that we need to put it on again, and start exploring why the Lord’s Supper is still important for the church. And I don’t mean in the age-old debates about the nature of the bread and wine.

I mean the nature of the table of Jesus.

I believe that we who follow Jesus need a revitalized theology of The Table. I think it would help all of our arguments about doctrine, sexuality, gender, and all the other topics that divide and alienate us from one another. There are reasons, I believe, that a new theology of The Table might help us:

We don’t get to say who comes to dine. The invitation comes from Jesus, and he characteristically invites scandalous people to join him.

At The Table, all are side by side, shoulder to shoulder, allowing their humanness to physically engage. That’s why we ought to share the elements of Eucharist in a setting where we stand or kneel together.

When we consume bread and wine, we share together the most common activity of people: Eating. All must eat to live, and the need for nourishment transcends socio-economic status, ethnicity, gender, and politics.

And at The Table, we shed all of our pretenses and illusions of superiority because we are suddenly laid bare: We all need Jesus, and it is only Jesus who sustains us.

After that, we can re-engage in all of our debates. But I believe they will be different, once having dined at Jesus’ table, responding to his summons to come together to share his body and blood.

We need a new theology of The Table.

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