A place at the table
Published by Anonymous on Sunday, 16 December 2018 13:17
A few minutes ago we all sang the hymn A Place at the Table. For man and woman, young and old, for everyone born a place at the table – where all are welcome.
As you know in the Church of England there are various understandings about Communion or the Eucharist. Some say that in order to take communion you have to have been confirmed in the Church of England. Others say that as long as you were baptised and have faith then you can receive the bread and wine. We have in our usual service booklets the words – visitors - if you normally received communion in your own church, you are welcome to have it here.
So today, we are going to be having our Communion here around the table. And we are going to share the bread and wine among ourselves, it will be passed round in each direction and you will each serve each other. When all become equal, and for today I would like to say to those of you with children, if you would like them to participate give them a bit of your bread and a sip of the grape juice.
Communion is not about showing who is in the club and more important, but about the inclusiveness of God’s love. As one of our former Bishops said, “The Communion Table is the most levelling symbol we have in our faith. It is a reminder that we are all in need of God’s forgiving love, and we are all given God’s forgiving love.” We are indeed all one in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is the theology of table fellowship. This is the example of the radical, extravagant love of God for us all. This gift that Jesus tells us we are to do in remembrance of him is that on-going reminder of what we, as the church, are all about. We are now the ones who are called to build the inclusive community of God by inviting all we see to this open table of God’s grace. This table fellowship is the very cornerstone of our faith as Christians. What do we need to do, to make our church open to others? How do we open the house of God so we are as radically extravagant in our hospitality as God is toward us? How can we invite others to join us at the table?
One of my favourite stories about life lived in the table fellowship of God is one probably known by many of you in some form. This is the way I heard it.
A little girl comes running into her father all excited and wants to tell him about a dream she had the night before. She keeps pestering her dad until he finally says, “Ok tell me about your dream.” She says, “I dreamed that an elevator came into my room and the door opened and I heard a voice ask me to enter. I knew it was God, so I did. The elevator went down, down, down, and when it opened I knew I was in hell.” Her father taken back said, “Well tell me about hell.” She said, “There were huge banquet tables surrounded by people and each table was filled with the most scrumptious foods you could imagine. Meats, puddings, everything filled the table.” The father a little confused said, “That doesn’t sound so bad to me.” The little girl replied, “Yes, but everyone had three foot spoons tied to their hands so they couldn’t get the food into their mouths.” The father replied, “I can see why that would be hell.” The little girl then continued with her dream. “I got back in the elevator and I went up, up, up, and finally the door opened again and I knew I was in heaven.” “Really,” the father said. “Tell me all about heaven.” The little girl continued, “There were people sitting around huge banquet tables full of food. There was every kind of meat, puddings and every kind of food you could imagine. And every body had three foot spoons tied to their hands.” Now the father is really confused and says, “Well that sounds a lot like hell to me.” The little girl then replied with this huge smile on her face, “Yes, but in heaven they were feeding each other.”
Maybe a familiar story, but one that serves as an important reminder of who we are called to be and what it means to live table fellowship together. When we come to the table, we come as one: one in need, one in love, one in receiving God’s extravagant hospitality. It is a reminder that we are called to respect and honour each other for we are all one as children of God, loved by God. It is when we stop caring and supporting those around us, when we lose our sense of inclusive community that we create an isolation that takes life away from us all. It is when we love our neighbour as ourselves that we create community where all are included at the table of God’s grace.
The symbol of the table is central to our understanding of our Christian faith. Are we feeding each other? Are we caring for each other? Are we loving each other as Christ loved us? Are we bringing God’s radical hospitality to all of God’s beloved? Do we continually invite all of God’s children to join us at the table?
Come, the table is set for us. You, me, we all are invited for God’s hospitality is extravagant beyond measure.