Come to the Table 11

The Lord’s Supper is the meal of the church, the body of Christ, and our basis for gathering around this table is not our blood affiliation but the fact that we have been called together by Christ.  This meal, in the language of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation,” is the holy food of the faith community:

Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, 54

Come to the Table 10

There is no place for solitary communion. The Lord’s Supper is, by its very nature, a corporate event—a meal of the community, not the individual. This is not to discount the place of personal, private prayer and a personal, intimate fellowship with Christ. It is rather to insist that this meal is an encounter with both Christ and the people of God. It is an act by which we are in fellowship with Christ and with others, and the two dimensions, of necessity, always go together. It is appropriate though for the elements of the Lord’s Table to be taken to those who cannot be present with the community—those in prison or whose health makes it impossible for them to be present. But then the elements themselves come from the common gathering, and this is made clear both in the common event and in the smaller celebration. The second is derivative of the first.

—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, 55

Come to the Table 9

With the current situation of the American church in mind, we can say the following: frequent eating and drinking at the Lord’s table will inoculate the church against the Gnosticism of modern Christianity (not to mention trendy spiritualisms) that would reduce religion to a private, inner, purely “spiritual” experience; a church whose central religious rite includes baked goods is being trained in proper dominion over creation and will refuse resurgent nature worship in both its religious and political guises; a church that celebrates a feast of wine is being formed into a joyful community that contests the equation of Christian seriousness with prudishness; a church that celebrates the communal meal is bound into one body and will resist the corrosive individualism of modern culture that has too often invaded the church; a church that shares bread at the Lord’s table is learning the virtues of generosity and humility; a church that proclaims the Lord’s sacrificial death in the Supper is exercising itself in self-sacrifice and becoming immune to the lure of self-fulfillment. Not automatically, but in the context of biblical teaching and a robust community life, the skills and virtues practiced at the Lord’s table will spill over to fill the whole church with a eucharistic ethos. In short, the Supper exercises the church in the protocols of life in the presence of God.

—Peter J. Leithart, “The Way Things Really Ought to Be: Eucharist, Eschatology and Culture” Westminster Theological Journal 59 (1997):176

The Eternal Song

God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the “morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” at the creation of the world. (Job 38:7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3) It is the song of the heavenly fellowship.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

Let me suggest that every group brings its own voice, but no group brings the official voice. One Voice sings above them all, and this Voice sings in all their voices, excluding none. His singular voice is distributed among a plurality of people. Just because there are so many dimensions to His own being, the multiplicity of their voices amplifies His song.

—Reggie Kidd, With One Voice: Discovering Christ’s Song in Our Worship, 145

Defining Worship 35

We may distinguish three uses of the word “worship”: (i) to denote a particular element of what is generally referred to as worship, namely, adoration; (ii) to denote generally the public worship of the religious community gathered together and also the private religious exercises of the family and the individual; and (iii), in a still wider sense, to denote the whole life of the community or of the individual viewed as service of God.

—C.E.B. Cranfield, “Divine and Human Action: The Biblical Concept of Worship,” Interpretation 12:4 (October, 1958), 387

Freedom of Form

While there are many references to . . . worship elements in the New Testament, nowhere is a precise order or style mandated. And while we have examples of some of these elements, we never receive directives regarding the precise content or length for our expressions of them. . . .

The scarcity of liturgical mandates in the New Testament cannot reflect the writers’ lack of concern for rightly worshiping God. . . . Instead, the lack of explicit detail must reflect an intention to guide us by transcendent principles rather than by specific worship forms that could become culture-bound, time-locked, and superstition-invoking.

—Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice, 108