Table Manners

We are to discern the Lord’s body in one another. When the Lord’s Supper is being served, we should sit up straight, and look around the congregation, eyes open, up and down our row. It is true that we are to examine ourselves, but we are to do so in relation to one another. We must not curl up in a little ball, close our eyes, and try to establish a private, spiritual moment with Jesus.

—Douglas Wilson, A Primer on Worship and Reformation, 57

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Come to the Table 14

The Lord’s Supper was never conceived in the early Church, as it came to be by some in later times, as a solemn wake held in sad remembrance of One who died. From the beginning it was a meal of fellowship, dominated by thanksgiving offered in praise, wonder, and adoration of the Lord of life who had broken the bonds of death and was alive for evermore, really and eternally present with His people.

—William D. Maxwell, Concerning Worship, 14

Come to the Table 13

SEVEN ASPECTS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

1. Remembrance: The Lord’s Supper as a Memorial  (1 Corinthians 11:24-26)

2. Communion: The Lord’s Supper as Fellowship with Christ and with One Another  (1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-34)

3. Forgiveness: The Lord’s Supper as a Table of Mercy  (Matthew 26:26-28)

4. Covenant: The Lord’s Supper as a Renewal of Baptismal Vows  (Mark 14:22-25)

5. Nourishment: The Lord’s Supper as Bread from Heaven  (John 6:35-58)

6. Anticipation: The Lord’s Supper as a Declaration of Hope  (Luke 22:14-27)

7. Eucharist: The Lord’s Supper as a Joyous Thanksgiving Celebration  (Acts 2:46-47)


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

Come to the Table 12

I don’t think we can ever say too much about the importance of an active exercise of mind and heart at the communion service. . . .

Holy Communion demands us of private preparation of heart before the Lord before we come to the table. We need to prepare ourselves for fellowship with Jesus Christ the Lord, who meets us in this ceremony. We should think of Him both as the host of the communion table and as enthroned on the true Mount Zion referred to in Hebrews 12, the city of the living God where the glorified saints and the angels are.

The Lord from His throne catches us up by His Spirit and brings us into fellowship with himself there in glory. He certainly comes down to meet us here, but He then catches us up into fellowship with Him and the great host of others who are eternally worshipping Him there.

We are also to learn the divinely intended discipline of drawing assurance from the sacrament. We should be saying in our hearts, ‘as sure as I see and touch and taste this bread and this wine, so sure it is that Jesus Christ is not a fancy but a fact, that He is for real, and that He offers himself to be my Saviour, my Bread of Life, and my Guide to glory. He has left me this rite, this gesture, this token, this ritual action as a guarantee of this grace; He instituted it, and it is a sign of life-giving union with Him, and I’m taking part in it, and thus I know that I am His and He is mine forever.’ That is the assurance that we should be drawing from our sharing in the Lord’s Supper every time we come to the table.

And then we must realize something of our togetherness in Christ with the rest of the congregation. . . . [We should reject the] strange perverse idea . . . that the Lord’s Supper is a flight of the alone to the Alone: it is my communion I come to make, not our communion in which I come to share. You can’t imagine a more radical denial of the Gospel than that.

The communion table must bring to us a deeper realization of our fellowship together. If I go into a church for a communion service where not too many folk are present, to me it is a matter of conscience to sit beside someone. This togetherness is part of what is involved in sharing in eucharistic worship in a way that edifies.

—J. I. Packer, “The Gospel and the Lord’s Supper,” in Serving the People of God, vol. 2 of Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer, 49-50

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