Title
Does the Table Still Matter?
Date
January 18, 2018
Authors
David Eiffert
Topics
Bible References
Download MP3
Print / Download PDF

Does the Table Still Matter?

People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:29)

So we’re in a series called ‘The Movement Continues’.

The title comes from Acts chapter 2 where we see the church of Jesus Christ taking it’s first very breaths. And starting to show signs of life.

On day one, the apostle Peter preaches this sermon, and the church grows by 3000 people in 1 day. Before there were 120 people and now there are 3120. And within another couple days, 2000 more come.

So this is explosive, wild birthing of the church.

But I’m sure you can probably guess that this one day old church is very excited, but they don’r really know what to do next.

And so we find that the church, guided by the Holy Spirit builds it’s root structure around these 4 practices.

Let’s read it:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)

Teaching / Fellowship / Breaking of Bread / Prayer

And we find in this list, the core of what a Christian community really is.

And so we’re spending a week on each of these.


‘Breaking of Bread’ == Communion.

And the pastors have asked me to talk ‘the breaking of bread’ which is communion.

And if you know me, then you know that asking me to talk about communion is like asking Harry Carry to talk about baseball. It’s like asking Mr. T to talk about gold jewelry and bad grammar.

I’m honored to talk about communion. In fact, if you're taking notes, you might want to do some finger stretches, b/c I've got just entirely too much to say.

If I could describe my theological growth over the last 5 years I would say it’s been a return to the cross, and a return to the table.


Here’s question :

Does the table still matter?

So here’s the question that I’m wanting to speak into this morning: Does the table still matter?

I've grown up in this church. And I am so deeply grateful for the last 35 years of my attending, we've never neglected communion.

Because believe it or not, that is something a lot of churches do. I personally know lots of churches even in our own city that have deemphasized if not abandoned coming to the Lords table. And I think that's a disastrous mistake that has cost the church a LOT.

Eating more communion bread than was allowed.

And I remember as an 8 year old kid eating the bread and drinking the tiny cup of juice and having literally no idea what I was doing.

Well some years go by, and puberty hits. And I finally become interested in communion, but because of the spiritual significance, but because a 13 years old and I STARVING ALL THE TIME.

And one thing I didn’t tell you was my parents made the communion bread. They still do, amongst other people. They’ve done it for as long as I can remember. So when that plate passed, I felt like I had a little bit of ownership over that bread. “The rest of you guys are mooching, but my parents made this!”

So when the communion plate would go by, I would grab like 10 pieces.

Well one time the head usher caught me. Busted. And told me I couldn’t do that anymore and I was devastated.

And even since then, I have been campaigning for larger communion bread pieces.


I LOVE food

Enjoying food with my daughter I always loved food. I’m sure you can look at me and tell that. My daughter grace is almost 6 months old now. So she’s at the place where we’re TRYING to feed her a small amount of baby food. Keyword: Trying. She’s also gotten really good at spitting, so we put it in her mouth, she spits it back at us. Sometimes I feel like I’m eating more of it than she is.

But some of those moments, that revolve around food are some of the things that make a family a family.

Food is a huge deal.

Jordan - married - planning meals

When Jordan became a part of the Eiffert family, one thing we laughed at together was that she observed that when we were eating, we were, while we eating, planning out our next meal. And that is SO true.

The vast majority of the quality time I have with my friends and family is while we’re eating together.

Like if you have a friend who wants to hang out, you’re probably like ‘Yeah totally. What are we eating?'


Food is not just a big deal here in America.

Ancient feasts.

It’s fascinating to study ancient feasts.

In the ancient near east there was a thing called a victory banquet.

The idea: When you win a great military battle, you’d return home and have a great feast.

And all the generals and commanders would come in and they would sits by how their ranked. So the highest ranking would sit closest to the head of the table.


Ancient mythology.

And then in ancient mythology there’s all this talk about feasts too.

Beowulf

So if you’re familiar with Beowulf, which is an epic poem.

When Beowulf defeats the monster, they throw him a great feast.

Enuma Elish

There’s an old Babylonian folk tale “Enuma Elish” where the God “Marduk” kills his own mother and creates Babylon with the remains.

And then there’s this great feast where all the Gods of war come, and they’re drinking beer, and feasting.

Caninite culture :

And then in caninite culture you have these stories of Baal defeats Yam, and then throws a big feast.

All throughout ancient culture there’s this connection with defeating enemies and having a feast.


In the Bible

We see it in the Bible as well:

In Exodus - After God wins the epic battle against Phaeroe, the people of God celebrate that with a passover meal.

The passover meal becomes a celebration of how God triumphed over Egypt.

In Ezekiel - When God defeats Gog who is this mighty king, there’s a great feast.

But then there’s these places in Isaiah that anticipate a very different kind of feast.

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. (Isaiah 25:6)

On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; (Isaiah 25:7)

he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)

So I love this idea that God offers a feast for all people.

The best wine, the best food.

So there’s this culture where feasts are reserved for those who win great battles.

But then with God’s people, they’re also looking forward to a day where there’s a great feast for ‘all people'.


Book of revelation

Even in the book of revelation, part of the climax of the book, is that you’ve got this wedding feast of the lamb.


Life of Jesus.

But without a doubt, place in the Bible that emphasizes the ‘table’ most strongly is in the life of Jesus.

So it makes sense then why the primary scandal of Jesus’s ministry is the people that he chooses to have table fellowship with.

“Eat with anybody."

The religious people of the day were always horrified that Jesus would eat with the lowest of the low in society. When criticizing Jesus, they would say that he eats with ‘tax collectors and sinners'.

This wasn’t an accident. Jesus was saying something about the new kingdom that he was bringing ‘The Kingdom of God'.


At the center of Jesus’s life and teachings is not a temple, but a table.

When Jesus describes the Kingdom of God (and that’s almost exclusively what Jesus talked about - The Kingdom of God) when he describes it, he tends to use metaphor: He says that the kingdom of God is like :

Fishing - Sowing - Planting - Growing - Baking - Homecoming.

It sounds a bit like Martha Stewart to be honest.

But without a doubt, the primary metaphor in the teachings of Jesus is The Kingdom of God being like a table.

A table where we share a meal.

Think about all the banquets and feasts that the setting is so many of Jesus’s parables.

Jesus was always saying : “The Kingdom of God is like : a table, a feast, a party, a festival, a banquet.

That's not just true in his parables and teachings, it's also true in his life.

Think about the trajectory of Jesus’s brief 3 year ministry.

He’s essentially going from meal to meal, from table to table.

The last thing that Jesus does with his disciples before he’s arrested and ultimately killed, the last thing he does is he brought his disciples to the table.

The first thing Jesus does after his resurrection is make himself know to his disciples at the tables.

  • Emmaus Road
  • Back in Jerusalem
  • Or on the beach by the sea of galilee.

At the center of Jesus’s life and teachings is not a temple, but a table.


Brief comment - language:

A brief comment on language:

Different faith traditions over the years have used different language to communicate the same thing:

  • Communion
  • The Eucharist - From the greek “eukharistia” Which means : “Thanksgiving”. It's all over the New Testament
  • Holy Communion
  • The Lord’s Supper

Don’t get hung up on language.

Also looks different - different traditions.

And it looks different in different traditions. Sometimes communion is a small piece of bread and a tiny little cup of juice (like it is here), other places have a big piece of bread that you tear a piece off. Some places have a shared cup that everyone drinks from, which kinda gives me nightmares. I'm a parent, so I understand backwash. Other places will serve wine instead of juice. - Or in places of extreme poverty, they’ll use whatever scraps of food they can get their hands on and whatever dirty water they can find.

So if you go to a different church it’s very possible that there will be different language and different practice.

My advice to you would be to not get hung up on small things like that. If you do, you might find yourself spending all your time fighting battles that don't matter.

At it’s core, communion is a Christian practice that we’ve been taking part in for 2000 years.

  • The bread that we eat symbolizes Christs body
  • The cup - be it juice, - The cup symbolizes Christs blood.

And Jesus instructed his followers to use bread and wine as a way of remembering him, and meeting with him.

You could say it like this: “Communion is you taking your seat at the Table of Jesus.


We’re gonna receive communion this morning, but before we do that, I have 3 points on why the table (and that's just language for communion) still matters.


1. The Table makes us Unique

Communion is one of the the things that makes church unique in the world.

When you attend church:

  • It CAN look like a rock concert
  • It CAN look like a lecture
  • It CAN look like a political rally
  • It CAN look like a motivational seminar.

But there’s no equivalent to coming to the table of Jesus.

I am personally of the opinion that as the church has continued to get more and more secularized (in an effort to reach more people) - we've lost a lot of what makes the church unique.

  • The church can be very creative, but we'll never be as creative as pixar. Never gonna happen.
  • The church can be very big, beautiful production, but it will never have the production of a U2 concert, or a Justin Beiber concert. Never gonna happen.
  • The church can be very motivational, but it will never be as motivational as Tony Robbins. Never gonna happen.

So if we lose what's unique about the church, the world rightly asks, "Why do we need it?!" And as the church tries to be more 'relevant' the danger is that we lose or distinctiveness and we actually become Irrelevant.

Well the table is one of the things that protects us from that.

2. The Table brings us together

Communion reminds us that the Christian experience is not a solo sport. You might be some kind of Christian apart from the church, but your children probably won't be, and your grandchildren definitely won't be.

Christianity doesn't long survive outside of the church.

Says who? Both God and history.

"Repent & be baptized." Think about Peter in the book of acts. He goes around preaches: Cool - B/C 2 things: 1 you can do by yourself (repent) and another you need Christian community to do (be baptized).

  • Can't baptize yourself.
  • Teach yourself to pray.
  • Disciple yourself.
  • Greet yourself with a holy kiss.

"But I just want a PERSONAL relationship with Jesus, and then I want to go fishing on Sundays." Sorry. Doesn't work. I just doesn't. By the way, I've got a sermon from last year that's on the podcast called 'Church our blessed heritage that goes way into that.'

2 sides - Christian faith

  1. Personal relationship w/ Jesus
  2. Coming together - form - body of Christ.

I know there's people who take communion by themselves at their house, and I'm fine with that. But I DO think there's something COMMUNAL about COMMUNION. There's something us coming together as the church and receiving communion together.


3. The Table makes us equals

Communion is the great equalizer.

The gospel is actually pretty strong medicine. It says "I don't care how Holy you are, I don't care how long you've been following God. I don't care how much the world sucks up to you. You come to his table simply because he invites you. And in that way, you're no different than homeless man on central.

The gospel says you’re undeserving yet completely accepted.

Brief comment - 1st Corinthians 11

People use these few verses to say that people who are not professing Christians shouldn’t receive communion, which is, hear me, nonsense.

1 Corinthians 11:26-29

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27)

Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. (1 Corinthians 11:28)

For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:29)

In order to properly interpret the bible you always have to look at a scripture in it's larger context. Always. ESPECIALLY when the scripture starts with "so then".

Back up a few verses to verse 17 - Remember this is paul talking to a specific church - the church of corinth.

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. (1 Corinthians 11:17)

In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. (1 Corinthians 11:18)

(V20)

So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, (1 Corinthians 11:20)

for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. (1 Corinthians 11:21)

Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God (how?) by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! (1 Corinthians 11:22)

(V27)

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27)

All the great NT scholars - N.T. Wright, Richard Hays, Scot McKnight, James D.G. Dunn, Christopher Wright, all agree that - the practice that Paul is condemning is not people who are far from God coming to the table, it's the religious people excluding those "who have nothing."

"Paul says that the meal the Corinthians were eating was not the Lord's Supper because they were, in the way they practiced the meal, humiliating, despising, and shaming the poorer members of the church. (Professor Richard Beck)

So, yes, communion is dangerous. People do need to be warned, as Paul warned the Corinthians, that if you take this meal of inclusion while shaming, humiliating and excluding others then you've brought judgment upon yourself.

Problem is not being too immoral.

B/C I’ve got news for you friend: No one is moral enough.

You think you’re worthy?

You’re not. I’m not. That’s the whole idea. The unworthiness is in how they were receiving the supper, not that they weren’t holy enough.

Everyone who comes to the table is undeserving. / In desperate need of the kindness of God.

Undeserving yet completely accepted.


Prepare - Communion

"Sacrament" in latin means ‘sacred mystery’

It’s symbolic, but it’s also a mystery.

“Yeah but don’t you really mean that this is just symbolic? - Symbolic of the body and blood of Jesus.”

It IS that. But it’s more than that.

The Table of Jesus not just an empty symbol, it’s a spiritual encounter with the risen Christ.

Think about this: When we lay hands on people and pray, is that just symbolic of the holy spirit? or is that a spiritual encounter with the risen Christ?

Is it symbol or is it real? It’s very much real.

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)

Participation - “Koinonia”

Not Symbol. Participation.

He COULD have just as easily said “Is not the bread that we break a symbol.” - No, it’s a spiritual participation in the body and blood of Christ.

David, are you saying something weird happens with the ACTUAL bread?!?! No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying it’s a sacred mystery that I get to participate in. And if I miss God in the breaking of the bread, then I’m gonna miss him everywhere.

B/C this is one of the most pure ways that I know of of coming face to face with the living God.

Me talking to my mom : she said that many times, communion is a place where she receives healing. That's physical or otherwise.


This is all I want you to get: No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how many times you’ve done it, and no matter how ashamed you feel, no matter how unworthy you feel, you have been invited to the table.

And you don’t have to clean up to come to the table. You don’t need to shower first.

What God wants from you is a simple: YES.

No reason - Ashamed / unworthy - Can’t come.

That’s why he died.

It’s precisely b/c we are so unworthy, it’s precisely because we are so imperfect. / Rebellious.

He offered his life so that we could come and have a seat at the table.

As they pass - Spend a minute thinking about this gift of life.

You didn't earn it, you don't deserve it, it was a gift, and for it we're eternally grateful.