The Lord’s Table: A Sacrament of Missional Reorientation

By Cailey Morgan

In just a few weeks, many of us will gather in Banff for CBWC’s Pastors, Chaplains and Spouses Conference. Every year this event is a fruitful retreat and celebration of God’s work in us together, but the Church Planting Team is especially thrilled this year to be hosting David Fitch as our keynote speaker. He will be sharing about several practices God’s people have been called to engage in as we seek to live in the way of Jesus.

Between now and then, we will post some of our comments regarding Fitch’s reasoning and approach to these practices in order to prime our minds and hearts for what David will bring to Banff in November.

In his book Faithful Presence, Fitch uses the framework of three circles to explain how our identity as God’s people is to be lived not only within the core church community (close circle), but in our homes and neighbourhoods (dotted circles) and in the public sphere, especially among the marginalized (half circle). Today, I’m going to share a few Faithful Presence quotes and thoughts about communion in those circles.

52126_Communion_5

The Lord’s Table has become rote in some of our congregations, and forgotten in others. However, this sacrament is central to Fitch’s idea of what shared Christian life should look like–and for good reason. As Paul reminds us, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

A Kingdom Act

The close circle represents the first space of the Lord’s Table…there is the closest of fellowship and unity with one another. No one can miss this closeness around the table on the night when Jesus was betrayed. Here, at the celebration of the Passover, Jesus is seated as the host.

Communion is a Kingdom of God act–it tells us the Kingdom of God is near. It reorients us to God’s ways as we have all been twisted up and spun around to focus on things that don’t really matter.

When we sit around this table and tend to his presence…each of us must come to grips again with the reality that Christ is present at the table in a real, sacramental way. We must tend to his special presence because his presence always brings the reordering of our lives together into his kingdom.

Communion reminds us that we are God’s subjects and His kids–our identity is secure in His right-side-right Kingdom. Therefore, as we begin to live out our calling on this earth as ministers of reconciliation, we can do so with submission to each other and humility to all, following the example of our King who humbled Himself by coming to earth and becoming submissive to even death on a cross (Philippians 2).

There is no kingdom without subjects….our submission to Jesus spreads out into mutual submission to one another, and a new social order is birthed out of this, which is nothing less than his kingdom.

We don’t need to stand up for our rights, or fret over our reputations. We are His and can submit to His ways knowing they are good. What an intimate and empowering reminder we are invited into at the Lord’s Table!

A Table of Welcome

This invitation to become children and co-workers with Christ doesn’t end with us around the table of the faithful.

The Lord’s Table happens every time we share a meal together with people and tend to the presence of Christ among us. Granted the formal Lord’s Table only happens at the close table. But that table extends from there…

If we can recognize his presence at work around the table, we will be able to recognize his work in the rest of our lives as well. If we can be trained into its logic of forgiveness, reconciliation, and renewal on Sunday, we can recognize that same logic of his presence in the world…Like Jesus, we go, not as hosts inviting people to our table, but as guests, submitting ourselves to the hospitality of others…we give up control, risking humiliation and even scandal…The question is not whether Jesus will be present, but will he be recognized?

I have to admit that most of the time I don’t recognize Christ’s presence around me, but I long for the day where His Kingdom logic is so ingrained that I can recognize His presence at work and maybe even be an arrow drawing others’ attention towards His goodness and grace. And I believe fostering a robust understanding and practice of the Lord’s Table is the next step in this growth process for me.

Some questions to ponder:

  • How does your congregation practice the Lord’s Table? How could practicalities like frequency and atmosphere deepen your understanding of this invitation into Christ’s presence and mission?
  • Do you see yourself as a host of Christ’s presence? How? What fruit has that reality borne in the life of your faith community or neighbourhood?
  • Are you willing to undergo regular reorientation of your identity and purpose?
  • Where are some tables in your community where Jesus is present but not yet recognized? How could humility and submission on your part bring light and hope around those tables?

I look forward to hearing your responses at #CBWCbanff2017!

All quotes from David E. Fitch, Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission (InterVarsity Press): Kindle Edition.

3 thoughts on “The Lord’s Table: A Sacrament of Missional Reorientation

  1. Pingback: Refereeing in the Kingdom | CBWC Church Planting

  2. The sacramental view of the eucharist that David Fitch advances is not a Baptist way of understanding the Lord’s Table. Baptists believe in a representational presence, following the words of Jesus Himself that we do this in remembrance of Him, and not as a kind of special mystical encounter with Him. Baptists generally hold that Jesus intentionally chose everyday symbols – wine and bread (and also water in the case of baptism) – so that we would be mindful of Him all the time, not in special ceremonial ways only.

    • I wonder if it’s possible that the Communion table can be both a representational presence in the elements and also an encounter with the Presence that is with us always.
      Fitch’s premise of God’s presence through Christ around tables is that we would be mindful of His faithful presence all the time and around all types of tables where there are people of faith. In particular around the Communion table, aptly named, God is present, and as with the first table, Jesus is host: it is his everyday table laid out in remembrance of him. It is a reminder of the mystery of grace and the invitation we received to be “…members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 3:6)
      It is the anticipation and realization that Christ is with us always, around all the tables we find ourselves at, in all the places and spaces we occupy when we are mindful of him.
      In my own journey I have discovered that around the communion table are the ordinances, the symbols, that Jesus used…the everyday simplicity of bread and wine that is already there at the table, there is something “sacramental” in the action of taking, eating and drinking these ordinary symbols when I remember too, that Christ is with us here too. That first table where Jesus took the bread and the wine was a Passover table, a table that anticipated the coming Messiah; our table remembers that and celebrates that the Messiah has come and he is here with us.
      Shannon Youell

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