Monday, November 14, 2005

The Lord's table (8) - the Last Supper

The celebration of Communion, or the "Breaking of Bread", is a Christian tradition which is based in the words of our Lord at His final meal with His disciples before His crucifixion: "do this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11:24).

But in response to Jesus' words "do this" we should ask "do what?" Did Jesus intend that thereafter the church should obey this instruction by eating a small piece of bread (or wafer) and a thimbleful of wine as part of a structured religious service?

Jesus could have chosen many ways in which to be remembered, but he chose to be remembered by a meal. What He considered memorable and characteristic of His ministry was His table-fellowship, and that table-fellowship was itself characterised by its openness to all. The marginalised, the 'sinner', those who were excluded from society and fellowship, those considered by the religious leaders and 'the righteous' to be beyond the pale, were all invited and welcomed at His table.

How then should we follow His instruction to "do this in rememberance of me"?

If we follow the Lord's words, and example, we should invite all those who are excluded or marginalised in society. We should be generous in our hospitality towards them. We should regard them as equals, not as inferiors.

Jesus used table-fellowship as an opportunity to then talk with those at His table about the need for repentance and forgiveness. The pattern in many churches is to try first to convince people that they need to repent, and then, only after they have demonstrated their repentance and confessed their faith, they are admitted to fellowship. In Christadelphian meetings, for example, "outsiders" are invited to attend "the Lecture" on Sunday evenings, or a programme of seminars. Only after they have gone through "instruction" can they be baptised. Traditionally, on the first Sunday after their baptism, the ecclesia "extends the right hand of fellowship".

But Jesus' pattern was quite different. He invited the "outsider" to come in and fellowship with Him, and then He showed them their need for repentance.

What can we learn from this for the way we parctice "fellowship" today?

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