Joy at the Table

The Lord’s Supper is the central, communal, corporate act of God’s Church. Instituted by our Savior, passed on by the apostles, and practiced for centuries by God’s people, our communion meal has historically served as the primary reason for Christian gathering and the climax of the Christian assembly. It’s the high point. The pinnacle.

As most of you know by now, my great desire is to see the Lord’s Supper returned in our churches to the rightful place of prominence it has always enjoyed until recently. In our Church of Christ assemblies, our communion time needs to be the highlight. And it’s not. Not always.

And it won’t be — not consistently, anyway — until we return the joy.

When presenting the case for expressions of joy and gladness and celebrations of happiness during our Lord’s Meal, I’m often reminded by well-meaning brothers and sisters that our time at the table is meant for remembering the death of Jesus. It’s inappropriate, they say, to rejoice when thinking about death. Our time at the table is for somber introspection and solemn reflection, not conversation and singing and grinning. Certainly not laughter.

First, I would say our Sunday communion has much, much more to do with the Resurrection than with the Crucifixion. Much more. I would suggest the first Christians didn’t really think about Jesus’ death during their Sunday meals. They were too overcome by the fact that the Christ really was alive. That was the focus of communion.

But if a person insists that the communion meal is about remembering the death — and people will do this by quoting 1 Corinthians 11:26: “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” — we’re on solid ground to celebrate in that case, too.

For the writers of Scripture, the death of Jesus was and is good news. It’s great news! And it is more than appropriate at the table of Christ  to express the pleasure and the joy that are caused by his death. To “proclaim” means to announce publicly and clearly what has happened and what it means eternally. It’s not to be whispered through cupped hands into the ears of a just a few disciples in the room. The good news is to be shouted with joy.

The Eucharist (thanksgiving, right?) is the perfect time and place, not to mention the most practical form, for showing and confessing that the death of Jesus is totally different from a natural event or a criminal act or some tragic loss. The death of Jesus gives us no reason to accuse or moan or lament or complain.

Those celebrating the Lord’s Supper know the pain and the shame, the horror and scandal, of Christ’s death. However, we rejoice in the crucifixion and praise the slaughtered Lamb because God has raised him from the dead and accepted his intercession on our behalf. In Paul’s theology and in the message of John, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and Revelation, the Crucified One is always the living and reigning Christ. The One who rules the Church and the world and who will come again is the crucified Christ.

We have abundant reason to rejoice in Christ’s death and praise the crucified yet living Lamb.

And until we recapture that sense of great joy around our living Lord’s table, we will continue to commemorate a solemn service instead of a celebratory feast. It will remain a weekly task to be performed instead of a community meal to be enjoyed. And it will stay in the background. It won’t ever rise past the preacher or the music in terms of proper position and prominence in our Sunday assemblies.

What if our Sunday communion services sounded and felt more like what you’re going to experience around your dining room table this coming Thusday? What if, when we dine with our risen Lord on Sundays, joy were the prevailing mood?

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More than $7,500 raised for Madison Knebusch and her family at yesterday’s spaghetti lunch. Praise God!

Bad news received just this afternoon regarding the PET scan today on Madison’s right lung. Another round of chemotherapy to begin later this week.

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” ~Habakkuk 3:18

We love you, Madison and Levi and Shannon, Britton, Londen, Gracyn, and Hudson. Our hearts are breaking with yours as you endure this horrible trial. We ache for you and with you. And all of us want so desperately to do something to help. We want so badly to help. And, honestly, sometimes we don’t even know what to say. We don’t have the words. Sometimes we say dumb things and do dumb things out of a deep love for you that is compelling us to try anything to provide you with encouragement and comfort. Please be patient with us and forgive us.

Please know how much we love you.

We trust in our loving Father. We ask for increased faith. And we continually lift you up to our mighty God for his divine purposes.

Grace & Peace,

Allan

1 Comment

  1. Rob's Dad

    **this is a straight up question – no hard count, no shift, no audible or checkdown, no “Kill Kill Kill”**

    How do you reintroduce the joy? I love your point and wonder what steps and actions you would put in place?

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