Coming to the table
I. Love. Food.
There. I said it. I grew up with a mom who was a caterer, and now my parents run a successful bed and breakfast and all those years of “practice” for my mom have clearly paid off.
I have instilled this love of food in my wife now – she didn’t really know there were so many amazing combinations of flavors until we were married. Of course, she now searches for new recipes and even last night we enjoyed some fantastic shrimp bisque for dinner. Dairy free, gluten free, soy free, but NOT flavor free. I remember our trip Lola Bistro, Michael Simon’s flagship restaurant in downtown Cleveland a few years ago. I have never spent so much money on food before, but it was an amazing experience. Each course seemed to be better than the last from the scallops to the DUCK to the bacon maple french toast with ice cream for dessert! I can almost taste it again as I write this.
Meals are great places to enjoy the great gift of food that God has given us, and they are great places to enjoy the people around us that God has given to us as well.
It is easy for us to enjoy a gourmet meal created by one of the top chefs in the nation. It is easy for us to enjoy our family and close friends when we come together and eat (this is part of the reason our community group always has dinner together).
However, it can be hard for us to find satisfaction and fulfillment when we come to God’s table.
A few weeks ago, we joined in communion as a church as we often do, but I was not on the stage or handing out communion as I typically am, so I saw something I had not seen before: the way our pastor savored communion. I am not sure why I happened to focus on him from my place in the front row, but I looked up as he was drinking that minuscule cup of grape juice and I saw a deep satisfaction on his face, one that reminds me of the expression someone has when they have just ingested something quite wonderful. Of course, most people wouldn’t call grape juice wonderful, in fact, my chef momma quite dislikes it, but pastor knew that what he was drinking was far more than just grape juice. This little puff of bread and sip of juice are God’s way of disclosing to us, once again, some amazing, and nourishing us with His presence.
Robert Webber, in his book Ancient-Future Worship makes a strong case for what he calls the doctrine of “real presence” in communion. This doesn’t mean that the bread and cup transform into anything, or that God is specially present in the elements, but more that we recognize that God is eternally present everywhere and the incarnation of God is disclosed through the bread and the cup. Here is a list of things he says God discloses to us when we come to His table:
- The Whole Story of God
- The Goodness of Creation
- The Union of God and Humanity
- The Sacrifice of Christ
- A Victory over the Powers of Evil
- The Redemption of the Whole World
- A Participation in God’s remembrance of what He’s done to restore the universe.
Many of us will turn again to the table next week as we remember the crucifixion of Christ. I would encourage you to think on these things and pray before coming to communion. We need to realize that this is the best meal we have and it is a picture of how we are to be filled with Christ and by Christ. Let us all learn to savor the goodness of God revealed to us through the bread and the cup.
Webber ends his chapter on the Eucharist with the following:
Real presence makes no attempt to explain what happens at bread and wine. It affirms the mystery of God’s presence at bread and wine even as it affirms the mystery of the union of human and and divine in incarnation. We are called, not to understanding, but to the fixed gaze of contemplation and to an active participation in the life of Christ. Herein lies the experience of mystery at bread and wine.