If you think about your family – the whole family; the ones in your house, the ones that live in Seattle and you only see them once every three years, the crazy uncle, the sibling you’re mad at, the whole bunch of them – what’s the one thing you do when you’re all together? Come on, you know… Don’t you eat together? Of course, you do! It’s the central “thing” of nearly every family get-together.
The central “thing” in Sunday worship is the celebration of Holy Communion/ The Lord’s Supper/ Eucharist. While it often looks like the sermon is the central thing [there are some historical reasons for this, which we can talk about later…] the spiritual/geographical center of worship, at least among Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Episcopal/Anglican Christians is Holy Communion. [Some other Christians do find the center in other places, but again, that’s another conversation.] There are very specific reasons for this, and they go back to Jesus.
When we read the Gospels, we see/hear Jesus doing a bunch of teaching and healing. We read about miracles – the chasing out of demons, raising the dead, walking on water, phenomenal catches of fish – and all sorts of other incredible, and occasionally head-scratching, things. But what seems to weave itself around all of these things is that Jesus eats with people.
Eating together in Jesus becomes a sacred act. As we know, it binds us together in ways that nothing else can. Think about your family; doesn’t every significant moment somehow circulate around a meal together? What’s the worst thing, the greatest insult you can level against a family member? Isn’t it something like not inviting them to the family Thanksgiving or the wedding reception? I suspect Jesus knows these things deeply, so he uses a meal [and, admittedly, how we celebrate Holy Communion is a fairly slim image of a meal] to make himself present among us and to bind us together as his family. And you just can’t get this by sitting around and listening to someone talk and singing a few songs together. We have to eat together. It’s the way Jesus forms us together as a community of his people.
A sign of how sacred this meal together is, is how much Christians have argued about it. The deepest arguments have circulated around who is allowed to come. “Who’s welcome at the Communion table?” is one of the central questions in church discussions. Generally, the conversation has gone, “People who believe like me.” We’ve all agreed that we can get together and listen to one another talk. Eating together is a lot trickier. In a lot of ways, it’s a sign of how powerful this meal together really is.
Some of us have come to the conclusion that we are willing to try to eat [share Holy Communion] with anyone who is a Christian. We do this because we believe that it is Jesus’s meal. We gather around his presence and he is the one who feeds us. We believe that Jesus wants his people to be together [St John 17:21-23]. We believe that eating together is one of the most potent signs of Jesus’s presence in the world. That’s why I hope you come and join us. Drop in and share a meal with us!
I am willing to eat with you and sort out the differences. Jesus is willing to join us. I hope you will come.