Who is welcome at the Table of the Lord?
Throughout the history of the church, Christians have always struggled to answer the question: "Who is welcome at the Table of the Lord?" At times this question has been answered in a way that marginalized and alienated those who wanted more than anything to be the people of God. In other times the boundaries have been virtually nonexistent, transforming the table into little more than a potluck with little selection. But when we reflect on Scripture we see in the life of Jesus and the early church the following posture: Christ and his people meet everyone where they are, and then they call them to a life of radical transformation.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (6:9-11, NRSV)
“And this is what some of you used to be.” This is the power and the purpose of surrounding the table together. It has been said that it was not difficult for God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt but that he is still working on leading Egypt out of his people. And the same is true for us this morning.
Today, we gather around a table hosted by the Son of God, the sinless, resurrected One. And we take our place at the table with all those who have gone before us. But if we will remember when this table was first used we can reflect on the two seats of honor at that first Lord’s Supper. Seated on his left in the second place of honor was the disciple that is referred to in Scripture as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” It does not surprise us for him to receive this honor. But the one in the seat of honor, the one to the right of Jesus, tells us something significant about the table which you and I will shortly surround. That seat was occupied by none other than Judas, the one who would a short time later betray Jesus in the Garden.
When the church has talked about the Lord’s Supper they often attached the word “sacrament” to what we are about to do. This term carries the idea that we are doing something symbolic that has real life consequences from our participation. In other words, we are invited to the table as we are, whether we are a John or Judas, but our expectation is that meeting with Jesus at his table is an event that cannot help but change us. And so we come today with joy that we are welcomed as we are, and with expectation that God is continuing to work on us, in us, and through us, for the sake of the world.
So come to the table.