At the Table of Christ

Two rituals, sacraments or ordinances lie near the heart of the faith: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Baptism marks the start of one’s journey with Christ and one’s welcome into the great family of Christ followers. The Lord’s Supper reconnects us to the love-driven self-sacrifice of Jesus and the community of followers bound together in Christ.

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper draw and keep us together. Christ gave both to us to bind us not only to him but to one another. To the shame of the church, we often used them to divide us. I suspect Jesus weeps each time we do so.

I’ve been coming to the Table of Christ for many years. Each time I do so, I see more clearly that I am and always will be a sinner, someone who falls short of complete faithfulness to God. The very symbols of the meal drive this home to me. Bread broken and wine poured: Christ was broken and his life poured out because I sin. The heart of my sin is that I succumb to the temptation to blend allegiances, to trust God just enough to get by while trusting many other things for my daily bread, self-esteem and place in the world.

Each time I come to the Table of Christ, I see more clearly that I will always be in the company of sinners, if I choose to stay close to Jesus. Mark it down. The church is not and never shall be composed of “the pure.” That’s the classic mistake made by some of the Puritans from which Baptists emerged and by far too many Christians today. The Table of Christ forcibly reminds us that we will always be in the company of fellow sinners, when we are in the presence of Christ.

Think about it: there’s Peter at the table, full of himself, convinced he is the one brave enough to stand with Jesus through any danger, yet about to betray Jesus three times before the sun comes up. There’s James and John and all the others, still contending over which of them will be the number one apostle. There’s Judas, yes Judas, who has laid plans to betray Jesus. Twelve Apostles, sinners all in the moment and sinners all in the future—each one brought to the table by Jesus, each one welcomed by Jesus.

Jesus does not allow any of them to judge the other, exclude the other or even speak ill of the other. Each can choose to leave the room, but they cannot push someone else out of the room. Jesus sets the conditions for participation, and the only condition is that Jesus invites each to be there.

When I come to the Table of Christ, I see more clearly that Jesus sets the table. He sets it for sinners, and centers the table community in himself, not in our righteousness.

Jesus draws and keeps us together. We are his guests, all of us. Let us act accordingly.

Come to the Table of Christ. Sit, mix, and mingle with all his guests, who slowly are being transformed into his family and our family.

Come and mingle with those you know already, those you just now are meeting, the group at the far end of the table you hardly can see, and even the ones you never dreamed would be invited and welcomed (and who probably are looking at you and thinking the same thing!).

Come to the Table of Christ, take the meal Christ offers, and enjoy the company Christ keeps.

Mike Smith

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Mike Smith serves as Senior Pastor of Central Baptist Church of Fountain City, Knoxville, Tenn. He is co-author of "Mount and Mountain: A Reverend and a Rabbi Talk About the Ten Commandments."

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