The last post addressed the topic of the ministry of reconciliation. One of the last things that Jesus ever prayed for was for his followers to be one just as the Father and Son are one. Part of the purpose for this oneness is so that the world would know about Jesus. Later, in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul speaks of how those who are in Christ have become new creations and part of this new creation life involves the ministry of reconciliation. Christians should be peacemakers. Christians should strive to live at peace with all people. Christians should be the first to lay differences aside. And again, the ministry of reconciliation is for the sake of the world. When Christians seek reconciliation with others they witness to a different type of community, a different kingdom, that is invading the greater culture and inviting others into this counter-cultural life.
But where and how is reconciliation made visible? Where does reconciliation become real? How can the church today become a witness for a different way to live? While there may be multiple answers to these questions, one of the main ways unity and reconciliation are evidenced is at the table. It is in communion, the Lord’s supper, Eucharist where barriers are broken down and where the church can become a witness to the rest of the world. It is at the table, where all are invited, in which there is truly no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female, but all are one in Christ Jesus. It is at the table, where Christ serves as host and offers his body and blood for the sake of the world that a different type of community becomes evident. When Christians who do not agree can still sit down at the same table and celebrate their new lives in Christ together it witnesses to the rest of the world that reconciliation is possible.
Because Christ only has one table. Even though we may partake in different buildings, in different denominations, with different theologies and beliefs, there is only one table. As we come to the table we are joined by those who have gone before and those who will come after. As we come to the table we are united with all believers in Christ who celebrate their reconciliation to God at the table. As we come to the table we recognize that none of us are worthy; all have made mistakes, and yet all can find forgiveness at the same table. The table is not a place to cast aside or set up barriers. We can’t. It’s not our table. It is Christ’s table and Christ has torn the barriers down and invited all to the table. It is a meal of celebration, a meal of reconciliation. As we eat of the body and blood of Christ we are compelled to seek reconciliation with all people. We are compelled to live into the ministry of reconciliation.
Because of this, our general theology of the table needs to be expanded. In my experience, too much of our theology of the table is focused on personal salvation. Jesus died on the cross to shed his blood for the forgiveness of my sins. While this is true, it is only part of what the table is about. The table is our place to celebrate new creation life. The table is our opportunity to dream that a new world is possible, and even though the world around us seems broken, a new kingdom is breaking in. The table is the place where all are accepted; where race and gender and socioeconomic standing are erased. And the table is our place where reconciliation is realized. Where the unity that Jesus imagined in John 17 is lived out. The table is a celebration that even with all of our differences we are one. When believers gather around the table in unity it is a foretaste of the great eschatological banquet when all nations will stream to the wedding supper of the Lamb.
When we partake of the body and blood of Christ we are not just proclaiming Christ’s death until he comes again. We are celebrating new life. We are witnessing to the world that a new community has been formed. That reconciliation is possible, not only with God, but also with all of humanity. This is how the table becomes a sign of the ministry of reconciliation.