Tired of Worship Wars? Come to the Table!

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communionOn the night of His betrayal and arrest Jesus prayed that all of us would be one just as He and the Father are one (John 17:1-2). And yet, worship conflict and the absence of congregational community continues to move our focus away from Jesus’ desire for all men to be reconciled in “one body to God through the cross” (Eph 2:16).

Congregations attempt to create community through song selections or by trying to develop relationships through activities and affinities. What these congregations are missing is the realization that the foundation of healthy community is already available and waiting for them at the Communion Table.

Paul spoke of Communion as the fellowship of sharing in the body and blood of Christ. Henri Nouwen wrote, “Precisely because the table is the place of intimacy for all the members of the household, it is also the place where the absence of that intimacy is most painfully revealed.”[1]

Two relationships should be evident in the celebration at the Table: a vertical Communion with Christ through partaking of the elements; and a horizontal Communion of believers unified in identity. Both of these relationships can’t be manufactured just by teaching new songs or protecting old ones.

Communion must not only be a time of personal assessment, but also a time of corporate appraisal. Since the Table is the place of intimacy, it is around the Table that we rediscover our relationship with each other. It’s the place where we pray and ask: “How was your day?” It’s the place where we eat and drink together and say: “Come on, take some more!” It is the place of old and new stories. It is the place of smiles and tears.[2]

In this communal act, as with the disciples, Jesus accepts the invitation to sit at the table with us. Transformation occurs when Jesus, who was the guest, becomes the host and invites the congregation into Communion with Him.[3]  So when we accept His invitation to join Him at the Table we are reminded that, “The Lord’s Supper not only gathers a community, it creates a community.”[4]

Henri Nouwen wrote, “God created in our heart a yearning for communion that no one but God can, and wants to fulfill. God knows this. We seldom do. We keep looking somewhere else for that experience of belonging. We look at the splendor of nature, the excitement of history, and the attractiveness of people, but that simple breaking of the bread, so ordinary and unspectacular, seems such an unlikely place to find the communion for which we yearn.”[5]

Creating community through activities or even musical selections is a shallow attempt to manufacture what is already available at the Communion Table. When we gather at the table on level ground with a common purpose…our eyes will be opened…we will see Christ again…and we will see each other with new eyes through the breaking of the bread. Community begins and worship wars end there!

 


[1] Henri J. M. Nouwen, With Burning Hearts (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1994), 74-75.

[2] Nouwen, With Burning Hearts, 74-75.

[3] Ibid., 77.

[4] Leonard J. Vander Zee, Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 157.

[5] Nouwen, With Burning Hearts, 89.

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