When I was growing up, family meals were important. Of course, there would be the occasional church function, business trip, Boy Scout meeting, or sports game that would prevent our family of five from sitting down at the dinner table. But overall, I noticed that my parents really did value having dinner together if at all possible. The TV would get turned off. We would hang up the phone if we were having a conversation with a friend. We would stop doing homework. We would never bring our plates to eat on the floor while playing with toys. If most of the family was away, sometimes it would be just me and one parent, still tuning out all the distractions. We made it a priority to gather together around that kitchen table.
As you might guess, this value was also instilled in my parents. Here’s a picture from a while back of some siblings and spouses eating with Granny and Grandad McMahon!
As I reflect on my upbringing this week as we think about Maundy Thursday, I also think about another impactful little detail. My parents never made us eat alone, even if we happened to cause conflict. Even if we had gotten into trouble with a sibling right before the spaghetti was finished cooking, we were still expected to sit with one another (and get along!) around the table.
Today we remember when Jesus gathered the disciples together for the Lord’s Supper. This act was so theologically significant, with Jesus speaking about offering himself for us, us giving ourselves to others in service, and having a new covenant with God. Sometimes Christians can get confused about the meaning of communion. Denominations do frequently bicker with one another about what truly happens.
If you ask me, I think communion can be simplified down to this beautiful truth: God wants to share a meal with you.
In Jesus’ time, you only ate with people you loved. That’s why it was so scandalous Jesus ate with prostitutes, tax collectors, and other “sinners.” It was also scandalous that Jesus shared the Lord’s Supper with Judas (who would betray him) and Peter (who would deny him). This was such a scandalous display of Christ’s radical love.
So just as we might have fond memories of eating with people we love around a dinner table, God also shares this intimate desire. Jesus spoke a similar sentiment to a church in Revelation 3:20: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” God wants us to come “home” for a meal. When we dine with God, through that precious divine grace we experience abundant life. We remember what Jesus did.
I think the Methodist’s “get it right” when we do communion. You don’t have to be a member of Concord or a United Methodist to participate. The only thing God asks of you is an open heart. I suppose you don’t even have to be a Christian just yet… God still wants you to experience grace for yourself! Skeptics, seekers, and believers alike are welcome to have an encounter with Jesus.
Christ welcomes us to his table regardless of our past or our current state. It doesn’t matter if you feel broken in life or angry at another person. He still invites us to confess our sins before him, laying all those burdens at his feet. Maundy Thursday reminds us of that unique characteristic of God’s grace. There’s always a place for you at the table!