Worship: Communion

The most intimate and meaningful family times I can remember are around a table. Whether it is just the immediate family or a larger gathering such as a family reunion, there is something very special about gathering for a meal. The conversation inevitably moves toward stories of one another’s exploits together, then to remembering those who are no longer seated around the table. It is a sweet time of remembrance.

When I was a child, our main meal together was always breakfast. My dad worked odd hours and my brother, who is six years older than I, had his own schedule with sports and work. We knew that at breakfast we would all be around the table, and each of us had a responsibility: pouring juice, toasting bread, setting the table, etc. It’s probably one of the reasons I like breakfast today—the meal reminds me of that breakfast table of my childhood. Even in the early morning, it was a time of communion with each other. It was something we could count on.

Gathering around the table is a great model for personal or intimate worship. It is a time of specific, personal communion with God, and this example is exemplified in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

In Eden, Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect communion with God. Genesis 3:8 speaks of God walking in the garden in the cool of the evening, as if this were a regular occurrence. Presumably, this was a time when Adam and Eve walked with God and took comfort in their being together.

Because sin had come to the garden, the relationship changed and this pure and perfect communion was damaged. A chasm separated Adam and Eve from God. The table of fellowship had become the table of sacrifice. It became an altar, and it would stand between God and God’s creation until God could bridge the gap and bring everyone back to the table.

In Genesis 4, Cain and Abel brought offerings. One was accepted, one was rejected; the first murder was committed over a worship issue.

Leviticus 7 explains six basic offerings of sacrificial worship. A priest is now involved so the separation from God is greater. These sacrifices are mostly presented as offerings for sin and guilt. They remind God’s people of the great gulf between them and God, but they also provide atonement for their sin. Though they are separated, God is still involved in their lives.

There are also Old Testament tables of Feasting that celebrate God’s provision for God’s creation even in our disobedience. Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles provide a statement about God caring for his people. Passover reminds God’s people about God’s saving them from slavery in Egypt. Pentecost and Tabernacles celebrate God’s provision of food at harvest and of shelter as they wandered in the wilderness. These are feasts held unto the Lord, mostly in homes. They are celebrations, feasting with a purpose beyond simple fellowship.

In Exodus 25:30, God instructs God’s people about the Table of the Bread of Presence. It is a table of hope for the future, showing that God is ever with God’s people. The Bread of Presence is to be placed fresh each day, comforting with the assurance that we are not alone. God provides for and nourishes God’s people. The Bread of Presence gives a glimpse of what is to come, showing Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life.

In Psalm 23, David speaks from the different chapters of his life. While he was a shepherd, David thought of God as the Good Shepherd, providing God’s sheep with food and water, protecting them from predators and giving them guidance with God’s rod and staff.

Later the chapter speaks about David on the battlefield. With different concerns in his heart, he saw God differently. He saw God preparing a table in front of his enemies, essentially a message from God to stop the war and come to the table. This is what God does in the battlefields of our lives: God calls us to the table.

Notice in Psalm 36:7-8 that God truly cares for us, God’s children, by offering love, refuge, feasting, and drinking from the river of delights.

The New Testament also offers examples of tables of fellowship. In Luke 15, we read the story of the Prodigal Son. The youngest son takes his inheritance before his father’s death and squanders it in a far country. But look at the homecoming in verses 20-32. Notice how the father waited and watched for the son to return. As soon as the son, who had had a change of heart, was in sight, the father ran to meet him. The father accepted the son back into the household immediately; he clothed him, gave him the family ring and prepared a feast. What a joyous event! But the brother was not as inclined to enjoying the feast as was the father. Even so, the father went out to seek him, too. I wonder how many feasts we miss because of our attitudes.

This parable is a prime example of God’s love for us and how God is ready to receive us if we will return to God. God’s people then and now are chasing after other idols; and yet God remains faithful.

Something special happens at the next table, the Table of Transition. As the Passover celebration concludes, Jesus does something extraordinary. B.H. Leafblad says, “Representatively, symbolically, and really. On that Thursday night, the family was brought back to the table. After living at a distance for century after century, on that night the family was brought back to the table for good.”

We are back. Back in communion with God the Father through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus the Son. This table offers a hope and a promise of an ultimate table still to come.

After the resurrection, the two people on the road to Emmaus walked and talked with Jesus. The KJV uses the word “communed;” and yet they did not realize with whom they were communing.

It was not until they sat together at the table, and Jesus blessed and broke the bread, that their “eyes were opened.” Then it all made sense—and it happened at a table.

Revelation 19 speaks of the Messianic Banquet Table, a table of eternal fellowship with God and all the saints: a joyous time of celebration that will be for all time.

In Revelation 3:14-20, there is a letter to the church at Laodicea. This letter speaks to a church that is so busy working for God that they are neglecting their time communing with God. The letter closes with the very familiar verse: 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 (v. 20).

Throughout my life I have heard this passage applied to those outside of the faith. It was always used as a salvation text. But with its connection to the Laodicean letter might there not be another application? Leafblad says:

“We have misapplied this verse for some time. It is not a call to the unsaved for salvation. It is written to the church at Laodicea–a church of believers. It is a call to return to worship for believers who have been neglecting their fellowship with God in favor of work for God. There is no amount of work for God that can substitute for our communion with God. Our work for God will amount to nothing if our lives with God don’t account for everything. Jesus’ solution for that problematic situation is a call back to the table: a call to believers to return to worship.”

Have we neglected our personal worship with a God who knows us and yet desires to commune with us? God is standing at the door, knocking; and it is up to us to open the door, pull up a chair, and commune with the Most High God.

As we reestablish our fall routines and allow ourselves to be swept along by our own busyness, we must ask ourselves: are we meeting God at the table?


B. H. Leafblad, Music in Worship, Part 2 (Wilmore, Kentucky: Asbury Theological Seminary) 2011. Retrieved from http://place.asburyseminary.edu/ecommonsatschapelservices/3241/.

Myron Douglas is minister of Education at First Baptist Church of Columbus, Georgia. Previously he has served FBC as Minister to Children and a sister church in Columbus as Minister of Music. He is a graduate of Wingate University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Myron sings with a professional chorus, Cantus Columbus. He and his wife Babbs reside in Columbus and have two grown children who live out of state.

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