You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. [Psalm 23:5 (HCSB)]
The cup of blessing that we give thanks for, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? [1 Corinthians 10:16 (HCSB)]
In my younger and more energetic days, I often entertained with large formal dinner parties. I’d start days in advance to prepare the table by getting out the extra leaves and pads to extend the table full length, gathering up the extra chairs, and ironing out the creases in the damask tablecloth before laying it on the table. From the storage cupboard in the basement, I’d haul up the crystal salad plates and Lenox china that were my mother’s and the hand-painted Bavarian service plates and Czechoslovakian dessert plates that had belonged to her mother. I’d spend hours polishing the silverware and serving pieces. The service plates were set out, the silverware laid, the crystal wine and water goblets carefully placed at each setting, and the napkins artfully folded. I’d polish up the candlesticks, put in fresh candles, get flowers from the florist, and create what I hoped would be the perfect centerpiece. All of that preparation was just for the table; there was plenty more work to do in the kitchen. I’d spend days perusing recipes, planning the menu, making lists, purchasing food and preparing it all. I loved doing it because I loved the people for whom I did it. Nevertheless, as nice as my guests were and as much as they enjoyed themselves, I’m not sure they truly appreciated how much effort went into everything that went on that table.
Yesterday was Communion Sunday at our northern church. As I approached the Lord’s Table, I wondered if I genuinely appreciate all that He did to prepare that table of blessings for me. Do I truly value His gift of body and blood? It cost Him far more than a few days of work. The price He paid was far greater than any I ever paid for lobster, prime rib, artisan cheese, imported olive oil, chestnuts, or exotic mushrooms. I thought of Him washing the feet of the disciples and of His anguish as he prayed alone in the garden. I thought of His disappointment at Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the disciples’ desertion. I thought of His silence in front of Caiaphas and Pilate, His flogging and mocking at the hands of the Roman soldiers, His arduous walk to Golgotha, and His suffering on Calvary. He may have been God but He was in a man’s body and suffered and died as a man for you and for me. Yet, Jesus welcomes us, sinners all, to come to His table and share in His gifts.
I’d like to think my guests never left my table hungry; nevertheless, I know they were hungry by the next morning. When we come to the table Jesus set for us, we will never again be hungry. Thank you, Jesus.
Jesus Christ, host of this meal, you have given us not only this bread and cup, but your very self, that we may feast on your great love. Filled again by these signs of your grace, may we hunger for your reign of justice, may we thirst for your way of peace, for you are Lord forevermore. Amen. [Lutheran Book of Worship]
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again. … I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” [John 6:35,51 (HCSB)]
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