Grace and Commensality.
Luke begins his section on Jesus’ parables about the lost (sheep, coin, son) with a reminder that Jesus is very popular with outcasts and sinners, but in hot water with the religious leaders for eating with sinners. In fact, eating with sinners seems to be one of the clear foundations of Jesus’ ministry.
An open table at Holy Communion is a sign is the clearest expression of this aspect of Jesus’ ministry. If the table is only open to those we deem theologically acceptable, we lose an important aspect of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus drew no such lines. He even communed Judas at the Last Supper. All are welcome.
The table at Holy Communion should not be a point of division. Sadly, some use it to exclude: non-Christians, and Christians who are not orthodox by their standards. It becomes an exclusive table. The table of our Lord is the place where human divisions end. God takes our walls of division and turns them into tables where rich and poor, male and female, saint and sinner share in God’s grace, a banquet feast in which the host has thrown open the doors to all, because the so-called righteous weren’t bothering to show up:
8″Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. – Matthew 22:8-10
An open Communion table is the starting point, but it cannot end there. The table is a microcosm of God’s love for the world. At the end of the service we are sent: “Ite missa est.” What is sent? The bread: Christ, bread for the world. The body of Christ. The kingdom. The gospel. The table reminds us God’s kingdom is breaking into our world. We are sent bearing God’s love and grace to be lived out with our neighbors, coworkers, friends, family, enemies. We live Jesus’ commensality into the world by the way we treat the broken world that God loved so much he sent his Son.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s tear down the walls and welcome the world to the banquet feast.