Part IX of our series on Sharing Your Bread
As we continue changing the way we think about how and why we share our bread, I want to include this quote from Peter Leithart with New St. Andrews College:
“The difference between the Lord’s Supper and its perversion does not consist in any difference in the ritual actions, the elements used, or the words spoken but rather lies in the way people behave toward one another. The Lord’s death is proclaimed only when the church celebrates rightly, that is, when Christian peace, love, and unity are manifested in the meal, and when their conduct at the meal fits the way the community lives together.”
Our meals should look like his meals, and a big part of that is that our guest list should look like his guest list.
Who, then, should we expect to be around the table with us? Our friends? According to Scripture and history, we should not be surprised when our friends—and everyone else we’d be delighted in our flesh to share a table with—say no.
When we become his servants, sharing his feast invitation to the world, we should expect that carrying out his command will mean establishing new relationships we never would have ever considered having, all because we are being faithful to pass on his invitation and to feast with those whom the rest of the world would rather ignore.
In Luke 1:52-53, Mary, Jesus’ mother, says of God:
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
That will be the story of every faithful church congregation. Our homes and worship times and dinner tables should be populated by the humble and hungry whom God is filling with good things, while those who formerly ruled our lives—those who are rich in reputation, wealth, good looks, or the cares of this world—are sent away empty.
There’s a verse of Scripture that speaks about that: “For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Mark 4:25). Says Leithart:
“The person ‘who has’ is someone who receives God’s abundance…and draws upon it to deal generously with neighbors. This person will receive ‘more’ for his or her ministry of sharing. The one ‘who has not’ is blind to God’s riches and must therefore hide talents/pounds, construct barns to hoard harvests, and, in short, lay up treasures on earth. These treasures ‘will be taken away.’”
So when we feast on our own resources with our own friends in our own homes to celebrate our own celebrations, Scripture says, even those feasts will be taken away from us. But when we feast on his resources with the outcasts he calls friends, taking his roving banquet table to them to celebrate his victory over sin and death, then our feasts—and our friendships around his table—will be multiplied, just as his were.
But be prepared to be faithful in a little; sometimes this multiplication takes time.
Some years ago a girl named Maggie grew up on a small Indian reservation in which nearly everyone older than twelve drank alcohol.
Maggie used to baby-sit for Lois, who lived in a neighboring band within the tribe. Once a week she’d go the few miles to her community and take care of Lois’s children. But after a couple of months, Maggie started to wonder, ‘What could Lois possibly be doing every Tuesday night? There’s not much to do around here in these villages.’
So one evening after Lois left to go to the meeting lodge, Maggie packed up the children and went over to the lodge to find out what she was doing. They looked through a window into the lodge and saw a big circle of chairs, all neatly in place, with Lois sitting in a chair all by herself.
The chairs in the circle were empty.
All of this made Maggie even more curious. So when Lois came home that evening, Maggie asked her, ‘Lois, what are you doing every Tuesday night?’ And Lois answered back, ‘I thought I told you weeks ago, I’ve been holding Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.’
So Maggie asked her back, ‘What do you mean you’re holding meetings? I went over there tonight with the children and looked through the window. We watched you sitting there in that circle of chairs, all alone.’
‘I wasn’t alone,’ Lois said. ‘I was there with the spirits and the ancestors; and one day, our people will come.’
‘Every week Lois set up those chairs neatly in a circle, and for two hours, she just sat there,’ Maggie recalled. ‘No one came to those meetings for a long time, and even after three years, there were only a few people in the room. But ten years later, the room was filled with people. The community began turning around. People began ridding themselves of alcohol.’
Despite your sincerest and most frequent invitations, you may be plowing hard ground. You may be offering to feast together literally for years before anyone says yes. Those lean times will test you. You will have to ask, “For whom am I doing this? And why?”
In those times, let the Lord’s Supper sustain you. As Peter Leithart says,
“The effect [of the Lord’s Supper] is more a matter of ‘training’ than ‘teaching.’ At the Supper, we eat bread and drink wine together with thanksgiving not merely to show the way things really ought to be but to practice the way things really ought to be.”
“Frequent eating and drinking at the Lord’s table will inoculate the church against the Gnosticism of modern Christianity (not to mention trendy spiritualisms) that would reduce religion to a private, inner, purely ‘spiritual’ experience… a church that celebrates the communal meal is bound into one Body and will resist the corrosive individualism of modern culture… a church that shares bread at the Lord’s table is learning the virtues of generosity and humility; a church that proclaims the Lord’s sacrificial death in the Supper is exercising itself in self-sacrifice and becoming immune to the lure of self-fulfillment.”
And remember: As Leithart says,
“The operative command in connection with the Supper is not ‘Reflect on this’ but ‘Do this.’”
Let’s do this word.