Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Communion & The Kingdom Of God (part 2 of 2)

It is very important for us to grasp that the table fellowship that Jesus put on display was not assembled without due consideration of the plan that God intended for His creation.  Quite apart from being thrown together on a whim, the tables at which Jesus participated, at which He endured criticism because of their openness, and which are summed up in the table of communion that He left with His disciples, were duly informed by Scripture.  Jesus worked out, at practical levels, that which was portended by Scripture. 

We can go even further.  Though Jesus, through His life and ministry and in and around His meal practice, was certainly making the implication that, in one sense, the Kingdom had arrived, from the outset, there was the sense that there was to be a final fulfillment of what was being put on display in those meals and at the communion, and that one’s present response to the banquet (meals and communions) invitations at hand was going to have a role in determining, in advance, if one was going to have a place at the final banquet looked forward to by the prophets, by Jesus, and by His disciples.  Let it be said that it is precisely at the communion table (as a microcosm of the messianic banquet, an announcement of the advent of the kingdom of heaven, and a reminder of Jesus’ ministry as it is so well summed up by His own meal practice) that the past, the present, and the future become a single reality that is full of mystery and wonder. 

As we do not leave behind the Abrahamic covenant component of the communion, and its promise, reflecting God’s intentions for the redemption of His creation and of His image-bearers that would manifest itself in an acknowledging worship of Him, that all nations would be blessed by Abraham and his progeny, we see that all of God’s past promises (with their present kingdom and future kingdom implications) are being fulfilled whenever and wherever peoples of all sorts come together to celebrate the table of the Lord.  It is at that very moment, in which all stand before God, to lift the elements in recognition of the universal Lordship of Christ, and to do so in a full equality that is devoid of divisions and barriers to participation, that we are able to catch a glimpse of the glorious future that God intends to bring to pass for His world that He so loves, and for the creatures to whom He lent His image.  More than that, as we look to the example that has been provided to us by Jesus, at the meals at which He participated, the ceremony (sacrament if you like) that He instituted, and the understanding of both that were held by the early church, remembering that for both Jesus and the church that He left in His wake, their vision of the kingdom was informed by Isaiah’s beautiful vision of the messianic banquet. 

With that in mind, we are also able to rightly perceive that the all-inclusive table of Jesus---the table that announces the kingdom of heaven while also confirming our desire to participate in the outworking of that kingdom, while undoubtedly possessing a Gospel communicating power that is able to move those who participate at the table without having made a confession of Jesus as Lord, to come under the conviction of such a confession (thereby informing us that the communion table should be an open one)---becomes, among other things, a unifying force that breaks the back of racism, class division, and any and all types of social ostracism, marginalization, or oppression.  It does these things, at least partially, through a reminder that goes out to all, be it individuals, groups, or governments, that Jesus is king. 

Knowing this, is it not a shame that the breaking of the strength of that which often unnecessarily divides us does not occur each and every time we gather together, as a signpost to the world that, in the kingdom of God as represented by the church, the principalities and the powers that hold an undue and illegitimate sway in the world have been stripped of their authority at the cross and are now under a demand to submit to the Lordship of the crucified One?  If we know this, and if we are cognizant of the charge that Jesus, with the messianic banquet in mind, while preaching and embodying the power and presence of the kingdom of heaven, was frequently charged with dining with all of the wrong people (tax collectors and sinners), then how we could ever allow divisions at the table that was gifted to His disciples within what was obviously the same mindset?  On what basis can we close a table and exclude anyone from participation?  Do we dare limit our participation at the table of the Lord (which is not our table but the table of the Lord) to a certain group of people that have met a certain set of subjective requirements that we have established in what might very well be an air of unearned superiority and unheeding forgetfulness of the example of our Lord?  

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