Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Communion & The Kingdom Of God (part 2)

In this way, just as was the case in the days of the Caesars, the community will be suitably prepared to receive their ruler when the time for an appearance has been determined.  Yes, the communion, like so many other things associated with the message of Jesus, is subversive of the present order, and among other things, is designed to inform the world that it has a true ruler, whose name is Jesus. 

In these miniature kingdom banquets in which Jesus either participated or presided, or of which He spoke in His parables, it can be observed that those who had been ostracized from society and marginalized in some way are sought out and compelled to attend.  It is clear that the keepers of the covenant boundaries in His day (Pharisees, scribes, etc…) were aware that the inclusiveness that was put on display by Jesus was a critique that was directed towards them, as the long and contentious history of Israel’s dealings with the nations of the world had left them weary and wary of open relationships with Gentiles that might jeopardize either individual or corporate standing within the covenant.  The attitude of “better safe than sorry,” when it came to what it meant to be a light to the nations, which, according to what is on display with Jesus and can be extrapolated from His words and deeds, was not altogether pleasing to the Creator God. 

So when one considers Jesus’ table fellowship in connection with the church’s modern communion tables, one sees that all are invited to attend, with this invitation including the marginalized alongside those who might be marginalizing them; but Jesus’ repeated emphasis on the first being last and the last being first, draws attention to the fact that there is not going to be (or at least there should not be) any discernible hierarchies or societal constructs on display at the meal that is designed to tell and to educate the world about the kingdom of heaven. 

It is, most definitely, not going to be a time or a place for reprisals or counter-oppression, nor a celebration of exclusivity.  The communion, like the feasts of Israel, is a celebration of the Creator God’s rule, this God’s deliverance, and the human responsibility to rightly bear the divine image so as to be a light that draws praise and worship to the Creator. 

It is very important to grasp that the table fellowship that Jesus put on display was not assembled without due consideration of the plan that His 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.  At practical levels, Jesus worked out that which was portended by Scripture. 

It is possible to 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.  

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