Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thoughts on Communing at Other Tables

One of my favorite songs ever was recorded by Kari Jobe, Rick Pino and some other musicians on this little album called Throneroom Worship. It's really a pretty amazing little album. Jobe has become known as the singer of "Revelation Song" (but as a quick aside, thank you Jennie Lee Riddle for, you know, actually writing it!). As history will show/has shown "Revelation Song" became the new "Shout to the Lord," because like it or not every big worship song is going to be held in comparison to one of the first church-wide(ish) anthems in a couple hundred years or so.

But back to Throneroom Worship. The album is pretty stellar. And the song I refer to is "Come to the Table." The song is quite simple. And the song is something we don't see a lot, but we have two of on this album...a communion song. For some reason something so essential in Church doctrine as communion has not warranted a lot of worship songs. That may be one of the reasons I love the song so much. But that song has got me thinking about the centrality of the table.

For a lot of people the picture here is a fair representation of what communion looks like. It is pretty simple. The bread, the wine...or grape juice for a lot of good people. For a lot of people however the picture of communion is more the table, or those funny little trays with slots built for those shot glasses we call communion glasses. (Completely terrible side note...whoever the marketer behind that tray was had to be brilliant, and probably quite rich by now. They convinced a lot of people that a tray like this was even necessary!) I love this picture of communion. It is so simple and I think the essence of what communion is. A reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus on a cross. Classic.

However, recent conversations and readings got me thinking about communion. You know the root word here is commune, which involves conversation and abiding in relationship, not simply sipping a cup and eating some carbs. So, that leads me to a picture that will surely upset some, will make some of you smirk, and make others say something like, "Preach it Jay Bakker!"

What the heck is going on here you may ask? That would be rainbow communion break being served (presumably at Bakker's congregation of Revolution Church). Why a rainbow? As a statement of affirmation of the LGTBQ community into Church and communion. So, regardless of your emotional response, let me lay down a little truthspeak for a second. Bakker is saying, "Come to the table. The table is the thing. And I am speaking specifically to those of you who have felt like they have had no place at this table before."

And, again, regardless of your thoughts on the LGBTQ crowd being invited into the building, Bakker's invitation is necessary, because the way we have treated this community has revoked our invitation to their table. I know...that is a weird thought. Other communities have tables besides the Church. And we need to understand that unless we invite them to our table, we will never be invited to theirs. And unless we can be invited to their tables, we may be terminating what is probably the "new" way of evangelism. Table fellowship. Surrounding the table. Living life. Talking on things that really matter.

This post isn't specifically about the LGBTQ community and the Church as much as it is about, the Church engaging every other community. We need to take advantage of invitations to other tables. Otherwise we will become radically dependent on inviting others to ours and hoping they show up. And that can be effective to a certain extent, but is not the best way to meet people where they are.

Think of it this way. How many times have you said, or your pastor has said, "This is an event that you can invite people to that will never come to a church." We know that our invitations to church are ineffective. But, as Christians we also know that table fellowship changes lives. At the table there is healing, grace, mercy, peace and reconciliation. But table fellowship does not always mean it has to be on our terms.

There really seems to be a shift in what lays ahead for us as the Church. We need to learn how to dine at other tables. Does this mean we need to change every view? Does this mean that we need to lead a life more akin to universalism? Do we need to throw away dearly held morals that have set us apart for generation after generation? By no means. Jesus dined with the sinners of His day. Those meals were not a detriment to who He was. What He did was proclaim identity and status to the ones He ate with. In other words, Jesus coming into the house of a tax collector did more for the tax collector than it did for Jesus. I think it can be the same for us when the newly divorced mom, or that young guy who appears up to no good invites us into their homes. Or on a more corporate scale, when that synagogue invites the community to dine, or that social group that you are skeptical of asks for some help, it provides a chance to meet at the table on their terms.

And Church we need that. We need to say, "Yes, as a Christian, I can meet you on your terms. I don't have to dictate the flow. I don't have to change every fellowship into a Gospel presentation where you feel brow-beaten. I am secure enough to know that dining with you does not make me a bad person, or whatever it is that I am scared of." Now, in terms of this and my post about being a terrible Evangelical, let me say, I am not against evangelism. I just think we are losing ground...and invitations. And when we become so disgusting in the world's eyes that we no longer merit invitations, we need to reevaluate what's going on. Because though the teachings of Jesus are hard, He is still nonetheless calling men and women unto Himself still. And we are still called to be a part of that. And we cannot be effective in that if we are seen as self-righteous jackholes that no one wants around.

In our choices and lifestyle, we must remember that Jesus went into the homes of prostitutes and other sinners. He had no problem with it. He had no problem dining at their tables. So, why do we?

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