The question we asked recently, and to which so many responded, is an important one: What to do about the Lord’s Supper? To answer a question like this involves decisions on a variety of issues, including whether or not one has no known sins in his or her life, whether or not the table is only for believers, whether or not the expression “examine himself” in 1 Corinthians 11:28 means something vital to our context, what one’s local church guidelines/regulations are…. and we could go on. My own view is that the Table of Blessing or the Table of Grace is just that: it blesses and it gives grace. Those seeking God’s blessing and grace through Jesus are invited to “eat and drink.”
Let us begin with this: the Table is for cracked Eikons. For all their cracked-ness: the relationships to God, to self, to others, and to the world. The Table is designed to dispense blessing and grace to cracked Eikons — and to help in the restoration of that person’s relationship to God, to self, to others, and to the world.
Let us also begin with this, too: the Table is about Jesus’ offer of himself for us. At the Table, we are remembering Jesus, especially his death, and we are looking forward to his return. There is a singular focus on Jesus in the Lord’s supper, and a focus on what he does for us — and we come to partake in what he does for us. 1 Cor 11 says it is about the new covenant (Jer 31: forgiveness, new heart, etc) and Jesus’ death (forgiveness).
Let us lay this down: no one comes to the Table “crack-less” and no one comes to the Table with all her or his cracks healed. In my judgment, the Bible teaches that same-sex actions stem from cracked Eikons for a variety of reasons, and the Bible also teaches that God’s blessing and grace can heal cracked Eikons of whatever they need to be healed. (The issue of confessing all known sins is not a biblical injunction around the Lord’s Table, though one could hardly fault the idea; one might be tempted, however, to invite those with sins to come to the Table for forgiveness. At any rate, the tradition to confess prior to taking communion probably derives from “examine himself” in 1 Cor 11, and we’d have to permit such a view as possible.)
From the point of view that the Table is about dispensing grace, then, I have always believed that if a person genuinely is seeking grace from God, the kind of grace that God grants to those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer/Healer, then they are welcomed at the Table. This is what “examine himself” is all about: Are we seeking in the meal the grace that comes to us from Jesus Christ or not? (Yes, “examine himself” properly refers to distinguishing the ordinary meal from this sacred meal, but that distinction is founded on recognizing that the Table is about the grace mediated to us through Jesus’ saving work.)
I agree with the many who have commented that the Table is not designed for the pure, the righteous, or the perfect, but for the impure, for the unrighteous, and for the imperfect. I see no difference: if anyone is seeking God’s grace and God’s blessing through Jesus Christ, they should be welcomed to the Table of the Lord. The Table is for cracked Eikons, and only for cracked Eikons. The one thing clear from Jesus’ table fellowship is that his opponents wanted purity before fellowship, and Jesus created purity out of fellowship with him.
But we all know that most local churches have an environment in which everyone already knows that cracked Eikons (regardless of the sort) are really not the focal point of the Table. And we know that cracked Eikons are welcomed only if they hide their cracks. So, for me, one of the major issues is right here: Have we created a “come-as-you-are” Table or a “come-if-you-are-clean” Table? If the latter, the former will already know they are not welcome.
Now, for some this will mean a free-for-all at the moral level: and this is morally objectionable. For the very essence of the Table is not a careless morality but a profoundly conscious level of morality: the Table is for cracked Eikons, and the emphasis is on “cracked” and the point is that it is a Table that dispenses blessing and grace so that cracked Eikons may fellowship with the Lord and find healing from their sin. Any practice that is not sacredly aware of the genuine need of grace fails to take seriously what the Table is all about. It is not a place where folks fight God’s grace or assert their righteousness.
My next post will deal with Jesus, moral logic, and failure — and it too sheds light on who is welcomed to the Table of the Lord.