The Welcome Table

I love Communion Sundays.

At my church we receive communion on the first Sunday of each month and, as members of the Methodist tradition, we practice an open table.  That means that all are welcome to come forward and take part in the sacred meal.  In the invitation to communion the pastor utters these words:

“Christ our Lord invites to his table ALL* who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.”

(*emphasis mine – Words taken from the Service of Word and Table in the United Methodist Hymnal)

One of our former pastors used to put it like this.  We don’t check for a membership card at the door.  If you are in the church and want to partake, you are welcomed.  Rich, poor, male or female, people of every orientation, of every nationality, members of other congregations, even if you are not certain what you believe, you are welcomed.

The pastor recites these words from the Great Thanksgiving:

“By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world…”

(Words taken from the Service of Word and Table in the United Methodist Hymnal)

The congregation walks to the front of the chapel and kneels together at the communion rail, waiting to receive the hosts.  It is an amazing feeling to kneel side by side with others in front of the Cross and to realize that we are all on equal ground.  Again, the wealthy kneel beside the poor.  The faith filled and doubter kneel together.  Men and women.  Old and young.  Gay and straight.  There is no separation between “righteous” and “sinner”.  We kneel before the cross united in our need for God’s grace.  We recognize and confess that we are all broken and all in need of Christ’s healing spirit.    

There is a natural human tendency toward tribalism, between separating who is in and who is out, who we welcome and who we exclude, but at the communion rail these distinctions disappear.  We are filling ourselves with the body and blood of Christ, symbolically becoming one with Him, abandoning all other worldly distinctions.  As St. Paul said:

“…in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slave or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthian 14:5)

And in Galatians:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

We live in fractious times.  Thank God for the act of communion, the meal that calls us all to the table, and reminds us that we are all one in the One who saves us.

4 thoughts on “The Welcome Table

  1. Beautiful reflection. I am Episcopalian and we allow anyone who has been baptized with water partake. Do Methodists have that stipulation also?

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    • I believe that technically the Book of Discipline says that it is if you are baptized (regardless of what denomination) you are welcome. However, as our pastor noted, we don’t check cards. If you are in the church and have not been baptized, but feel compelled to partake, we welcome you.

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  2. We don’t ask for proof of baptism either. So I daresay we have given Eucharist to the unbaptized. It is something that is being discussed, will we continue to state that all who are baptized with water are welcome, or if we will cease to say that.

    I love Eucharist.

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