Grace at the Table

GodReflection: Is Grace Still Amazing?

Calories and carbs were the least of concerns around the table of my childhood. Although food was important—especially when mom’s stacked enchiladas topped with two fried eggs graced the table—what we ate never took priority.

The table meant we were present with family.

God’s presence at the table was assumed. Dad would lead us in the exact same prayer before every meal: Accept our Thanks Dear Heavenly Father for this food and all other blessings. Forgive us of our sins. In Jesus name, Amen.

On special occasions like Sunday Dinner, holiday meals, extended family gatherings with cakes and pies, and church dinners with a large selection of abundant food—rich meaning graced the table.

At these larger, yet memorable occasions, someone other than dad led the prayer. We all knew when we were at the table, thankfulness to the Holy came prior to anyone’s touch of a knife, fork, or a plate.

The table was always free of charge to all present. It was a time to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company.

The legacy from these tables continues.

There is another table at the center of my soul.

As a child, long before I was aware of its significance, I could see a table at the front of our church worship space with words engraved in bold letters, “This Do In Remembrance Of Me”.

Every Sunday men would assemble around the table, offer prayers to God, and distribute individual communion cups of grape juice, and a pinch of a wafer to adult members. Unlike the other tables described above, I was not invited to participate. I learned it was only for the baptized.

It was a solemn occasion. Children were not to whisper. Everyone was silent as trays passed down each row. Sometimes those who served the table observed “we are here to celebrate”, yet no child would mistake anything that happened over the next ten to fifteen minutes as celebration.

Could it be we have turned the Lord’s table into an altar of sorrow rather than the purpose taught by Jesus—to be a celebration of grace?

Is it possible we need to remember again it was the altar that created the table? The altar killed Jesus. The risen Jesus set the table as a place where those who have a heartbeat (or a dim pulse) for God join with the Holy in a joyous event of celebration of the gift of grace that makes resurrection a reality for every believer.

My Bible is full of table stories.

One of the first is a story like so many in Scripture where I read but do not see.  The message is there but I don’t see it. In Exodus 24, Moses and the children of Israel receive ten commandments from God. Right after, these verses appear:

Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also, they beheld God, and they ate and drank (Exodus 24:9-11).

From that point forward, God established various feasts spaced through the year when the people could meet at the Table to celebrate God’s acts in their lives.  Those acts were graced to them as his carefully selected and chosen people. 

Isaiah declared to all humankind that history is in motion toward our ultimate table time prepared by God.

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet—the best of meats and the finest of wines. . . he will swallow up death forever.  The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces . . . this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation” (Isaiah 25-6-9).

God’s stands ready to host the Holy table in eternity. What a celebration awaits!

The Gospels recount stories of grace presence at table after table as Jesus went to outsiders. His critics always observed that he ate with the wrong people. His King’s free banquet story in Matthew chapter 22 communicates the Table of King Jesus is open to all.

Once more I arrive at the table described previously as the one at the center of my soul—the one that reads, “This Do In Remembrance Of Me”.

Jesus takes the stream of all God’s feast and directs their flow into the table I first noticed as a child.

A celebration open to all while we await his second return to reign in our presence on the restored earth under a heaven in its pristine created state.

From the table’s abundance, he selects two items—the bread and the wine. His request is understood by first century disciples. Highlighted at the table of King Jesus is the celebration of grace.

In true Jewish form great preparation went into the food. Jesus invitation to his disciples included the one he knew would soon betray him. ALL twelve were welcome.

Aren’t you glad we are at the table because Jesus made it a habit to invite the wrong people? Shouldn’t we be amazed to be counted among those who receive grace at the table?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection on Grace at the Table.

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