My wife and I recently worshipped at a Lutheran Church and appreciated the liturgical, gospel-centered service. However, there was one element that left a remarkably sour taste in my mouth. It was the notion of a closed table at communion.
Theological Differences End At the Table
Granted, church traditions will always have different understandings of communion. There will be different views across the spectrum of Christianity, this is a historical guarantee. Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, and Baptists all believe something different when it comes to the Eucharist. However, our differences should pale in comparison to the unity of sharing a common meal.
Bread and wine
In the First Century, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[f] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. I Corinthians 11:23-26
Jesus did the most ordinary of things when he was with his disciples for the last time— He shared a meal with them.
He took bread and passed it to his friends.
He took wine and shared it too.
Differences between each of the disciples were put on hold, as they ate and remembered the story of Passover. Personality clashes paused for a moment, as Jesus reconstituted the direction of the Church with a new identity. An identity rooted in following Jesus.
Anticipation of Unity
The table also offers the prospective hope of unity when the Kingdom of God has been fully revealed. Right now, we eat and drink at the communion table in anticipation of the great feast of Jesus the Messiah, as depicted in Revelation 19.
One day Jesus will return, and He will put the world to rights. He will unify his people, and Roman Catholics will sit next to Lutherans and Russian Orthodox will sit next to Pentecostals at the feast of the Lamb. What better way could we prepare for this day then to open the communion table to all baptized Christians? Certainly each person must come to the table with a heart made ready through a time of reflective repentance—that’s a given. However, a Baptist should be able to drink the wine (or grape juice!) and eat the bread alongside a Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican on any given Sunday.
For the sake of Jesus, let’s not overlook our differences, but at least demonstrate unity.