The following is the Invitation to the Table I gave at East Side Christian Church in Tulsa this last Sunday:
Bishop John Shelby Spong tells of an Episcopal church he once visited that had a sign on the front door. It said, “The only pre-requisite for receiving Holy Communion in this church is that you be hungry.” What a wonderful distillation of the theology of the Eucharist as we Disciples understand it.
We believe this table, the Lord’s Table, is the ultimate equalizer. All people can come to dine with Christ, and in doing so, all social status and stigma is washed away, leaving only the divine image present in each of us.
Jesus never means tested those who wanted to eat with him. He never examined their ability to pay, their purity in the eyes of the religious authorities, their moral standing, or their social identifiers. He simply broke bread and poured wine and shared it with everyone around him.
We strive to embrace the same spirit of inclusion and acceptance at this table. All are unworthy of communing with God. All of us have fallen short of our potential, have done things we aren’t proud of, things that disqualify us from sharing in the holiness of God’s presence.
But here we are.
Despite our faults and shortcomings, God desires our presence at this banquet. Like Jesus taught, God is like someone throwing a great feast, who tells their servants: “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame….Go out into the roads and the lanes and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.”
This is how badly God wants us at the table. God desires the table to be full, the house to be filled to overflowing with guests, no matter who they are or what they have done. God turns none away, and in fact, goes out and finds those who didn’t feel worthy of trying to come in the first place.
And not just so God can say that the table was full for the sake of being full. God wants this because God knows that there is no better way to a person’s heart than through their stomach. God welcomes us because God wants this to be the impetus of an ongoing relationship. God wants to meet us at the table because that is where family comes together, where lasting relationships are born and nourished. We come here week after week to continually renew that relationship that we first entered into through broken bread and a shared cup.
To come to this table, you don’t need to have this all figured out.
You don’t need all the answers.
You don’t need to fix yourself, to clean yourself up, to be respectable, or calm, cool and collected.
You don’t need to have the prayers down, the liturgy memorized, the songs sung just right.
You don’t need to unlock the magic formula that will win you a place in heaven.
You don’t need to be a straight A Christian.
You just need to be hungry.