The Lord's Table

In today’s Bible study, Wes McAdams and Boo Scott discuss the Lord’s table. They examine Jesus’ table fellowship in the Gospel of Luke and its implications for the Lord’s Supper today. They also discuss what it really means to “discern the body” and take communion in a worthy manner.

Wes and Boo take a deep dive into several key biblical texts, including Luke 14, Acts 2, and 1 Corinthians 11. They challenge some common assumptions and argue for a more evangelistic view of communion. This conversation might give you a whole new perspective on the Lord’s Table.

Boo Scott is the lead minister at the National Park Church of Christ in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He shares fascinating insights from his studies on the topic of table fellowship and the Lord’s Supper. Listen as Boo’s passion for God’s word comes through in this Christ-centered and Scripture-filled discussion.

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Transcript (Credit: Beth Tabor)

WES: Welcome to the Radically Christian Bible Study Podcast. I’m your host, Wes McAdams. Here we have one goal: Learn to love like Jesus. Today we’re going to talk about communion and table fellowship. What does the Gospel of Luke, the Book of Acts, 1st Corinthians ‑‑ what do they have to teach us about what it means to be in fellowship with people, what it means to share the table and share a meal with one another and with Jesus? 

Our guest today is Boo Scott, the lead minister at the National Park Church of Christ in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I know you’re really going to enjoy this conversation. It is so rich and filled with wonderful thoughts that Boo has to share with us. It’s sort of an informal conversation. Typically, we have a list of questions and an outline, but this time, Boo and I just sat down and talked about Jesus and the table and fellowship and communion and what all of those things do to shape us and form us into people who are loving our neighbors and our brothers and sisters and loving the Lord.

I want to start with 1st Corinthians 11, starting in verse 33. Paul says, “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another ‑‑ if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home ‑‑ so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.” Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about all of these things in light of how do we learn to love like Jesus. 

Boo Scott, welcome back to the podcast, Brother.

BOO: Thanks, Wes. Thanks for having me, Bud.

WES: I’m excited about this conversation. I was saying, before we recorded, this is probably the first time that I’ve ever had a guest where we don’t have an outline, we don’t have a set of questions. We’re just gonna talk about the Bible, and I’m assuming this is gonna go well because I know you and I know that we love to talk theology and love to talk scripture, and if it goes well ‑‑ you’re kind of the guinea pig here. If this goes well, we may do more episodes with different guys like this, because I think this is really what we need to ‑‑ not only give for people to listen to, but I think model, as well, where people can just get together and talk about scripture, both what it says, but then also how it applies and shapes and forms our lives. 

So when I reached out to you and said, you know, what are you studying, what do you want to talk about, you talked about the table and the Lord’s Supper and communion, and so I’ve been

sort of thinking about that a little bit, as well, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Before we hit record, we said, well, maybe we’ll start in the gospel account of Luke. Before I kind of throw it over to you and see where your thoughts are, I found a quote from Markus Barth, and it says, “In approximately one‑fifth of the sentences in Luke’s gospel and in Acts, meals play a conspicuous role,” so the idea that the table and reclining at table with people and eating meals together ‑‑ that that was very much a part of Jesus’ ministry, especially as Luke records it in the gospel account of Luke and in Acts. 

So what thoughts do you have on that, and how should that shape our thinking?

BOO: Yeah. It’s something that we’re teaching through currently. It’s something that I’ve taught before on the Lord’s Supper, the table ministry of Jesus, and it’s fascinating to me. When you start connecting all the dots and when you really start to expand our vision of what the table should be, what the function of the table is and what that looks like ‑‑ if you expand that outside of Acts 20:7, I mean, you really get a broad picture of

what this kingdom table looks like. And it’s really ‑‑ I mean, in the big picture of things, it’s a picture of the table that Jesus is pulling us to at the Messianic banquet in the age to come, when we are fully married to our groom, and so you get glimpses of this throughout the gospels, especially the Gospel of Luke. 

And it’s fascinating to me, when you look at the life of Jesus,  

I mean, who do you see him eating with? Well, you see him eating with all sorts of people: prostitutes, tax collectors, sinners, as they claim. But not just that; you see him going to the homes of Pharisees, as well, and you see him sitting with the religious elite. You see him hosting ‑‑ or going to parties, wedding banquets, and all these different kinds of feasts. You see him celebrating the Jewish festivals with his disciples. You see him sitting on the side of a mountain and feeding 5,000‑plus people, and, in that moment, he’s handing the bread and the fish to his disciples to hand out. 

And so there’s so many different lessons I think we can take from all the different tables that we see, and even if they’re not at a table, the different meals that we see throughout the Gospel of Luke, and a lot of those lessons are that the table is evangelical. The table is the table of God, the kingdom of God, and if we’re gonna bring heaven to earth and imitate Jesus as his disciples, then I fully believe that our table needs to imitate his table. It needs to be a table where sinners are welcome. They are welcome to come through these doors. They are welcome to fellowship with us. They are welcome to eat with us. It’s a table where we reconcile with one another. It’s a table where we make things right, you know, and where we are told to serve. 

And so Jesus ‑‑ I think he initially, with his followers, especially his close crew, like he shows them how to serve. He gets down, he washes their feet. They have this debate about, you know, who’s gonna sit at your right hand, who’s gonna sit at your left, and he tells them, you know, the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is a servant. And he even has these parables about, like, don’t seek the high seats at the table. Don’t seek the prominent seats at the table, like seek the lowly seats at the table. He’s imitating for them this posture, this kingdom posture, but then, not only that, at the feeding of the 5,000, you see him put them into action. Like now you go and serve the meal. Now you go and be servants. And so not only is Jesus host of the table, he’s the server at the table, and it’s the same picture in the kingdom. 

And so, I mean, when you examine all the different table narratives in ‑‑ especially in the Gospel of Luke, Luke highlights this more than any other gospel writer, but what you see is an inclusive table. You see a table that does not have divisions. You see a table that is what the kingdom of God will be like in its finality, in its completion. And so why should we not be striving for that same table now? If we truly want to bring heaven to earth, I think table and a meal is where you truly can ‑‑ you can build these relationships and you get a taste of heaven in the midst of this age.

WES: Yeah, let’s talk about ‑‑ because you’ve highlighted this, and I think every single one of the table stories in the Gospel of Luke ‑‑ and if somebody isn’t familiar with these, I mean, they can just get on Bible Gateway and look for the word “table” and then look at all of the occurrences in the Gospel of Luke, and then going on to the book of Acts, but notice how many times Jesus not only is sitting at table with people ‑‑ literally, he’s reclining at table with various people ‑‑ but then also the times that he uses table as a metaphor. He uses banquet as a metaphor. 

So that idea of eating together, as you’re saying, what he’s doing, literally, at the table is a foretaste and a glimpse of the kingdom, the messianic banquet in the age to come, and that he is beginning to introduce that and live that out right now. But it’s interesting how social dynamics are really a part of eating and how that was especially the case in the ancient world, it seems like, in the first century, not only who you ate with but your literal seat at the table, where you sat in relation to the most important person or in relation to the host, on the right or the left, and then around the table.  It was very important where you sat, and people were angling for better seats. 

But I can’t help but think ‑‑ I don’t want to jump too quickly to application, necessarily, but I can’t help but think how we’re still that way, and we still think about who we get to eat with and where we sit at tables, both as a metaphor in our social imagination, but also in reality. I think about middle school and high school, and when I was a kid, we had the popular table and we thought about our social dynamics in those ways. And the lunch room was a place where you could very literally see the pecking order of where everyone ranked at the school. Getting invited to sit at a table was a big deal, and having to sit at a table that you felt was socially lower was, in a sense, humiliating.

BOO: It’s a terrifying place. It’s a terrifying place, isn’t it?  So it’s not even about ‑‑ it is about seat placement, but it’s also about what order you eat in in Jesus’ culture. So, you know ‑‑ and we’ll get into that in 1st Corinthians, but I think that’s why they call Jesus out, and they’re like, who is this that even eats with these prostitutes and sinners? Like who?  Who does that? You’re a rabbi. You are like a master of the text. Why in the world are you eating with them? And Jesus continually says, you guys just don’t get it. You don’t understand the kingdom of God.

WES: And the fact that ‑‑ you used the word “inclusive,” and I think that’s exactly right, that everyone is welcome at the table of Jesus, but it’s also upside down, and I think that that’s an interesting dynamic, that yes, everyone is welcome, but there’s also that sense of the first being last and the last being first, and the people in the world who would have the naturally better seats kind of get de‑centered or de‑emphasized at the table of Jesus so that it’s actually pretty uncomfortable to be a rich, powerful person at the table of Jesus. They tend to be ‑‑ even when Jesus goes to the Pharisees’ homes, and so he’s eating with religious leaders, he’s eating with influential people, but then the people that get emphasized, both in what he says and what he does ‑‑ he receives the woman who washes his feet at the table, and so she becomes the center of attention at a table where you would think that the religious leader, the influential person would be the center of attention. 

And so, if we apply that same thinking, then yes, in our churches, in our fellowship, both in our public assembly, but also just in life, just living as Christian people, then yes, everyone is welcome in our circle. Everyone is ‑‑ we’re an inclusive group. But it also needs to reflect, I think, that upside down view of the kingdom, where if you’re rich and powerful, you may be a little uncomfortable here, and if you’re poor and you’re marginalized out there in the world, we may go the extra mile in making you feel special and welcomed.  That tends to be the way Jesus seems to operate.

BOO: Absolutely. It’s a humble table, and if you don’t have humility sitting at this table, then you’re gonna get called out. And he ‑‑ I mean, even as he highlights these women who see themselves as lower, he’s elevating them because that’s what God does; he humbles the proud, and so that’s what he does at this table. He humbles these Pharisees and calls them out on various occasions.

And I think that it’s true ‑‑ it applies to us today, as well, as we gather around the table, if we have that mentality of, man, I’ve got it all figured out. This is my table. This is my church. You know, this is my crew. I dictate who comes in and who is welcome ‑‑ Jesus shatters that narrative. I mean, he completely says, like, no, no, no, no, that’s not the Lord’s table. That’s a different table. 

You know, the beautiful ‑‑ I think where it all comes to culmination is when he establishes the Lord’s Supper at Passover and sort of, in that upper‑room moment, shares with his disciples so this is what this has all been leading to. This is what this is really about, and so that’s going to shape the way that that meal and the breaking of bread flows into Acts and flows throughout all of the New Testament churches, and it’s a ‑‑ he’s showing the fulfillment of it and then pointing to the further fulfillment of it in his kingdom, and it’s a beautiful moment, for sure.

WES: Yeah. Before we get to the 1st Corinthians text, I just kind of want to read from Luke 14 because I think what he’s saying is both symbolic or pointing forward to, but also I wonder what it would look like if we literally practiced these kinds of things. Luke 14, he says, in verse 7, “He told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, When you’re invited by someone to a wedding feast, don’t sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, Give your place to this person, and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you’re invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, Friend, move up higher. Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

It’s exactly what you were just saying, that that’s the way the kingdom works. The people that have humbled themselves, or have been humbled by life, they get exalted in the kingdom; and the people that exalt themselves, or are exalted by life, get humbled. It makes me wonder ‑‑ even things like the way that we dress in worship, dressing up ‑‑ and we even use that language of “up” and “down.” We talk about dressing up for worship. Even that idea has a way of embarrassing and shaming people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by people, I can’t go to church ’cause I don’t have anything to wear. I mean, that still happens, even though that’s sort of changing in our culture now, but we have shamed the poor. And interestingly enough, after the industrial revolution, when it became in vogue to wear fancy clothes to worship, this was the pushback that preachers ‑‑ like Alexander Campbell, even, pushed back against this idea of dressing up because it exalted the rich and shamed the poor, and that’s exactly the opposite of what we ought to do in our gatherings. 

What we ought to be doing is making the poor feel even more welcome and even more comfortable, and the rich feel a little bit out of place because their niceties, their fancy things mean nothing here. James talks about this, and he uses this sort of table language and the social dynamics and talks about seating, and when somebody comes in with rich clothes on, don’t give them the place of honor, but I wonder how much we still have that mentality even in our culture today. If somebody famous comes in ‑‑ it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re wearing a three‑piece suit. It may be somebody that comes in, you know, wearing the latest fashion, whatever that may be, and we pay special attention to somebody who seems to, quote, be somebody. And somebody who seems poor or average or common, we de‑emphasize them, and that’s playing to the flesh rather than to the Spirit and not living out this kingdom dynamic that Jesus is introducing with the way that he does table.

BOO: Yeah, I love that. And even last night, Wes, as we met together here, there’s been a homeless lady hanging outside of our building for three days in a row. Well, we’ve been helping her and whatnot, and so she was back last night and a few of the members invited her in and we had pizza, because we had a meeting about Lads to Leaders and all that stuff, and she sat down and ate pizza with all of us and with the kids and whatnot. And some of the members came out and helped her and chatted with her, and on the way home, I was talking to my kids about the homeless lady that has been here, and I was like, hey, did y’all see her there eating with us tonight? And my daughter was like, no, I didn’t even recognize her, you know, because my daughter doesn’t ‑‑ a child’s mind doesn’t distinguish between who’s in and who’s out. She just noticed another lady in our midst, eating, and I loved that. 

And I think we need to adopt that mindset more of like ‑‑ this pushback of like, well, you’re in and you’re out. Everybody’s in at the table of Jesus. And I fully believe ‑‑ and I know this is controversial and a lot of people don’t believe this, but I fully believe that everybody is invited to sit at the Lord’s table and to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Now, we take of it in ‑‑ for different reasons, obviously. If you’re in Christ, you’re taking it for a different reason and with a different mentality than somebody who is just being introduced to Christ, but they still share that meal. They’re still invited to that meal. If I’m gonna imitate Jesus and everything that he has done throughout his life, then I’m going to not make this table exclusive. It’s not a, “We’re in. Sorry, you’ve got to do certain things before you can eat at this table.”

And so we’ve made it exclusive when I don’t think Jesus ever intended it to be exclusive, and part of the problem ‑‑ part of the reason from that ‑‑ and this has come from centuries and centuries of change, is because it shifted from a meal to what we have now, which is a quick, convenient, efficient bread and cup. But we can talk more about that.

WES: Well, and I think that that’s a great segue, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. So this is just kind of a soapbox for me here recently, and it’s sort of the institutionalization of the church. And when I say that, I mean we just tend to think, and have for, you know, 2,000 years almost ‑‑ we very quickly institutionalize the church so that we think of the church as an organization, you know, almost like a company. You know, we think of it as an entity that is separate from us. We kind of give lip service sometimes to “We are the church,” “We, the people, are the church,” but we just don’t think of it that way. I often compare it to when we say things like, well, the church ought to do this or the church does that, and we’re speaking about the church as if it’s this separate group from me, and we wouldn’t do that if we spoke in familial language.

So I never say “The McAdams family” ought to do X, Y, and Z. I say “we,” “We ought to do this.” “This is something that we are doing.” I don’t think ‑‑ I don’t think about or talk about, speak about my family as if it is this separate entity that is different from and distinguished from me as an individual or the collection of the individuals that make up that family, and we lose that when we just think about the church in those sorts of terms. And I guess some of that’s natural, but even the Lord’s Supper has become this institutional thing rather than this organic coming together of believers, coming together of friends and family around a table and sharing this meal that has a deeper meaning and a deeper fellowship and this thing that should be a meal. It should be organic. It should be beautiful and wonderful. Instead, it has become this institutionalized type of ceremony and ritual that, I think, it just doesn’t even ‑‑ doesn’t even sound like what is going on at the Last Supper. It doesn’t even sound like what is supposed to be going on in Corinth, what is supposed to be going on in the book of Acts when they’re ‑‑ when they’re just breaking bread together. They’re being family. That’s what family does; family eats together. And this should be this multi‑ethnic, multilingual, diverse family coming together around Jesus and celebrating who we are and what we have.

BOO: Right. And, I mean, Jesus institutes this supper in the context of Passover, which is a full meal with movements through different ingredients, different items on the table. It’s an experience of smells and tastes and questions and Psalms being recited, and, at a Passover meal, I mean, the whole family’s included. There’s questions asked by children. They’re wanting to know, so the table is even a teaching moment, but they’re not excluded. It’s not, hey, you go sit over there in the corner.  You eat at the kids table while the adults, those who are in Christ, talk about Him. No, it’s an all‑inclusive table, the Passover table is, and this is the context within which Jesus instituted it, and I have no doubt that it was a full‑out movement and a meal, and they’re recalling the Passover and Jesus is pointing to himself as the sacrificial lamb, and “This is my body which is broken for you. This is my blood that is poured out for you,” and it’s not just for you; it’s for everyone. It’s for the world. 

It kind of seems a little silly, and I’m guilty of it, for sure, and it’s taken me a while and a lot of study to get to this mindset ‑‑ but it seems silly that we would invite sinners into our assembly and then be like, well, for a moment, you can’t share the Lord with us. The Lord is ours, but you don’t ‑‑ you can’t partake in the Lord. That is just for us. I think everything that Jesus did shows us exactly the opposite. I definitely think we have to allow the table ministry of Jesus to inform his table because it’s his table, after all. It’s not ours to make the rules on. It’s his table to inform, and he showed us how to do that.

WES: Yeah. Well, and that actually kind of highlights, in my mind, one of the final table scenes in the gospel account of Luke, and that’s the table at Emmaus, that he’s traveled with these disciples that don’t recognize him, and then they sit down together, and Luke really ‑‑ I think the way that he tells the story and he says that their eyes were opened in the breaking of the bread ‑‑ I think that he’s sort of foreshadowing and saying that this is what will continue to happen, that in this gathering together and breaking bread, we are and will continue to break bread with Jesus, and our eyes will be open to who he is in this breaking of the bread. 

So to your earlier point, it is, and it should be, an evangelistic type of a situation. I’ve never really thought about it that way, that in practicing open communion ‑‑ and that’s what we tend to say that we do, is we practice open communion; we’ve at least given lip service to the idea that this is open ‑‑ we’re not going to stop anybody from taking this, that in the breaking of bread together, that people’s eyes are open to who Jesus is because we believe that he is present in the breaking of this bread.

BOO: Yeah, I love that. I couldn’t agree more. And the road to Emmaus, that story is such a beautiful example for us that shows, like, Christ is revealed in the breaking of the bread. Why should we limit anybody from seeing Christ and seeing his body and break bread together? It’s an absolutely fascinating story, and it’s one that should play into our table today, and I think it definitely shows us that everyone is welcome at this table. 

And so it also points to the fact ‑‑ and I believe that the Lord’s Supper is an effective right. Like it’s a sacrament.  It’s a sacred moment through which God acts, just like baptism is. People often debate, like, baptism is your work so you’re claiming you’re saved by your work. No, God acts through that which he gave us. He instituted it and he acts through that. Like God saves you through water. And we’re told that time and time again, but ‑‑ and I view the Lord’s Supper in a similar fashion of God acts through this memorial, through this symbolism. And not only is it me being reminded of the covenant that I have with him as I sat at the table with him, it’s a moment of ‑‑ a person who doesn’t know him, it’s a moment that he can be revealed to them, and so we both sit at the same table, but we both have different experiences at the table.

WES: I think that the pushback ‑‑ I’m sure that there’s people listening right now, saying, I can’t believe what I’m hearing Boo say, but I think the pushback that somebody might give is 1st Corinthians ‑‑ and we were gonna go there anyway, but I think that that sort of highlights the way that we’ve tended to read that text, and we’ve tended to sort of, I think, want to protect people from judgment because we think, well, if you don’t take it right, if you’re not in the right state of mind and if you’re not in the right state and relationship with God, then you’re gonna come under judgment, so you’re bringing judgment upon yourself by taking it in an unworthy state. 

Now, let’s talk about that. Like what is Paul talking about? What’s the context? And why does that not mean that somebody who, you know, isn’t in a covenant relationship with God, like if they take it, then they’re gonna be punished by God or something?  

BOO: Yeah. So, I mean, in the context of 1st Corinthians, like he’s writing to this church that ‑‑ he tells them, like, I’m so thankful for all of you, and then he’s just gonna lambaste them right after that. It’s like ‑‑ he’s harsh on them. He’s like, guys, you’re doing things that even the Gentiles are kind of like, that’s crazy; we don’t even do that. There’s so much sexual immorality, paganism. They’re in this culture that ‑‑ they are imitating their Roman‑Greco culture in a lot of ways, these Christians are, and Paul is trying to remind them you don’t live by the flesh anymore; you live by the Spirit. But he even tells them, like, but you’re living like people of flesh. You’re ‑‑ I can’t address you as spiritual people.  You’re babes in Christ. You’re drinking milk when you should be chewing meat by now, guys. Like get it together. 

And one of the aspects that he wants to address is the table, and he kind of starts that language in chapter 10, and he recalls ‑‑ he brings them back to their ancestors and talks about the Israelites going through the wilderness, and he says, you drink from the same spiritual drink and the same spiritual food that they took, and that drink is Christ, and talks about how the Israelites, they complained. You know, they grumbled and they sought after all these idols, and his whole point in that is you can’t be divided. You can’t serve God and money. You can’t serve God and another idol. And he says a lot of them were destroyed by the destroyer because of the ways that they were divided. They would sit at the Lord’s table in one moment, and the next thing you know, they’re worshipping a golden calf, and a lot of them were taken out because of that in various moments.

And so he’s pulling that ‑‑ he’s reminding them of that, and he’s pulling it into their modern day. And by the time you get to chapter 11, he’s gonna specifically speak to the table, but he’s letting them know, like, you can’t sit at the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Like you can’t sit at two tables. And how often do we do that? I mean, we sit at the table of the Lord on Sunday, and then we go out and we indulge in whatever

our lust of the flesh is, our pride of life, whatever it is throughout the week, and then we come back and we feel guilty and we sit at the Lord’s table again. It’s the same idea here. It’s the same teaching of, guys, this is your life now. You are dead to yourself and you are alive in Christ. Like let the Spirit fuel you. 

And so it’s not even ‑‑ the letter to the Corinthians is not even ‑‑ it is a condemnation, but it’s a reminder of their identity, more so, because Paul says, you know, as such were some of you. You were idolaters, you were homosexuals, you were all these different things, drunkards ‑‑ like as such were some of you, but you were made new in Christ. Like it’s a reminder of their identity, and it’s a reminder to us, like this table is Christ’s table. It’s not yours to do with it whatever you wanna do. This is Christ’s table. And then he’s going to get to the specifics in chapter 11, and, you know, we can talk about those, but that’s kind of the context of leading into chapter 11.

WES: Yeah. Well, I think that that’s so important, that idea of participation and oneness in chapter 10, that when you participate ‑‑ specifically, in that context, he seems to be talking about the table of ‑‑ the idolatrous table, that when you go out in the week and you are sharing this fellowship with the idolatry, then you are becoming one with them, the same as in Israel. They became one through the common meal, and I think that we have to recognize that. Like you said, with whom are we becoming one throughout the week? 

And then, also, on the positive side, the oneness of the table. I like to think about the fact that he says because there is one bread, we are one body, and Paul is writing from somewhere else. I mean, he’s not talking about one loaf of bread, but I think sometimes, again, we get into, you know, the weeds with some of this, but when you take the bread on Sunday in Hot Springs, and I take the bread in Dallas, we’re eating the same bread. We are eating of the same loaf, and because we eat the same loaf, because we eat the same bread, we are one body, and what the table ought to be doing is drawing us together. 

Unfortunately, to your point, we give our loyalties, we give our allegiance to so many other tables throughout the week and we are divided, whereas we ought to have this exclusive loyalty and allegiance to King Jesus and to his people, and that this table fellowship ought to be shaping our oneness. And then, to your point, in 1st Corinthians 11, then we really get into the specifics of some of the divisions that exist and even the way that they ‑‑ so they’re ‑‑ throughout the week, apparently, they’re eating at other tables, becoming one with idols and demons, and then on Sunday, when they come together in the assembly, then they’re divided in that assembly and they’re not even being one there. So they’re divided in that their loyalty is divided throughout the week, but then, when they come together, their fellowship is divided, and specifically even mentions the rich and poor in 1st Corinthians 11.

BOO: Yeah. And it’s ‑‑ you know, the table is not just about us. It’s not just about us sitting at other tables throughout the week and worshiping idols and the various ways that we worship idols. The table is also about portraying the gospel and portraying the kingdom mission. It’s a reminder of that mission that we have in the kingdom. It’s a picture of the kingdom, as we’ve already talked about. And I think that’s what Paul is going to hit hard here is like, guys, the way you’re eating this, the ways that you’re performing this meal is subverting the gospel. It’s not a picture of the gospel because the gospel is inclusive. God is calling all people to himself. 

And so, you know, when he talks about and says these things of take it in a “worthy manner,” well, we’ve taken that and changed that over the years, and we think of that, and I’ve been taught, a “worthy manner” means that I’ve got to have my mind right. Like I have to think about Jesus’ death, you know, and oh, no, did I not think about his death enough? Like, did I not take it in a worthy manner? Or, you know, are my kids being too loud? I’ve got to keep them quiet. Or, you know, I sinned a lot this week; I feel shameful sitting at this table, like I’m not partaking it in a worthy manner, like I don’t deserve this. 

And so we’ve made the worthy manner all about our cognitive mindset because, one, the table has become isolated. The table has become all about me and my thoughts. We call it communion, and yet we don’t ‑‑ we have no communion with one another within the building. We sit silently, quiet, and it’s all about sorrow and it’s all about the cross, when Jesus is pulling us to the resurrection. “I’m here, guys. I’m not dead.” We still act as if Christ is dead, and it’s this beautiful moment of “I’m sitting at this table with you. Why are you not excited about this? Why are you beating yourself up over and over and over? If anything, like you should be at the table if you’ve sinned, if you’ve sat at the table of idols. If anything, like you should be here and you’re reminded that my body is broken for you and my blood is shed for you.” 

The unworthy manner in 1st Corinthians 11 is that they’re divided. That’s the unworthy manner. You’re divided. You’ve got the rich eating first and the poor eating last, and that’s the culture which Corinth is in. In the Roman culture, the rich ate first and the poor were lucky if they got anything. And that’s why he’s saying some of you, you’re getting full before you ever ‑‑ before it’s ever even time to eat. A lot of you are getting drunk, and then a lot of the poor, there’s nothing even left for them to eat. So you have made this table exclusive, and it doesn’t look anything like the gospel; it looks like you. It looks like your culture, your world, your idols, and he tells them, like, that’s not the Lord’s table; that’s your table.

But then he brings them back and he reminds them ‑‑ and he quotes Jesus in the upper room, where Jesus says, “This is my body broken for you. This is my blood shed for you.” This is his table. When it doesn’t look like him, when it doesn’t look like his kingdom, that’s why some of you are getting weak and ill and even some of you have died. Like you’re struggling because you have missed the point of the table. And so I think, like, we’ve misunderstood that and it’s been taught in really damaging ways to make us feel guilty or make us feel like I have to feel enough guilt and get in my head and think about the Lord’s death enough, and I just picture Jesus sitting there in front of us, like, “Look up, my child, like I’m here. I saved you. Why are you so sorrowful?” Like, it’s a beautiful weekly reminder of I’m in his kingdom and so are you, and so are you, and so are you, and I want to commune with you, and I want to commune with you in Dallas as we remember together that Jesus is Lord. That’s the unworthy manner, is when we push people out of the table. It has nothing to do with our mindset.

WES: Yeah. Well, and he uses the phrase “discerning the body,” that if you eat and drink without discerning the body ‑‑ and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, but my take is that he means both the body of Jesus that was nailed to the cross and the body of Christ that is made up of all of the Christians, that in chapter 10, and then especially in chapter 12, his emphasis on the body isn’t just the body that was crucified; it is the body that we make up, that we are a part of, and when we take this supper, yes, we are discerning or thinking about the body of Christ that was crucified, but as much as that, and specifically to his context, we are thinking about the body as in my brothers and sisters that are gathered with me and those across the globe that are suffering persecution or are in other contexts and other cultures, that this is my global family and we are all taking of one bread and one cup together and we are the body of Christ. And I think what he’s saying is if you don’t discern that, that fellowship, that oneness, and you’re divided and it’s reflected in the way that you’re doing this, then it’s not the Lord’s Supper and you are eating and drinking condemnation on yourself.

BOO: Right, absolutely. We forget that these letters are communal. They would have been read to the entire community. They didn’t have copies of them. They can’t pull it up on their phone and study it themselves. We read the Bible in a very individualistic way, when they’re always communal. And, again, we’ve done some damage there in that way, but I agree with you, like discern the body. He just mentioned the body of Christ, but also, like you said, in chapter 12, he’s really gonna be like you’re all a part of this body. Like he’s gonna play into this. And so it’s definitely look around you, discern the body. Everybody is a part of this body. The rich, the poor, male, female, Gentile, Jew. Like discern them. This is you communing together. This is you considering them more valuable than yourself, as Paul would say in Philippians. Like this is you taking a position of humility and servitude to uplift your brother and sister as you imitate Christ at this table, as he lifts you up and redeems you and reminds you of the covenant that you have with him and as he is revealed to the people at the table that may not know him. The table is powerful. It is so powerful, and we’ve unfortunately neglected it and we’ve unfortunately reduced it down to a convenient fast‑food, drive‑through moment where we sit inside our own heads, and we have lost a lot of power from the table. I fully believe that. 

And the beauty of the letter that we’re talking about is it’s kind of a chiasm that all pulls to chapter 13, even though Paul didn’t give it chapters and verses. Like here’s the solution to all of this, and it’s love, and this is what love looks like. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not self‑seeking. Love doesn’t say you go first and they go last. Love discerns the body. Love looks around. It’s like, how can I help you as I imitate Christ? Like how can I serve you? Let me invite you into the body of Christ as you experience Christ at his table. And it’s a powerful thing that I truly think that we need to reclaim in a lot of ways.

WES: And I think that one of the things ‑‑ it’s just amazing how our language often betrays the way that we think about this. One of the things that I’ve heard my whole life when people are doing the focus before ‑‑ the thoughts and the comments before the communion, what we tend to say is, you know, push out of your mind all of the distractions, everything that’s happened this week, push all of those things out of your mind and focus on Jesus. And I appreciate that to a certain extent, but I think that one of the things that tends to happen when we do that is we’re not thinking about our brothers and sisters, which I think is exactly what he’s encouraging us to do. 

So one of the things I ‑‑ one time I encouraged people to do this and it became a very controversial thing, so I won’t go down the long list of specifics that I mentioned in a post I did one time. But actually, when you come to the table, it’s not a bad thing to think, okay, this is what my other brothers and sisters have been dealing with this week, and things that you know specifically about individuals or things you know about whole groups of people, or things you know about your brothers and sisters in other parts of the world ‑‑ to bring that to the table and to empathize with them, to bear their burdens, to think about what they’re going through, to be one with them is precisely what the table is all about. But when we intentionally push those things out of our mind and say I don’t want to be distracted ‑‑ well, Paul isn’t giving instructions to distracted people; he’s giving instructions to divided people. And whatever we can do to discern the body, the church, I think it actually enhances what we’re doing, that Jesus has made us one, and their celebrations become my celebrations, their sorrows become my sorrows, their burdens become my burdens. And the table is where we live that out in a very practical way, or at least it should be, but it’s also one where we can contemplate those realities as we share this meal even with the people that we can’t see with our eyes.

BOO: I love that. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And I think one of the things that hurts that is the way that we practice the table. It doesn’t afford us those opportunities to talk to our brothers and sisters or to make those reconciliations or to serve them in some way. And I do think we have those opportunities outside of the moments we break bread together, and, yes, I think our koinonia is all‑inclusive. It’s not just a table moment that we should be imitating Christ, obviously. But the table itself ‑‑ you know, we’ve kind of separated it and we make it its own thing over here when, in reality, it should be the thing. It should be the focus. What does this table look like and how can I imitate the kingdom when we assemble?

And so we’ve kind of made it a checklist item to where I have to take the Lord’s Supper, and all of this comes from 1st Corinthians 11, or I’m gonna have judgment on myself. This is why we started serving communion on Sunday nights and you’ve got four or five people taking it and the rest of the congregation has already taken it. Well, that’s not communion. That’s you taking a checklist item. And so it has become another step on the stair‑step diagrams that we build, and it’s lost its intent. It’s lost its original intent to where I can support you in this moment, I can be reminded of my love for you in this moment, and I can imitate Christ. And it’s unfortunate, but I think we need to reclaim it. 

Our assembly in our modern‑day contemporary meetings have been focused around the pulpit, and the preaching is the highlighted point of worship, and that just wasn’t always so. Yeah, I mean, yeah, they preached. Yeah, they ‑‑ you know, they got into the Word and the Word informed the table, but it was all pulling them to the table. And so one thing I’ve started to do, Wes, is, like, we moved communion to after the sermon, and I always try ‑‑ right now we’re doing a marriage series so it’s kind of difficult, but I always try and get the sermon to pull us to the table, to point us to the table in that moment where we’re going to break bread together because it’s not just when we sit at the table that I should be thinking about you and my relationship with you; it’s the entire time that we’re together. And if Christ has forgiven me, then I need to forgive you. You know, it’s ‑‑ all of the words of Jesus, the entire Bible all just comes together when you think about it in this relational way. Love God with all that you have and love your brother and your sister. Love your neighbor as yourself. And Paul says you can sum up the whole law with one word: Love your neighbor as yourself. So that’s what the table should look like, as well.

WES: Yeah. Well, Boo, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate these thoughts. I think that’s a lot to ‑‑ I can’t resist saying that’s a lot to chew on, but I think this is really good. 

BOO: We could talk about a lot more. 

WES: No doubt, no doubt. Well, thanks for all you do, Brother. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you and the work that you’re doing in the kingdom.

BOO: Same, Wes. I love you, Bud. Thankful for you.

WES: Likewise. Thanks, Brother.

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