February 8, 2010

Dinner Guests

It is probably the combination of my 'Sacramental Theology' class at Asbury Theological Seminary taught by Dr. Stamps (@bobstamps) a few weeks ago, my final paper on the 'Openness of the Table' and having celebrated the sacrament of Communion this past Sunday that got me thinking. But before I jump in, I have to mention that 1) I would be incredibly surprised if this thought hasn't already been shared somewhere (I know John Wesley talked about the power of the Eucharist to transform people) and 2) I have not spent a lot of time studying this particular idea (yet). So, having said all of that, here we go...

Each Gospel has an account of the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-23, John 13:18-30) and in each account Jesus mentions that the one who would betray him was dining at the table with him. I think this is significant for us today. In Jewish culture, the community and fellowship that took place around a meal was quite significant and the fact that this was a Passover Meal that Jesus and his disciples were sharing took it to an even deeper level of intimacy. This also happens to be the meal we model the sacrament of Communion after, as Paul mentions in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Now, not only did Jesus know that Judas Iscariot was going to betray him, I think he knew he already had and Jesus still welcomed him to the table! Notice in John's account (John 13:18-30) that Jesus doesn't tell Judas Iscariot to leave before the breaking of the bread but rather Judas Iscariot leaves after he received it, on his own accord. It seems as though Jesus is demonstrating an open invitation to the table of the Last Supper, even for those who would betray and deny him, that could be a powerful reminder for our Communion celebrations today.


Anonymous said...

Hey Matt,

Wasn't it a delightful intensive class with Dr. Stamps? It was unlike most J-Term classes I took in the past.

The John account of the Lord's supper always interests me the most. Not only does Jesus know before hand that one will betray him(Jn 13:21), but before the dinner and foot washing the narrator tells us in verse 2 that "the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him." Perhaps the most confusing part that I need more illumination on is in Jn 13:26-27- when Satan actually enters into Judas after taking the piece of bread from Christ? And then Jesus commands him "What you do, do quickly." Very strange account of the events indeed.

But the takeaway for me is Jesus not only breaks bread with his betrayer, but also washes his feet! What has happened to the hospitality of the Church towards sinners?

RevCCGOSL said...

Matt, love the thoughts you put out there. However, some people avoid that encounter when they come for communion. I know a friend of mine serving a church where they serve communion at two stations by intinction. She saw several people, who have issues with women in ministry, move from her side to the other station. I have had similar inistances with people who avoid me because I don't see things there way. The moment we come face to face in communion, those issues shrink or should disappear because we come to know who we are and how we should treat each other through the sacrament. Thansks for sharing the comments from class and insights.
Craig Gommer

Matt Lipan said...

rmkocak: thanks for the read and comment.

i really enjoyed that class w/Dr. Stamps. certainly one of my favorite classes in my ATS experience so far!

great thoughts, thanks for sharing. i agree, the part about Satan entering Judas after Jesus gives him the bread leaves me wondering what exactly is taking place.

i love your point about not only sharing the meal but washing Judas' feet. it seems like hospitality to sinners is the point of the Church, considering we are ALL sinners. it's hard to ignore the welcoming attitude of Christ and think we shouldn't practice likewise.

thanks again for some good thoughts.

Matt Lipan said...

RevCCGOSL: thanks for the read and comment.

thanks for your kind words, i appreciate that. it is unfortunate when we use the sacrament of Communion as a means of making a statement, whether in agreement or disagreement, with the pastor, direction the church is going, etc. i think one of the messages of the Table is unity, not division, too bad we miss that so often. like you said, those issues should "shrink or disappear" in light of the sacrament.

thanks again for sharing!