Some people think of ‘church’ as a place of religious rituals. To them it a place where sermons are preached, hymns are sung, weddings are conducted, funerals formalised, and babies are dedicated or ‘christened’. But I want to help people to reimagine what ‘church’ actually is intended to be in our day. To do this I want to introduce the biblical concept of the table. We all use tables. We use a table to display a vase of flowers. We use a table to put cups of coffee or tea on. We use a table to do our homework. We use a table to put beautifully large photo books on. And we use a table for our family members and guests to come together around and enjoy a meal. But then, there is the way that the Bible speaks of the table and if more people could realise the significance what this means, it would dramatically effect how they think about church. To begin to understand this we need to start in the Old Testament and begin to realise that “the table” was the means a person received status. Thus, we begin our survey of the Bible by looking at the incredibly unlikely promotion of Mephibosheth in one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible.
The new king, David, had previously formed a covenant with the son of the previous king, Jonathan, that if anything untoward should happen to him that David would take care of his family (1Sam 20:12-15). After Jonathan had been killed in battle, David sought to honour his vow to Jonathan. An enquiry was made as to whether there was indeed any family members of Jonathan’s family whom David should care for. The answer came that there was indeed someone: Mephibosheth. King David then summoned the former royal servant, Ziba, who bore responsibility to care for the orphaned son of Jonathan (and grandson of the late king Saul).
¶ Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him,
“All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson.
And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce,
that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat.
But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.”
Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king,
“According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.”
So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.
And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica.
And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants.
So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table.
Now he was lame in both his feet.
Second Samuel 9:9-13
Mephibosheth was a cripple who could offer nothing to king David – yet David granted him the right to “right gave Mephibosheth royal privileges and royal status. This story of Mephibosheth is a picture of what God has done for each of us. We were all ‘spiritually crippled’ when God in His grace reached out to each of us and saved us, adopted us, and made us joint-heirs with our heavenly brother, the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17). We now, like Mephibosheth, have been granted access to The King’s Table. The apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, described this as and the table of demons) –
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.
You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
First Corinthians 10:21
Many believers refer to the table of Lord as if it means holy Communion in the same way that the Lord’s Supper does (1Cor. 11:20). But we must come to see that when God invited us to ‘the table of the Lord’ it was a statement of His acceptance of us and His adoption of us as His royal sons and daughters! Just like Mephibosheth who was taken out of his desperate plight and given access to the King’s Table which totally changed his status, the LORD has taken us out of our desperate plight and granted us unimpeded access to the King of Kings’ Table! This is quite unlike the royal banquets of our modern era in which kings and queens would hold invite honoured guests to occasional dinners. But what king David did for Mephibosheth – and what GOD has done for us – is not merely occasional, it is a permanent invitation to join the king every day for dinner! Turning up at the king’s table for this daily meal was a statement on behalf of the invited guest of their acceptance of the king’s offer of adoption. To not turn up each day required an explanation to be given to the king lest it appeared to be seen as a rejection of the king’s offer (1Sam 20:24-29). Thus, when we assemble each Sunday we are coming to the Lord’s Table as His children to partake of the meal that He has provided for us – including the Lord’s Supper and the serving of the ‘Bread of Life’ (John 6:35, 48) as the Word of God is sung, preached and taught (Rom. 16:25, 1Cor. 15:1).
Our gathering as a church is like a gathering together for ‘a meal’. But it is as if we are hosting a meal in which everyone is invited. Perhaps it is not everyone’s usual experience to have a total stranger turn up unannounced at their home at dinner time who then expects to be seated at your dinner table and fed! But, this should be the usual experience of every healthy local church – including ours. We should not just expect that first-time visitors will turn up at our church, but we should also expect that such people will be welcomed to our ‘dining table’ church service and made to feel welcomed. Therefore, those who are welcoming people as they come through the front doors of our church are helping to set an enormously important welcome-culture! Then, our auditorium-greeters are also reinforcing this welcoming culture as people move into our auditorium.
Each Saturday we use social media to invite people from all kinds of backgrounds to join us at our Sunday ‘dining table’ church service. This is because we want everyone to feel welcome at our church as we meet together each Sunday together and in various homes throughout the week.
It is when a family and their guests gather for a dinner and are seated around the dinner table that they talk, share their stories, reflect on their highlights and lowlights, pray, pray for each other, and discuss important and not so important things. Thus, the dining table is a gathering point where there is laughter, enjoyment, sympathy, music, food and celebration.
God settles the solitary in a home
He leads out the prisoners with singing,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
There is a significant difference between a house and a home. A house is just a building. A home is where a person or people belong. As more and more people experience disconnection and loneliness, it is my hope that together we can be a family that some people don’t ordinarily enjoy. And it is my hope that we can be a home for many people who even though they have a place to live – they don’t have a home. The Psalmist declared that God settles the lonely in a home (Psa. 68:6).
In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Make yourself at home and… What comes after this invitation is a request to help with the dinner. This might include setting the table, putting condiments on the table, taking the meals to the table, clearing the table, washing the dishes, and offering drinks. Make yourself at home and join in by helping. The more people join in and help, that more people we can welcome to take a seat our ‘dining table’.
The New Testament Church is often depicted as the place where ‘the table of the Lord’ is located. Thus, the Bible describes the Church as made up of those people who have been legally admitted to the Table of the Lord where they come together to serve one another, enjoy a soul-nourishing meal, and be ready to make room for one more person to join them at the dinner table. This is why we invite everyone to come in and join us.
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
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