It is a nuance, really. I would never have noticed if someone didn’t point it out to me. Seriously, this is really small…but it says a lot. In a Protestant church, when someone is introducing Communion (also known as Mass or The Lord's Supper), they stand behind the table, not in front of it. Why, because the meal is shared, not served.
Jesus, in DaVinci’s famous portrayal of the Last Supper, the moment when Jesus introduced the bread and cup as symbols of his death on the cross, also showed him sitting behind the table. This reflects well the portrayal in the Bible of Jesus reclining to share the meal with his followers.
It is subtle but it changes everything. Service and hospitality flow out of the Christian faith. However, service and hospitality flow out of friendship and community first. Jesus started with community and friendship. Service, character, transformation, healing, mission, etc. flowed from his commitment to being “with us.”
Eugene Peterson famously translates from the opening verses of John’s story of Jesus’ life, “The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood…” Jesus chose to become “one of” us and from that, all of his ministry flowed. He chose to spend his life with his close followers for years to implant in Him a vision of his love and life.
This wasn’t a strategic decision for Jesus. It flowed from what was natural to Him. For all eternity, He, as a second member of the Trinity (the Christian doctrine that teaches that God is three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and also truly one) has never not known community and love. There is no way that He would live any kind of life without community.
As I think of our neighborhoods whether in the borough or in the developments, I think of people being consumed with commodities not community. I see them trying to squeeze these needs in through social media, epic romances, achievement, kids, and stuff. In a scarce world, the things that matter most become commodities to be evaluated and community that gives meaning to it all is lost. A commodity is something that you serve from a table. Community is something you share around a table.
As we come together as a church, we get to choose to become “one of” with each other. That will reshape our priorities, our time, our money and what is most important to us. It will cause more difficulties as it becomes a little messier. But it was what we were made for, and in it, we will experience a kind of life that taps into heaven itself. Because when we share community with each other in Jesus’ name, we share community with heaven itself. And the community of heaven itself pours its meaning, purpose, love, and Spirit into our community, changing us forever.
But it is not just us becoming “one of” with each other. When Jesus came, he became “one of” with all sorts of people. He partied with bad people. Being “one of” with them soiled his reputation. Their mess became his mess. He became “one of” will all of Israel, having the credentials of a teacher and engaging with the elites and enjoying the hurting. He had compassion on those far from Him and was close enough to be angered by those who should know better. He was “one of” with everybody who would have Him.
Our community will make us “one of” with each other and “one of” with all those around us. This is how heaven’s community extends itself and all its love and grace to us and through us.
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