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Nov 25, 2018

Taking Your Place at the Family Table

Passage: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Preacher: John Huizinga

Keywords: communion, excarnation, lord's supper, participation, table, thanksgiving


Our theme is: The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Communion is a regular ritual in our worship services. We respond to the giving and receiving of God’s Word to us by ‘taking up the cup of salvation and calling on the name of the Lord.’ Why do we do this? Jesus commanded it: ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ What was Jesus giving us in this regular celebration? We call it a thanksgiving. We say it is a ‘sign and seal’ pointing to what God does in Christ and the promise of the gospel to save us. Taking the Lord’s Supper doesn’t save us, but it points to our salvation in the body and blood of Jesus. And more, it guarantees that promise is true even for you and me. How do we participate in the Lord’s Supper? With thankful hearts, confessing our sin, and trusting in the cross of Christ. And we do this together. This is not a private exercise, but public gratitude. What questions do you have about this sacrament? What about the participation of our children? We’ll talk about these things as we give thanks for the sacrament of communion.


1 Corinthians 10:16-17

16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

 A few days ago some of you

participated in an age old tradition:

sitting at the kids table for Thanksgiving!

The main dining room table had the grandparents and uncles and aunts and adult guests

with mom and dad,

but that's all it could hold,

so the kids were put around a folding table somewhere away from the main event,

in the basement,

out in the garage,

or on the back porch.

And because seniors are living longer these days, sometimes you never get promoted

from the kids table.

College students home on break,

successful professionals home for the holiday,

young married couples,

recent retirees,

still find themselves at the kids table,

their knees tucked under the small card table,

elbows touching each other,

and then someone knocks the table leg

and there goes the beverage.


But all the new parent magazines are saying

families are doing away with the kids table.

Junior is now placed between grandpa and grandma, college students sit next to kindergartners,

forty year old siblings still have to be

separated from each other,

and moms in general find that works easier

than getting up a hundred times during the meal

to attend to the kids who are either too  noisy,

or more dangerously, too quiet!


Who gets to sit at your table?

What tables do you get invited to?


Jesus invites you to take your place at his table!

Why of all the things Jesus could give us

to remember his crucifixion and resurrection

would he command us to ‘do this’?


The word that jumps out at us is ‘participation.’

Living for Jesus is not just limited to

thinking about him or re-telling the story

about his cross and resurrection,

or just watching worship, but:

16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?

Because of his sacrifice

we belong body and soul life and death

to Jesus.

Taking the Lord’s Supper is

a sign and a seal of this grace:

it points to the power of the cross

and it guarantees that power for our redemption.

Participation is important to us:

We want to be included,

have the opportunity to try it out, to do it:

that’s why we collect those participation ribbons!

Don’t you smile at the toddler who says let me do it,

especially if it’s not yours!

What wonder you felt when you got

that first invitation to a classmate’s birthday party! Really, I get to go!

Remember the first time

you got to drive the family car?

. . . and how about when you take the Lord’s Supper!


Maybe you take that participation for granted!

Do you participate with the same joy and wonder

and significance as you do

with all those other occasions in your life

when you got to be involved and participate too?


Maybe you are new to Christian worship

and wonder why there’s a moment in worship

when God’s people are either invited forward

or are served a piece of bread

and either dip into a cup of grape juice

or drink a small sip of juice.

What’s the ritual of the Lord’s Supper all about?


Bread and cup tell us about our participation.

1 Corinthians 11 instructs us:

whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup

you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes . . .

We call the Lord’s Supper a sacrament – like baptism, sacraments are about what God does.

See, we are participating in what God does.

God alone saves us,

by the sacrifice of Christ’s life,

by the cleansing of forgiveness.

When we take the Lord’s Supper

we proclaim that we aren’t Saviors,

only Jesus is The Savior.

We remember we live by his grace alone.


We remember these truths

in a physical and visible way

so that the gospel

is not trapped by limited understanding,

emotional failings,

or other struggles

that can so easily make what’s wrong

turn into what’s wrong with me.

That bread you hold in your hand is real.

God’s forgiveness is real.

The cup of the Lord, the taste of the vine,

that’s real.

The sacrifice of Jesus to take away the sin,

guilt and shame of the world is that real, too.


To take the bread and cup then

is to participate in this good news.

It is to say this is what nourishes me,

this is the people I want to eat with.

Sinners made saints.

Hungry souls needing nourishment.


The bread and cup are served at a table.

Why a table?

It is an amazing grace that the holy God

invites you and me to a table.

Not to an examination.

Not to some scale of justice.

Not even to an altar.

But a table.

A table is a place of belonging,

of acceptance,

of identity.

Leonard Sweet:  “Adam means “human.”

Eve means “life.”

A human needs another for “life”

to come alive and become living.

Identity can’t grow ferally, only communally.

We were meant to eat together, not solo.

Eating alone is what got Eve in trouble.”


The literal word translated as participation

here in our text is the word

some of you know as ‘koinonia.’

Usually it is translated as ‘fellowship,’

it means sharing life together.

That word is also translated as ‘communion.’

And so we sometimes refer to the Lord’s Supper as communion.

So put those words together:



sharing life


Now I get why there’s a communion table.

Jesus invites you to share his life.


But more, it is fellowship with Jesus and his people.

This is not a private, personal exercise.

We have to get away from thinking

that at communion

I have this personal moment with Jesus.

That’s just the time you don’t!

You’re at his table,

with his people,

sharing life with the church

saved by grace alone.

It’s not just a time to assess your own faith journey,

but to attend with others in order to ask,

how are you doing?

How can I help?

Are we together serving

the mission of our Lord?


You know how you don’t like it

when family members are using their cell phones

while sitting at the supper table together?

When you want communion

to be a private experience,

where it’s just you and Jesus and your thoughts

you’re doing the same thing!

We belong to Christ and to his people,

we only love Jesus as much as

the person we love least,

we share in faith with God’s people, together,

we can’t go it alone.


So here I have a table leaf.

Most of us know what this is:

when company comes over,

mom pulls out the table leaf

and we have to add it to the dining room table.

We have to make more room.


Participation in communion asks that of us:

make more room,

for Jesus in your life,

for God’s people in your prayers and service,

for more neighbors in your compassion and care.


I ran across this poem by Langston Hughes,

it speaks of the challenge of the communion

for us today,

but also of the hope Christians

can bring to our divided world and

suspicious and fear-filled communities:

I, Too


I, too, sing America.


I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.



I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”




They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—


I, too, am America. /


Because Jesus invites you to share life with him

at his table,

let me ask, who do you invite to your table?

What tables will you sit at and eat?


In recent years we have been inviting

children to participate at the Lord’s table,

because it is the Lord’s table and not ours.

Because to belong is to be called to participate.

Because there are no adult tables

and kids tables in the kingdom of God.

When I was a kid, participation in the Lord’s Supper was a unique challenge.

We had to pay attention

to what was happening in worship because

we had to save our peppermint

until after the sermon and the long prayer,

in order to take our peppermint

the same time mom and dad took the bread, remembered, believed and ate.


Moms and dads for the most part

did not frown on this juvenile participation of ours.

I think it is because they knew

we were included in this.

That it was somehow assumed by us as kids

that we were included and should do something,

because we were part of the church, too.


Officially the CRC says this:

“All baptized members who come with

age- and ability-appropriate faith in Jesus Christ

are welcome to the Lord’s Supper.”

So parents, our elders encourage you

to discern when your children are ready,

and when you believe they are ready to participate

because you see they believe in Jesus, too,

let your elder know,

and the elders will visit with you

in order to help welcome your child to the table,

and make personal for your child

that this celebration is a testimony

that they belong to the family of God.


I also encourage our children and youth

to make their commitment to Jesus public

by making profession of faith.

I’d like to start classes soon to prepare

those of you are ready to make this commitment.

Parents, encourage your older children and teens

to do this.

And then let me know so we can start a class.


If the supper is to nourish faith,

why not also the faith of those younger?

There is one table of grace to which we are invited.


Once we have acted in ways to expand the table

by our invitations and loving service

and hunger for justice and sharing of the gospel,

then we participate in communion

with thanksgiving, a heart of gratitude.


1 Cor 11 The Lord Jesus,

on the night he was betrayed, took bread,

24 and when he had given thanks,

he broke it and said,

“This is my body, which is for you;

do this in remembrance of me.”

He gave thanks when he took the bread in hand,

broke it and said,

This is my body . . .

is how we remember it.

Gratitude is displayed in his body, in the flesh.


Here is a merciful, loving Savior

who not only suffers and dies for his own,

but is grateful to do so.

What is that like for you to take to heart

that God not only gave his life

but was thankful in his sacrifice?


We’re not saying he was thankful for his crucifixion, but that he was thankful in that circumstance.

He endures the worst human event ever

because of the gratitude he has

to be the one to finish the most redeeming of all acts.

This is so good,

he will bear what is most evil.


The Lord’s Supper comes from the word

‘to give thanks’, ‘eucharisto’,

the Eucharist, some of us have heard communion referred to that way.

So each time we celebrate

we remember with gratitude Christ’s gratitude.


Jesus is gratitude made human and made perfect.

How does this bless the way we are to live

in his grace?

Just as we love as he has loved us,

so now we live a thankful life because

Jesus was thankful.


Charles Taylor says Christians don’t live

incarnationally today,

they live ex-carnationally.

Have we chosen excarnation over incarnation?


What’s excarnation?

It is turning faith in Jesus into an idea.

It is limiting and confining faith to

what we think and what we factually understand

about God.

It confines faith to our brains.

It is belief reduced to a concept.

Ask yourself,

when was the last time you knelt down to pray?

Or you fasted for a period of time?

Or you got to know the name of a homeless person?

Or you clapped or raised your hands in worship?

Or you denied yourself physically or materially

in order to obey a command of God?

Are you hesitant to witness because

you don’t think you know enough?


Without realizing it we can

disembody worship and think Christianity

merely a message to be grasped in our minds.

Those who say I don’t need church

because I am spiritual but not religious

have fallen for this trap.


So what does incarnational faith look like to you?

When the Belgic Confession says

there is no salvation outside the church,

it is being incarnational.

For faith is lived in every day life,

in the body, person to person,

ministering together in the neighborhood.

Believers need the physical belonging

with one another

because the gospel is all about one another:

love one another

forgive one another

pray for one another

serve one another

rejoice with those who rejoice

and weep with those who weep,

and on and on.


If you’re bored by worship,

or your faith is stuck,

or you can’t really say you have a

living, active faith-relationship with Jesus,

one way to address this struggle

is to commit to active, serving involvement

in the church:

with a local, living congregation like ours.

We meet Jesus participating in his body, the church.


Lord’s Supper is that invitation and

means of grace to proclaim our thanksgiving.

When I take bread I am exercising grace

in a way that involves my body.

To get up out of our space

and stand together

and look one another in the eye

as we take the elements

is to remember with body and soul that Christ

sacrificed his body for the forgiveness of our sin.

Faith isn’t just an idea

it is a participation in the grace of Jesus.


Following a Savior who lived a thankful life

in all circumstances, even at the cross,

is a major understanding for our own discipleship.


Faith and worship are verbs.

The Lord’s Supper means we participate in the fullness of Christ’s life.

We are sent out to continue that participation in God’s kingdom.

Not just to watch,

not just to think about God once in a while,

but to participate in Christ’s joy

and in his sufferings too:

imagine, you too get to pray,

to worship,

to serve others in Christ’s love,

to witness,

to forgive as Christ forgave you,

to do justice and to love mercy,

and to love God above all.


In the end,

we take the Lord’s Supper

not because we are great Christians,

but because many times we struggle at it.

It is to nurture us,

to help us in our weakness,

to continue to form our faith:

Q & A 81 from our Catechism is for our comfort:

  1. Who should come

to the Lord’s table?

  1. Those who are displeased with themselves

because of their sins,

but who nevertheless trust

that their sins are pardoned

and that their remaining weakness is covered

by the suffering and death of Christ,

and who also desire more and more

to strengthen their faith

and to lead a better life.

Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however,

eat and drink judgment on themselves.


So participate humbly,

but with joyful expectation,

come hungry and thirsty for Jesus,

and be generous with your thanksgiving,

for the table is your invitation,

Just as you are, without one plea,

and as surely as you receive the bread and cup,

so true is the gospel that we share together.