Around the Table (Creative Worship Experience)
Reading: Matthew 26:20-29
Lead by Phil Swain and Cam Giacometti
A more intimate and relaxed time of worship focused on the imagery of tables. Phil will share a little about the importance of tables for gathering and sharing and Cam will read us a kids book and lead a discussion about our experiences of tables before summing up.
Questions for reflection or small groups
Our own experience of the table (Cam’s questions from the Service)
- Do (or did) you have a table at home that brings back memories of sitting around chatting/sharing?
- When you have family or friends around the table, was it noisy? Full of laughter? Lots of stories? Lots of Food?
- Do you have people in your family that like to decorate the table for family meals (and what is it decorated with)?
- If you could gather people around a table for a meal, who would you like to be around the table?
Biblical Understanding of the Table
Look up the following passages. What insights do these references give to the importance of tables and in particular, the “table of the Lord”.
- Psalm 23:5-6
- Exodus 25:23-30
- Malachi 1:7-14
- Luke 14:15-17,21-23
- Matthew 26:6-13
- Mark 7:24-29
- Luke 22:14,24,27
Come to the Table and be fed.
Read Mark 2:23-27 (Jesus refers to 1 Samuel 21:1-6)
Also read John 6:35
The Table of the Showbread in the tabernacle/temple was supposed to be set apart from people, holy and special but David argued, surely this should be a place where people who are hungry are welcomed and fed, to which Jesus affirms “Yes”.
- Do you find refreshment in the table of the Lord (either communion or more generally, being in God’s presence)
- How would you explain to a non-churched person how the “table of the Lord” is both inclusive and welcoming to all people (“come as you are”) and at the same time “sacred and holy”?
- Give thanks to those who are around your table
- Pray for those who feel they are far from the table, or for the tables that are fractured or difficult
- Pray for those who are struggling to put food on a table, or meet the needs of those around the table
- Sit for a moment, and image being welcomed by God to the table of the Lord. Turn your thoughts into praise.
There is something about an image of people gathering around a table that resonates with us. Whether it connects with our own memories of gathering around the table with our families, or special times around a meal with friends, or special moments like tables at a wedding – I would guess that for most of us, this sort of image is good and heart-warming.
And the table doesn’t have to be anything special to hold memories. Here is a picture of my dining table at home. This is the table where we had all of our family meals as the kids grew up, that hosted years of bible study group meals, that was broken by my kids and the Humphries kids when they tried to make it a train and then a slide, and has been my desk for the covid lockdowns. Tables can hold a lot of memories.
The Bible uses the imagery of the table in some very profound ways. Yes, it talks about physical tables, such as the tabernacle table to hold the sacred bread and the Passover table … but it also talks about tables in a more symbolic way. It talks about the honour of being invited to sit at the table of someone important and then says that we are invited to sit at the table of the Lord. Psalm 23 affirms that the Good Shepherd is preparing a table for us, and Revelation talks about the table at the marriage supper of the lamb.
But it is in the gospels where the imagery of tables is most used. We often find Jesus sitting or reclining at the table of all different types of people – from Simon the Pharisee to Zacchaeus the tax collector. Jesus overturned the tables in the temple in anger.
It was at a table that the woman anointed Jesus feet, that Jesus taught about servanthood, and it was around a table that Jesus presided over the last supper that we heard about in our reading today.
There is something about tables that invites people to gather, to talk, to share, to reminisce, to care and support, to reflect and to learn. Tables are a safe place to laugh, to grieve, to wrestle with difficult issues or to relax. So what does it mean for us to consider the idea of the Table of the Lord. As I already mentioned, the original sacred table or “the Table of the Lord” was the Table of the Showbread in the tabernacle/temple. It was supposed to be set apart from people, holy and special. And yet as King David argued, surely this should be a place where people who are hungry are welcomed and fed. To which Jesus clearly affirms “Yes”. In John 6:35 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
To those who wanted to argue that it is only the “good people”, those with honour, who should be welcome at the Table of the Lord, Jesus told the parable of the feast when the king sent out the servants to the highways and byways to invite everyone and backed it up in practice by be very inclusive at whatever table Jesus was at.
So when it comes to the table of the Lord, whether we are talking about the communion table which we will partake of today … or symbolically gathering of the family of God … who is invited, who is welcome? Are you? Is everyone? YES! All are welcome!
When I was young, we used to gather with the family on my mothers side for Christmas down at Philip Island – and we always sat together around the one large ping-pong table. As the family grew and cousins partnered up and more kids were born – there was never a question of whether the table was going to be large enough because we just added to it. We brought in more chairs and added tables to the end so that everyone would fit.
I believe it is the same with the Table of the Lord, and it is our task as children of God, when we see someone standing on the side, wondering whether it is ok to come to the table, to be the ones who jump up, to grab the extra chair, shuffle down to make room, and to shower them with love and welcome.
All are welcome at the table of the Lord.
Let us give praise to God for this glorious good news.
1. Feeding the hungry — Luke 9:10-17
- In Luke’s account, Jesus fed 5,000 people. He didn’t have to feed them. After all, they were getting fed truth. Wasn’t that enough? Jesus knew they also had physical needs.
- Meeting the basic physical needs of people often ministers more than words and ultimately gives you a kind of integrity that can lead to a deeper conversation.
- THINK ABOUT IT…Is someone around you hungry or thirsty?
2. Consider your conversation — Luke 14:1-24
- When Jesus accepted a dinner invitation to the home of a Pharisee, he came prepared to speak on the hot topics of the day: working on the Sabbath, places of honor (at the table) and who gets to sit at God’s banquet table. Hot topics and touchy subjects still come up at the dinner table today. How do you deal with them?
- When Jesus had a point to make on a difficult subject, he didn’t go into a long, drawn-out monologue. He asked well-thought-out questions that engaged people and told interesting stories (parables) to make a complex subject understandable.
- His words were grounded in a solid understanding of the Word and a deep desire to bring people into right relationship with God.
- THINK ABOUT IT…Are your conversations encouraging and biblical?
3. Put your guests first — Luke 22:14-38 – Jesus’ last supper
- Yet Jesus didn’t host this dinner for himself. He was thinking of his disciples, who had very little time left with him to understand the significance of what was about to happen.
- His death and resurrection were going to change their lives and the world itself. He could have talked about his terrible suffering to come, but instead focused on what they would need to remember from that night.
THINK ABOUT IT…Do you see meals as a way to serve others’ spiritual needs?