...and then Jesus took bread.
Matthew 26:26-30 CEB
You would never know this but I struggle with Fig Tree Christian all the time. I wrestle with my thoughts in prayer. I constantly bring my questions about what the next step is to God. Most importantly, I wonder what the heck I am doing and how I am going to do it!
So one of my humongous prayers was related to communion. Now, if you are part the Christian Church tradition, whether that's the Independent Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, or Church of Christ, communion is key. Every time you gather as a worshiping community you have communion. Fig Tree Christian, as non-church like as it is, is a congregation in formation within the Christian Church, (Disciples of Christ.) We are on the Georgia Disciples website as a congregation in formation. Fig Tree was celebrated at the General Assembly last week as a congregation in formation. Yet.... we do not have communion and I have no idea what communion would look like in this format! Even posing the question, what would Jesus do if he had the internet at his disposal has left little to no insight in regards to communion.
That was until I was sucker punched in the stomach with a blog posted last week:
The Myth of Extending the Table by Anderson Campbell
It is a really good read and it hit me hard. I knew it was something important to my personal faith journey when, this morning, I came across it for the fourth time! Even though it was never Campbell who sent me the link nor do I even know the man, I wanted to email him this morning and tell him, "Hey, I get it. Can you please stop beating this message into me?" But, it hit different this morning. It hit in a way where it was a K.O. and I saw it with another perspective. The first three times I saw it for what it was. You cannot just pull up chairs to an already established table. The "new" person is still the outsider no matter how much you want their voice to count, or how much you want them to be equal at the table. That was dramatic enough when someone like me, who professes an open table where everyone is invited, realizes an open table is really only as open as the community sitting around it. Even if the outsider is invited in, if the table isn't rebuilt for inclusion, it is still excluding them. And, as I wrote on my personal facebook page:
Three times I realized the table becomes exclusionary the minute it is set for guests. Every Sunday we limit the table the second we come to it. No. That wasn't true either. The table is limited way before then. The table is limited when the community serving and worshipping at it decide what it is going to look like and builds it. So many churches decide the table in the beginning. The fourth time I saw the post it hit me. Jesus waited to build the table at the end, not the beginning.
Jab. Jab. Jab. Right hook. K.O. Oh, it got me good. What I'm going to say next is going to sound crazy coming from a fourth generation Disciple of Christ. Brace yourself.
Jesus built the table through the journey. As he invited the disciples, and others, to join him he was building the table. As he healed and taught he was building the table. It was only as Jesus' journey was coming to a close and the real work was about to begin the table was finally set and communion happened. Baptism first. Communion last. Fig Tree isn't at a stage to begin communion because we are still building. I suggest any new congregational start should refrain from communion. Walk Jesus' path to grow and learn. Build the table with teaching and healing. Once that is done. Once a congregation is no longer in formation, celebrate with communion. Otherwise you are jumping into something before it is ready. I would say the same is true with congregations going through renewal and redevelopment. The table has to be dismantled and rebuilt. Stop communion until the community knows who and what they are. Otherwise you are never truly in redevelopment because you are still serving communion built at a table meant for a congregation 10, 20, 50 years ago. See where I am? See how huge this is for a Disciple who yearns for weekly communion?
The table is always limited. We cannot change that. Yet, if we are willing to build the table correctly, from the journey, and not just throw it together at the beginning, we will only be excluding those who are not there. We will have a place for everyone who wants to participate. Fig Tree Christian does not have communion yet because we haven't finished building the table. As we grow and learn we will move from a congregation in formation to a worshipping body of believers. Pray with us as we try to understand what that is.