Welcome to a Blog Community!

I want to welcome you to my blog. Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments and join in the discussion.
I feel I learn best when in conversations with others, so let us search and muse together!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Theology in Worship: Worship and the Table

As promised, here is a post that considers how the definition of worship (explained in a previous blog post) is seen acted out at the Table:

Turning to the New Testament, by Jesus’ establishment of a new covenant, the apostolic church continued the act of historical recitation and dramatic reenactment through celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is an important act of worship practiced through all of church history, and one that still continues today.

The Lord’s Supper simultaneously looks backward and forward, bringing all of history into a present reality. It remembers covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. It makes real the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. It celebrates resurrection and new life. It anticipates a coming Kingdom and reestablishment of heaven and earth. In sum, it embodies the entirety of Scripture.

Many church traditions celebrate the Lord’s Supper on a routine basis. Remembrance is one central aspect to the practice. In the Methodist denomination, a carefully constructed liturgy historically has been used to prepare worshipers for receiving the Eucharist meal. John Witvliet captures the heart of this liturgy: “Beginning with the recounting of God’s deeds and, in particular, those deeds that enact and transform God’s relationship with his people, the traditional eucharistic prayer continues by invoking God’s presence in the feast and imagining the future of God’s relationship with his people.”[1]

The Lord’s Supper is worship through remembrance by recitation of such great liturgies, but it is also worship through reenactment. Robert Webber writes:

Bread and wine signify and perform God’s story and communicate the benefit of God’s story to us. When we open our hearts, our minds, and our wills to see ourselves inside God’s story, to think thoughts after him, and to embody God’s story in love, we become broken bread and poured out wine to others in an incarnate, cruciform, resurrected, and eschatological life.[2]

Webber points out in this statement that the Lord’s Supper has a moral obligation that accompanies it. Just as under covenant, Israel was called by God to live out a particular lifestyle, (understood especially in commands to care for the widow, the orphan, and the alien), so too are we called to action of social justice by our participation in the Lord’s Supper. N.T. Wright argues:

The Eucharist is all about God’s life given in Jesus Christ to be our life. It is all about God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, given now to be our breath of life. As we eat and drink, we become walking shrines, living temples, in whom the living triune God truly dwells. And if this scary thought should make us take our fellow Christians more seriously as what they really are, it should also make us take more seriously the tasks to which the living God calls us within his world. We cannot worship the suffering God today and ignore him tomorrow. We cannot eat and drink the body and blood of the passionate and compassionate God today, and then refuse to live passionately and compassionately tomorrow.[3]

At the Table, we reenact God’s story and encounter the real presence of Christ. We join as God’s children, bound to Him by the Holy Spirit through the covenant of Christ’s blood. As His covenant people, we are called to a particular lifestyle as we anticipate the future Kingdom God will usher in, and to which we have become heirs. Robert Webber writes this about the character of worship:

In worship we remember God’s redemptive work in history. We especially remember the story of Israel and how it is a type of the Christ event, pointing to the saving events surrounding the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We also anticipate the future. Worship connects the past with the future, for it is here in worship where God recasts his original vision.[4]

Every part of worship, whether spoken or acted, should serve to proclaim and bear witness to God’s glory. Practice through Word and Table witnesses to God through acts of remembrance and anticipation. Thus, it is fitting to close by considering this historic liturgy often spoken around the Lord’s Supper:

And so,

in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, 

we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving

as a holy and living sacrifice, 

in union with Christ's offering for us, 

as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.[5]

[1] [1] John D. Witvliet, Worship Seeking Understanding: Windows into Christian Practice (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003),80.

[2] Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids, IL: Baker Books, 2008),141.

[3] N.T. Wright, For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997),31-32.

[4] Webber, 66.

[5] Taken from Service of Word and Table I, The United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992), 38.


  1. "to think thoughts after him, and to embody God's story in love..." wow. beautiful. a vision of one in tender intimacy with our holy God & a precious summation of the Gospel. Thanks for your post!

  2. Great thoughts....

    Especially for younger church attendents that are used to the supper functioning as a rememberance, and the language even being used by those in traditions that speak of an active presence in the table, this is a key piece.

    Anticipation is such a key when we think about the table. I can't imagine the Eucharist without that key piece.