table 1

Keeping Communion (The Lord’s Supper/ Holy Eucharist) on the main table … front and centre!

There are 2 activities common to most Christian traditions when if comes to celebrating worship. These activities are the particular focus of this area of midst:

  • Opening the Bible
  • Communion

In any given time and space where Christians gather to celebrate worship, the following 3 elements are embedded somewhere in either a sermon or as part of the communion time itself.

  1. God’s Big Story … opening, exploring and engaging in God’s Word … particularly as it relates to The Lord, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
  2. The Instituting Story … words coming out of The Last Supper of Jesus with the disciples … (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) This is included formally or informally depending on denominational traditions as those gathered share around a communion table
  3. A Story of Response … A call to action, a prayer for help and/or a form of response by the gathered faith community to be God’s Church in the pattern of Jesus and in the power of Holy Spirit

This section of Midst is included in order to encourage a re-imagination of church in a way that helps everyone, particularly children, to experience God especially in the connection between opening and engaging in the Bible and our responses in the communion time as we continue to be Jesus to one another, the community around us and the world.

Worth pondering …

If all we had was ‘open space’ and did nothing else as part of gathering as a faith community to show we are disciples of The Lord, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, committed to God’s mission in the world, would we would just have:

  • One table with
  • A Bible
  • Bread and a cup of wine/juice?

One table … an alter, a formal table, a kitchen table, the top of a log, a cloth on the ground.

table1

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table1

an introduction

A quick explanation of the three parts that fundamentally make up table1 …

First part: God’s Big Story … A Jesus Story

Second part: The Formation Story … emerging from Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples

Third part: Our Story … a lived story of our prayers and responses.

First part: God's Big Story

A Jesus Story

By what ever means encourage everyone towards the help they need to find a Bible, find a story of Jesus and engage in it for themselves and with others. This could be in the form of an engaging sermon just prior to communion. It could also be a drama or storytelling presentation of a Bible story.  It could be one of the stories of Jesus that someone has been exploring in their own age-appropriate time over the last few weeks. It could be an Old Testament story that points to Jesus. It could be someone’s favourite story read from their favourite Bible. There are many useful ways to explore this. It could even be a multi-generational, multi-sensory, engaging sermon!!

A couple of questions to we can encourage children and others to ask as we engage the Word of God prior to coming around the communion table:

  • I wonder why this story is in the Bible?
  • I wonder how this helps us to be like Jesus to one another and to those in our community and in our world?
  • I wonder how we can find the help and the learning to do this?

Second part: The Formation Story

A story that emerges from Jesus’ Last Supper with his followers

This is the instituting story … the formation story … of how we come to be gathered as a church around the communion table. Often these Words of Institution come from the prayer book, an order or service or directly from 1 Cor 11:23-26

Some traditions may allow different forms of these words to be integrated in different ways through story, prayers, poems, comments or testimonies. These different methods allow an exploration of the ideas around this instituting story. Nevertheless, these words institute us … they form us … they start us off … they give us a pattern or an example to follow.

On the night Jesus was betrayed … Jesus started a special meal to help us to REMEMBER.

Remember’ can have two meanings here:

  • to re-call the stories; re-member the stories; re-live, re-tell, re-enact, re-engage with, re-imagine the stories of Jesus. And from this:
  • to re-put-together; re-make; re-member Jesus together; re- be Jesus to one another and to those in our community and in our world? [missing reference from BTh Essay] In this sense of the word, re-member is the opposite of dis-member. (One slightly odd illustration of these opposites … While we can’t re-member a dis-membered cooked chook, we can re-member Jesus today as the church.)

To re-member Jesus in this latter sense is part of what it means to celebrate how God makes Jesus alive today to one another and to those in our community and in our world. We do this:

  • in the coming together as God’s people;
  • in responding individually and together out of our engagement of the Bible narratives of Jesus; (The Old Testament as it points to Jesus; and the Letters of Paul and others as it describes how to re-be Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.)
  • in deciding afresh to commit individually to being followers of The Lord, Jesus Christ of Nazareth
  • in deciding together as a Body of Christ to be like Jesus to one another and to those in our community and in our world?; and
  • in asking for the help we need by Holy Spirit to be pentecosted, gifted, formed afresh for God’s mission in and through the church.

Third part: Our Story

Our lived story of our personal and collective prayers and responses.

We are not the church together trying to re-member Jesus by virtue of the fact of turning up or having a meal or wanting to commit ourselves in this way. As important as these things are, we are made to be be like Jesus to one another and to those in our community and in our world by God. If we don’t already, we could learn to acknowledge this and pray accordingly.

This makes something like the following prayer an important part of all thanksgiving liturgies.

Come Holy Spirit … come empower us, make us, gift us, pentecost us afresh and help us be like Jesus to one another and to those in our community and in our world after the pattern of Jesus we are discovering together. Amen.

In this sense, the communion meal becomes a sign up page to being used by God to be The Church. The mystery of God’s presence in and through the Church is experienced in this moment and in every expression of what it means to be God’s Church.

Table 1 … The Communion Table

Exploring the idea of ‘Open Space’

True ‘Open Space’ implies that there is nothing at all at the centre of a gathering of souls. Even a business application has chairs and an articulated purpose although no formal agenda. Nevertheless, out of such ‘Open Space’ the gathering and the ensuing relationships, dialogue, politic and, indeed, conflict and resolution all combine to create ‘place’ for those gathered. This ‘place’ could not be foreseen at the start but could be as simple as a new direction. ‘Open Space’ rarely exists where there is just a simple purpose and chairs. In most churches after nearly two millennia of activity there are givens, such as driving agenda or traditions.

In the ‘Open Space’ that is table1, it is the Communion Table holding God’s Big Story concerning Jesus AND Jesus’ formational story emerging from the Last Supper that give us our purpose as we gather in our ‘Open Space’

table1 … travelling 'Lite'

table1 doesn’t need a building!

Going along with this idea of only needing a table, a tree stump, an upturned drum, a picnic rug or even a cleared patch of sand, it is what is on it and the purposes of those gathered to engage in God’s Word and be challenged to re-member Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit that then begins to shape the ‘Open Space’ to be ‘Church’.

This will be a radical thought for some. This is ‘Uber’ church. This ‘AirB&B’ church. This is church that can be held in a class room, on a bush block, in a band group, in an existing small group, in a committed friendship group.

Para-church organisations outside existing, more traditional denominational structures may find voice in their regular committed gathering of either staff or constituent groups to consider the table1 idea.

Who, where & when?

Sometimes an ordained celebrant is needed to administer The Eucharist

tbd

tbd

tbd

table2 … table3 … and so on …

Where 2 or 3 agree … perhaps we can add a table!

Our contemporary traditions of celebrating worship often come with a range of bundled elements including music, singing, community news, prayers, collections & offerings, welcoming teams, digital/IT, announcements, church meals and more. And there is nothing principally wrong with this.

But what would a church look like if it grew from one table … table1? And only from that starting point, begin to add tables?

For example, around table1 and in response to opening the Bible looking at the theme of ‘Meals with Jesus’, perhaps 2 or 3 of those gathered have perceive a need; could prayerful and carefully explore and plan the idea of meals together; and bring it to the group. If the group says, “Yes!”, table2 is born!

No 2 or 3, no table!

Advocacy

This website, after all, is a voice for and with children!

The idea of table1 is partly born out of the idea of inclusion. The biblical themes abound to support this general idea. The birth, life, death and resurrection stories of Jesus attest to God’s dream of inclusion for all, including children, or whoever you feel is being sidelined or excluded from our gatherings either intentionally or unintentionally.

It is therefore vitally important that an advocate for inclusion (especially of children) needs to be one of the 2 or 3 whose ideas, prayers and care has gone into the new venture of an added table.

No advocate, no table!

A new table

Where 2 or 3 agree in Jesus’ Name …

There’s a whole lot of power and sense in waiting until there is the nucleus of a team to pray and work through a vision for a particular table.

  • How will it work?
  • How does this help us engage in table1?
  • How are those in the group we are advocating for (e.g. children) helped to participate, engage and respond?

Each new table will need at least a leader, a specialist and an advocate. For example, if there seems to be a core group of 2 or 3 willing to pray and plan through the idea of singing as part of coming together, it will probably need a respected facilitating leader, a specialist muso*, and a children’s advocate.

*muso … someone great at determining what a theologically good, singable song might be … perhaps a guitarist to accompany the singing , an AV person to push a button on a song clip, a person who can hold a tune???

The process of prayerful discernment could well suggest time spent around table1 where opening the Bible to explore singing, praise/adoration, psalms, music in scripture & culture … all will help those gathered (including children) to engage in this dimension of faith community.

If Jesus will sign off on something, both the process and the outcomes are going to have to give God a good name so …

No prayerful discernment, no table!

Note: By implication, even table1 can not precede without the 2 or 3 who will, with prayerful discernment, fulfil these functions regarding leadership/facilitation and opening and engaging the Bible with those gathered and advocacy, including for the inclusion of children.

Governance

The agreed processes that help things along.

Even a dot points on a page describing how things run is a ‘governance’ document or a ‘constitution’. Humans need an agreed understanding of the roles, rights and responsibilities related to something as simple yet as complex as table1. To understand and agree with those gathered with the sorts of helpful guidelines that will ultimately be helpful to the group is part of what it means to experience a sense of belonging to the group. So it’s important.

A ‘governance’ document can sometimes have a life of its own and rule a group or even to be used as a weapon. So, just as importantly, love and mercy need to be exercised in the delivery of any processes and procedures.

Already phrases like … ‘No 2 or 3, no table’, ‘No advocate, no table’ and ‘No prayerful discernment, no table’ can be construed as governance outlines. They could helpfully be re-worded more positively in future development.

Leadership

Humans need it!

There are many leadership styles however facilitating a process without dominating that process is the key here. This big idea of ‘leadership’ and training for it and review it is a subject below.

Suffice to say here is that each table needs a leader, including table1

But everything is possible. The 2 or 3 who are instrumental in forming the group may recruit another person to the table to be the nominated leader. The person with the initial idea for the table and who recruited the other 1 or 2 people may stay with the table as, say, the intercessory prayer person. The advocate or the specialist may be the natural facilitator of the group. A leader may be appointed by the leadership group. There are many ways leadership may be encourage.

As tables are added, the idea of a leadership group can emerge made up of the leaders of all the tables. It is up to that leadership group to attend to prayerful review of the life of each table and it’s contribution. Any perceived needs such as training, direction, purpose, the consideration of new tables or releasing and celebrating tables no longer required may be some of the necessary functions of the leadership group. In time, the role and purpose of the leadership group may be added to a governance document.

Re-member

The opposite of dis-member??

There is a body of work that suggests that Jesus when Jesus took the Afikoman (bread) as part of his last supper with his disciples, his intent was to describe the idea that they were to be his agents in the world after he had left and sent them the helper of Holy Spirit. The idea argued here was that Jesus was giving the gathered disciples a formational, formally instituted act to signify that there were to re-make, to re-be, to re-form, to re-embody Jesus in the world.

When Jesus said, “Take, eat, do this in remembrance of me” in some translations and “Take, eat, and remember me” in other translations, this could, at first glance, be saying exactly the same thing.

But to use the word remember not only in the sense of ‘to recall’, ‘tell the story of’, ‘engage in the story’ but also in the sense ‘to re-member’ (re-be, re-do, re-make, re-form) me is worth exploring. It gives us the two purposes of The Communion. Add in a prayer of response, commitment and dependency and you have our tasks as gathered faith community to

  • engage in The Story,
  • re-be The Story
  • by the the agency, help and power of Holy Spirit

It remains a disturbing thought that sometimes The Church seems intent on dismembering Jesus.

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