On the first Sunday of each month we celebrate Holy Communion. We hear proclaimed these amazing words each time, "No matter who you are or where you are in your life or faith, you are welcomed to the table because Jesus Christ invites you here." We mean that because that kind of welcome happened to us.
We have received an incredible welcome from God. Although we were at one time strangers to God, the door of hospitality was opened for us. We seek to extend that welcome to others - regardless- both at the Table and in our lives.
When we come to the Table we come as one people, not just individuals. God, through grace, has made us into one people. All distinctions of class, race, nationality, language, gender, and education are wiped away. We come as equals - brothers and sisters on the same spiritual journey.
All of those human-made labels go away and we are given a truer name - Beloved. In the first words of the liturgy it is declared loudly, "Beloved of God we come here together." We are united to one another and to God because of love. God is not out to condemn us or to punish us for our mistakes. Jesus is proof that issue has been rectificed. Jesus is God's yelling at us, "I am a forgiver. Though wounded at the cross, I do not wound back. All is well with us, come and share the Table with me."
We come in remembrance - we are mindful of Jesus Christ and seek to understand his life, his teaching, and what it means to be a follower of his in this world that often goes bonkers.
We come in communion - God is with us in the bread and the cup, in the prayers and in the songs, in the Scriptures and in the community.
We come in hope - that the Table and Communion we enjoy together is a foretaste and a promise of a greater Table that is prepared where all nations and peoples will gather in peace, transquility, and true brotherhood and sisterhood.
We take the bread that is broken and the liquid that is poured and we remember that sacrifce was made not just for the world but for us individually. A big turn happens in a person's life when they realize - God is not just gracious to the world; God is gracious to ME! It is a communal faith, but also a deeply personal one.
Then in a response to this grace, we pray. We pray not just for ourselves, but for all people. We pray that we would bear good fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, and others) and that we would live out the gospel we have received. We pray for our country - that order AND peace would prevail for all people.
We pray for all nations, not just our own, for the kingdom that Jesus talked about transcends all nations (and nationalism), tribes, and tongues. We are all children of God.
We pray for the Church, not just our church. The Christian family is a big family and it circles the globe. We understand that faithful expression of grace-centered living takes on many expressions. We profess that the church, though mighty in numbers often lacks courage to bear witness faithfully. Lord, have mercy.
And we conclude with the Lord's Prayer - the prayer above, in, and under all prayers - Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever, Amen.