Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What the Open Table Says about God's Grace

I caught the tail end of an interview with Tom Hanks on Fresh Air yesterday.  He started speaking about all of his various exposures to different denominations including Catholic, Mormon and Nazarene.  Currently, Hanks is Greek Orthodox.

He mentioned his difficulties with each brand claiming that they had it correct:

And every single one of them were presented to me as the only way to go. This is - we are the only ones that have this right. And when you have had four versions that are very, very different from each other of this brand of spirituality and theology, and four of them have all said we're the only ones that matter. Well, you kind of think at the age of 13, 14, well, you know, it's not the only one.

One of the things that I appreciate about The United Methodist Church is that we are ecumenical.  We believe that God is working through our church but we also would claim that God is at work through other churches as well.  We see God at work beyond our own walls.  

This comes from following Wesley's understanding of prevenient (preceding) grace.  If God is at work in our lives before we realize or understand it, then God is at work in others' lives before they know it as well.  God who is active may work through a variety of ways.  As a pastor, I may have an appeal to some in my preaching while others may find me lacking.  They may find greater meaning in another preacher's sermons.  This is not threatening but natural that God would speak through a variety of people in a variety of ways because we are all created differently.

This sense of God seeking us out no matter where we are in our faith journey is a primary reason we offer the open table for Holy Communion.  By this, I mean that all are welcome to receive.  This differs from some denominations that restrict the Lord's Supper to only those who are members of their church.  The restriction is because the sacred nature of the meal is seen as presented for the faithful (those who have taken the proper vows and bring the proper understanding).  The wider nature of the meal may be lost on those who are not believers.

Our open table looks at it differently.  John Wesley thought that this sacrament was a converting ordinance meaning that people could come to faith in Christ through receiving the elements.  If God is drawing all people into relationship, then what better way to come to faith then to commune with the Body of Christ?  The open table reminds those who are members that God's grace is available to all people.  This theology is missional in that we are renewed in our belief that God is working beyond our own walls.

The next time you receive Holy Communion, may it be a reminder that we are also sent out beyond our walls to share God's grace with the world!

In Christ,


Picture used via Flickr.com through Creative Commons.

No comments:

Post a Comment