30 Mar 2023

Lord’s Supper: The Story in God’s Time

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: A Gathered People, Christian hope, eschatology, Exodus, Lord's Supper, Psalms, Worship

The Lord’s Supper. Communion. Eucharist. I cherish our time at the table of shalom, the table of grace.

An important dimension to the Supper is eschatology. We might think of eschatology as the end of the world but that is only partially the case. The big “E” word concerns so much more. We might say it covers when God’s time washes over our time. The two become interwoven in a unique way. At God’s table, God’s time brings us to the past and to the future. They come together at the table in the present.

How? We have to know something of the Story of God in the Hebrew Scriptures to fully appreciate the time dimension of Communion.

Israel’s sacrifices have a time machine (i.e. the Big “E” word) quality to them. That is they connect the present generation with the “gospel” event from the past. “What do these mean?” was the question. “We were slaves in Egypt but the LORD …” “When the Egyptians treated us harshlyWe cried out.

The Passover was God’s answer to Israel’s cry.

Over and over the living generation is connected with the past act of divine grace/hesed through the festivals of the Lord. All Israel’s festivals centered on the sacrificial meal – a supper with the Lord. It was a meal where the social status and values of the present world are seemingly obliterated through the sacrifice and those at the table are suddenly equal within this time zone, the God Time zone at the table. This meal is found in the The Passover, Pentecost, Booths, even Purim. Each has been brought into connection with that great “Hesed Event.” Thus the Passover Haggadah reads states, “in every generation each human must see himself as personally coming out of Egypt.” Through the meal we are the Passover generation. Suddenly, at the table we are the escaping refugees fleeing for our very lives from the kingdom of death (Egypt) by the powerful grace of Yahweh.

At the table of shalom, we have entered God’s Time of salvation and have koinonia with the Christ and we have fellowship with all those being rescued. Remembering in a Hebraic worldview is far more than an intellectual recollection of the past, it is a reliving of it. The Passover becomes something like virtual reality.

Psalm 116 was used in the Passover liturgy long before Jesus was born. It was connected with the Passover because of this very Hebraic notion of God’s Time. When Jesus sang it, he was not only joining his fellow Jews at the table who also sang it, but he is identifying with all who have gone before. It says we (not only them) were slaves, we (not only them) were afflicted, God heard our (not only their) cry … the Passover was God’s answer to the cry. Hear these words as they connect both to Jesus and all humans.

I love the LORD because he has heard me …
The snares of death encompassed me
[read Ex 2.23-24]
I called on the name of the LORD
‘O LORD save my life’ …

In the Gospels we read that great anguish came over Jesus after the meal, the meal that placed him in communion with all who had suffered before the threat of death.

When we sit at the Supper, we too join not only those leaving Egypt but find ourselves with Jesus as if we have been taken in God’s Time machine to walk with him, eat with him … and even die with him.

But the Passover is a time of Joy because it points to God’s victory not God’s defeat. It points to God’s gracious response to our prayers. So the Psalm, sung at the Passover, has a middle “chorus” that all God’s children sing, from Egypt to the New Heavens and New Earth.

Gracious is the LORD,
and righteous
our God is merciful
[a paraphrase of Ex 34.6, the God Creed].
The LORD protects the simple;
When I was brought low,
he saved me …’

This is the confidence of victorious faith. We know we have been set free because we are part of the Exodus generation. But as Jesus is singing this song at the Table, and on the way to the Garden with his disciples, it is also a statement of future faith. Because we share in the Table we know that the kingdom of death has been defeated. God has saved our life. Now this is not simply a matter of going to heaven when we die, though it certainly includes eternal life with God. When Jesus prayed this prayer with and in fellowship with his disciples he is pointing to the future, in the faith that God will raise him from the dead. God has heard his prayer.

For you have delivered ME from death …

Jesus is living the Story at the meal at the Passover. The Table is “eschatology” both to the past and the future. And we join him as we proclaim his death “until he comes.

But we live in the present as beneficiaries of Jesus’s new exodus awaiting our destiny of sharing in resurrected life. Jesus and the disciples, with the Israelites of old, sang “I am greatly afflicted” “Everyone is a liar.” We all know this sad truth from “personal experience.”

The Psalm, Ps 116, assumes our participation in a future meal with God and his people. We will lift up the “cup of salvation” and “offer a thanksgiving offering” “in the presence of God’s people, in the courts of the house of the LORD.

The movement of the Psalm follows the movement of God’s time at the Table.

– Our union with those leaving Egypt.
– Our present agony as we live in a faithless world.
– Our standing in the glorious presence of God, joyously feasting because even now God has delivered us.

At the Table we are bound to the past, the Exodus generation. At the Table we have communion with Jesus in the struggle for faith. At the Table we are escorted into the very presence of God. The book of Revelation ends with that promise. We are seated at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, our tears are washed away by the God who hears our cries, and God makes his home with us.

What “happens” at the Table is a microcosm of the entire Story of God. Those who feast at this Table share with those in the past, share in the present, and share in the future.

We are in God’s Time at the table.

2 Responses to “Lord’s Supper: The Story in God’s Time”

  1. Ed Dodds Says:

    At the end of this where the feast of booths is discussed, they make the point that everyone is being invited to the celebration BBQ (sacrificial meal).

    The appointed times of the Messiah’s Return found in ancient Jewish festivals https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6BN0m2us34

    • JT Says:

      Thanks for presenting here the deepness, the richness that is encompassed in “the Table”. Without minimizing in any way, shape or form what Jesus fulfilled on the Cross, there is so much more to consider at the Table than “thank you Lord for dying for my sins”.

      Thanks for the link with the discussion about the appointed feasts. There’s much to learn about them and their significance for us today. Very uplifting.


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