Dinner is Served
When I was a child, one unshakable tradition of the Weaver household was the family meal. At least once every day, with rare exception, mother, father, daughters, and son would gather around the table to eat together. It could include perfunctory questions of how everyone’s day was, laughter, tears, arguments, and awkward silences, with no phones (mind you, this was that ancient pre-iPhone era) to distract or hide behind. Mom summoned us by the dinner bell in the kitchen and the event ended ONLY when we asked to be excused (and, of course, once our plates were empty). Perhaps this feels all too Leave It to Beaver, but I believe the family dinner can be instructive for us. As one of my seminary professors encouraged our class, the family meal acts as a helpful metaphor for the gathered worship of the church.
The family meal acts as a helpful metaphor for the gathered worship of the church.
As we all scurried to the table growing up, we never came with a menu in hand. We were never provided a list of approved dishes from the chef from which to choose. We didn’t march around a buffet at the kitchen island. We certainly enjoyed most of what Mom made growing up as she thoughtfully curated what we ate, but the point of gathering at the table was NOT to have everyone’s preferences met. Whether I thought a particular recipe knocked it out of the park was, for the most part, irrelevant. We came together as a family to be nourished for life and to commune as a family—to be fed by food and relationship.
So, too, the Sunday gathering has never been about satisfying my own preference. Though I have the greatest faith in our worship pastors and leaders as they carefully craft spiritually directive times of worship, I should never expect that every song, style, decibel volume, and lighting choice will line up with what I like—because that’s not the reason we gather. We come to be nourished by the Word of God and the presence of Jesus through His Spirit that comes in a special way upon those who gather in His name. We can’t wait to arrive on Sunday because it’s another opportunity to commune with our brothers and sisters in Jesus.
If you attend Scottsdale Bible Church because you love the artistry of our hard-working production team and the sound of our worship in song, I promise that, eventually, you’ll be disappointed. Worship pastors come and go. Artists and their songs have a limited shelf life. Sometimes what feels cutting edge isn’t what we believe is best for our church. At other times, we let go of the past to push on into what’s next. But we don’t show up to the family meal for the look of the centerpiece, the beauty of the napkin rings, how the candles are arrayed, or the Instagram-worthy photo. All these things, while not bad in themselves, are ultimately secondary. They aren’t what drive us to come together.
We don’t show up to the family meal for the look of the centerpiece, the beauty of the napkin rings, how the candles are arrayed, or the Instagram-worthy photo.
The pandemic reminded us of what does truly matter. As a virus kept families and individuals isolated from one another, birthdays and holidays rolled relentlessly on. And though the nostalgia of candle-topped cakes, Thanksgiving sides that only Mom could make, and Christmas traditions were missed, all paled in comparison to being separated from the people we love the most.
Over the last two years, as most of us walked back into our sanctuaries for the first time, the style of the music, the instruments that were or were not on stage, or the type of lighting sat at the very back of our minds. What we longed for, what we desired most, was each other.
What we longed for, what we desired most, was each other.
Perhaps no act of worship encompasses why we come together as perfectly as the Lord’s Table. We remind each other of the death and resurrection life of the Christ in whose name we gather. We come to celebrate, worship, hear from, and commune with Him. Yet as the name implies, Communion points us to that meal which we share together—one loaf, one cup, one family. Here, at the Lord’s Table, we let go of all our differences—whether or not we like our mashed potatoes touching our peas, love Mom to cut the crust off our sandwiches, eat only red meat, or put ketchup on everything—or, better yet, our differences in levels of income, background, worship preference, political persuasion, or anything else that might drive us apart—to acknowledge and celebrate the truths that make us one—the truths that make us a family.
Some of my closest friends in the room I lead are Don and Kay, who are 88 and 90, respectively. Every week I can count on them being in the center section, second row from the front. We share a similar conservative upbringing, and while I know Don and Kay may not prefer every song we sing or how loud some instruments are, they have become some of my greatest supporters, prayer warriors, and beloved friends of my wife and me. They’ve told me before, “We want to be where the young people are.” We have another couple in their twenties on our volunteer team who serve our church in worship joyfully, no matter how new or old the music is, who wrote the song, or whether we’re playing in the style of a rock ballad, hymn, or gospel song. That’s simply not what’s most important to them. These families understand. They long to be nourished both by relationships with others and ultimately by the Living Word—that’s what our Sundays are all about.