~ Come to this sacred table, not because you must, but because you may;
~ Come not because you are strong, but because you are weak;
~ Not because you have any claim on heaven’s reward, but because in your frailty and sin, you stand in constant need of God’s mercy and help;
~ Come not to testify that you are righteous,
but that you sincerely love Jesus and desire to be his true disciple;
~ Come not to express an opinion, but to seek a presence and to pray for a Spirit.
Old First has an “open table,” welcoming all to participate in the gifts of bread and cup, and thereby God’s grace freely shared. Our practice of the Lord’s Supper is open to all who wish to share this meal with us, even the youngest children. While there is a tradition within the wider church that communion is reserved for those who have been baptized, no one will ever be turned away from the communion table at Old First — this is God’s table, not ours. It’s not about how much we believe or understand or any other accomplishment on our part. It’s about how much God loves us. Even this meal cannot really be holy until everyone is at the table.
To eat any meal together is to meet at the level of our most basic need. To become “companions,” literally those who eat bread together. To eat this sacred meal together is to meet at the level of our most basic humanness, which involves our need not just for food, but for one another. I need you to help me fill my emptiness just as you need my help to fill yours. As for the emptiness that’s still left over, well, we’re in it together, or it in us. Maybe this is what makes us most human, sisters and brothers?
In Protestant tradition, most of us understand communion as a “memorial meal” wherein we are remembering Jesus; symbolically joining Christ at the Passover Meal of freedom with his disciples; receiving the bread as a new sign of his body, the cup as a new sign of his blood; and experiencing the renewing grace of Jesus willingly giving his life, of God’s ever sacrificing that we might live. People with other understandings of the meaning of communion, or no understanding of the meal, are welcome at our table alongside everyone else (who still haven’t quite gotten things right either!).
Old First celebrates Communion during our regular worship services about once per month, usually the first Sunday of the month (depending on the seasons of the church calendar). For those among us who prefer to take communion more often, we also offer an intimate communion immediately following the regular service on the third Sunday of each month. (People who wish to stay for that communion service on the third Sundays, gather up at the front of the Sanctuary after the worship service.)
We usually take communion by “intinction,” meaning that people take a piece of bread for themselves and dip it into the cup. But from time to time, we will celebrate this meal in other ways too. Old First uses grape juice, instead of wine, so that people who cannot drink alcohol can also be served at our table.