Where is Christ Most Present?

The ancient act that often puts Jesus and the church on opposite sides of the table.

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I once posed the question to a church staff, “Where is Christ most present in our Church Service?” It was not a trick question, and I had not expected it to stump them. There were some very good answers, but none of them were quite right. Perplexed, I posed the same question to the elders. The response was mostly the same… thoughtful answers, but also mostly missing the place where Christ was most visible in worship.

I was reminded of this during a recent church service I attended. After a season of prayer, the band moved into a song that has become the anthem of a generation: “Holy Spirit.” (You may play it by clicking on the video above.) It almost always brings tears to my eyes, especially the bridge, which starts at 4:19 in the video and breaks down into these words:

We welcome you.
Let us become more aware of your presence.
Let us experience the glory of your goodness.
Let us become more aware of your presence.
Let us experience the glory of your goodness…

Your presence, Lord.
Your presence, Lord.
Be near.
Be near.

There is a very clear, unambiguous, and correct answer to this question. And while good laypeople cannot be held completely accountable for the correct answer to an ambush question like, “Where is Christ most present in our Church service?,” the failure to know the answer certainly is a problem that should be corrected.

There is an ancient act by which we most experience Christ’s presence and goodness.

Christ is most present at the table.

For the early church, the table was the center of worship. Some churches still model this by placing the communion/eucharist table at the center and the pulpit off to the side. But even this setup is a shadow of the way the Early Church would have worshipped. Remove the choir, pews… and yes, even the pulpit… then add more tables, sit everyone at those tables, and you have an Early Church worship service. It was a meal!

The Early Church's preferred place of worship was at tables, over a meal. Click To Tweet

This should come as no surprise. If you read the New Testament, Jesus spent most of his time around tables. In fact, his time at tables was second only to his time on the road. He ate with just about anyone (which got him into a LOT of trouble with the uber-religious people). He called himself “the bread of life.” He was born in The House of Bread (commonly known as Bethlehem). He multiplied bread for a multitude, twice. His last meal is on record in full detail. He asked those who would follow him to remember him as they ate… you guessed it, bread.

So where is Christ most present in the church service?  AT THE TABLE.

This is precisely why the bread and the cup are so very important… they are where the Church most visibly experiences the powerful and ongoing presence of Christ in the community.

True Story: I once nearly caused a church to lose it’s salvation1 by suggesting that the leadership consider the value of going to the table on Easter.

It always amazes me when I hear otherwise wonderful church folk talk about spending too much time at the table (i.e., receiving communion to often). Is it even possible? Perhaps it is, but it doesn’t seem like Jesus or the Early Church worried about it too much.

They seemed to worry more about spending too little time at the table.

And so should we.


 

PRACTICE:  Tell someone (preferably your children) about your favorite communion/eucharist table memory. Bonus points if it involves “becoming more aware of Christ’s presence” or “experiencing the glory of his goodness.”

 

  1. That is an idiomatic statement, not a theological one. And this footnote is borne out of humor, something of which Jesus had quite a lot.
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Kevin holds a Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics and Future Studies from Portland Seminary, where his work on Early Church spiritual formation passed with the rare honor of exemplary distinction. He is also a graduate of Cedarville University and Dallas Theological Seminary, holding degrees in Biblical Studies, Visual Communications, and Church Educational Leadership. Kevin has served on ministry staffs in some of the largest churches across the United States and is currently the Senior Minister of JupiterFIRST Church in Jupiter, Florida. His most important role, though, is husband to Sally and dad to four of Generation Z’s youngest members: Libbie, Lucy, Harris, and Matthew.