Some of Jesus’ dinner companions are a bit surprising. Early in his ministry he ate with a large group of tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15). Once when he was at dinner with a Pharisee, a woman of the city known to be a sinner came into the house and made a spectacle of herself—and Jesus (Luke 7:36-50). Even the disciples at the last supper were not models for us to emulate. Some of them began to argue about who among them would be greatest in the kingdom; Peter was told that he would shortly deny Jesus (Mark 14:29-30). Judas was there, too, at the table with Jesus.
And now we’re here at the Lord’s table. What kind of dinner companions are we? Sometimes faithless, sometimes proud, sometimes lustful, sometimes cruel, sometimes clueless about what discipleship entails. Maybe that’s why for hundreds of years many Christians have included in their corporate worship a general confession of sins. We know, in the words of The Book of Common Prayer, that “we have sinned against thee in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.” We know that “we have not loved thee with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.”
If we look around us (or beside us) we might see someone to whom we have said an angry word or otherwise wronged in some way. We might wish we could be at peace with all our fellow communicants. Maybe that’s why for hundreds of years many Christians have included in their corporate worship an opportunity to offer the “peace of Christ” to their neighbors just prior to taking the bread and cup.
Let us come to the table today asking for forgiveness and knowing that Jesus welcomes us and promises that, if we confess our sins, he will cleanse us from our unrighteousness and offer us his peace.
Prayer: God of grace and compassion, listen now to the confessions of our hearts as we remember our unfaithfulness, the ways our sins render us most unfit companions of Jesus. Heal and forgive, we pray, by the wounds and pains of our Lord. Bless this bread and cup, that by them we may be nourished and strengthened to leave behind our old ways and follow more faithfully our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Robert F. Hull Jr. is retired professor of New Testament, emeritus, at Emmanuel Christian Seminary in Johnson City, Tennessee.