By Doug Redford
On August 28, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his memorable “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd gathered before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
In that speech, Dr. King spoke of a “table of brotherhood” where “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners” would be able to sit together, no longer foes but friends. By using the term “brotherhood,” Dr. King was not excluding women from the table; rather, he was using a verbal image that conveyed the message of unity.
The Communion table has always been intended to be a “table of brotherhood”—again, not to the exclusion of women, for the New Testament affirms that all who belong to Christ are one in him (Galatians 3:26-28). Paul referred to the table as “the Lord’s table” in 1 Corinthians 10:21. This calls our attention to the “heavenly host,” the Lord of Heaven who provided a way by which all humanity could be released from their slavery to sin and Satan.
At the Lord’s table, we gather to remember the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, which set us free. No longer are we enemies of the Lord; instead, we are his children (Galatians 3:26) and members of the family whose citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 2:11).
On more than one occasion, Jesus used the picture of a feast or banquet to illustrate his Father’s desire that a wide variety of people accept his invitation and attend that gathering (Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:15-24). The ultimate “Lord’s table” is described as the “wedding supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).
In most churches the Communion table is not meant to be a place where people sit and eat this meal together. The emblems are placed on the table, and they are then distributed to others in the congregation; or in some cases, people are invited to come and take the emblems when they are prepared to do so.
As we partake in this gathering now, let’s think about how Paul prayed that followers of Jesus “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). Let’s think of the Lord’s table having those dimensions, with plenty of room for more guests who will accept the heavenly host’s invitation.
Doug Redford has served in the preaching ministry, as an editor of adult Sunday school curriculum, and as a Bible college professor. Currently he is the minister at Highview Christian Church in Cincinnati.