Come to the Table

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, NIV)

            As a First Sergeant in the military I attended many banquets and social functions. At all of them they set aside a table for the one who couldn’t be with us, the POW and MIA. As the dinner was officially opened, someone would bring our attention to this table by reading the following:

            “We call your attention to this small table, which occupies a place of dignity and honor near the head table. It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POWs and MIAs. We call them ‘comrades.’

            They are unable to be with their loved ones and families tonight, so we join together to pay our humble tribute to them, and bear witness to their continued absence.

            This table, set for one, is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors. The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. The single red rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith while awaiting their return. The yellow ribbon on the vase represents the yellow ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousands who demand, with unyielding determination, a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us tonight. A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate. The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait. The glass is inverted – they cannot toast with us this night. The chair is empty – they are not here. The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home. Let us remember and never forget their sacrifices. May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families.”

            I must admit, the first time I heard this, I was deeply moved. It almost brought me to tears. But the more I heard it, the less moved I became. I could almost quote the script along with the moderator.

            I wonder if the Lord’s Supper doesn’t sometimes take on the same apathy for us. When we first heard what Jesus did for us, we were deeply moved. But the longer we have been Christians, the more the Lord’s Supper and sight of the cross just becomes part of the ceremony; it no longer moves us like it once did. It isn’t that we forget what He did for us, it isn’t that we aren’t grateful; it’s just that we’ve grown a little used to it and less moved. As Keith Green put it in one of his songs, “My eyes are dry. My faith is old. My heart is hard. My prayers are cold. And I know how I ought to be–Alive to you and dead to me.”