Resources For The Service Of The Table

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

In the early church, worship consisted of both Word and Table. The Word proclaimed the saving deed of God in Jesus Christ, and the Table was the response of thanksgiving (Eucharist is the Greek word for thanks). During medieval times, the Roman Catholic church did not maintain the ancient balance of Word and Table, allowing the reading and preaching of the Word to go into decline. The Protestant Reformation restored the Word to its rightful place in worship and sought to maintain the ancient...

What Does The Service Of The Table Do?

The acts of worship at the Table of the Lord enact the story of how God in Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a sacrifice for sin, overthrew the powers of evil and left an example of life lived by love. Contemporary worship accents the joy of God's salvation and healing available at the Table.

Biblical Terms For The Service Of The Table

The New Testament uses four terms to describe worship at the Table: Breaking of the Bread, the Lord's Supper, Communion, and Eucharist.

The Shape Of Table Worship

From the very beginnings of Table worship, its various parts have been discernible.

The Structure Of Table Worship In The Early Church

The oldest prayer of Thanksgiving is found in Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition, dated about a. d. 215. Because Hippolytus remembered this prayer from his youth, it is generally thought the prayer reaches back to 150. Through this prayer we can see the developed parts of the ancient eucharistic prayer. Consequently, this prayer has served as a model for the contemporary restructuring of the prayers said at the Table.

Guidelines For A Contemporary Model Of The Lord’s Supper

The following is an example of the Lord's Supper as it might be conducted in a contemporary church such as a creative or a praise-and-worship assembly. It presupposes careful preparation on the part of the minister and people. A bulletin insert may provide the order of service, the responses, and Communion hymns. The service is a single whole and is to be celebrated without announcement and in the spirit of celebration and joy.

The Meaning Of Table Worship

At the Table of the Lord, the church recalls God's saving acts in Christ and experiences the benefit of healing.

The Place Of The Arts At Table Worship

The arts are vehicles of communication. They are not used for their own sake, but rather a means through which an encounter with the risen Christ is enhanced.

The Presentation Of Bread And Wine (he Took)

The taking consists of bringing the bread and wine to the Table, where the elements are prepared by the presider. The taking, which is primarily a symbolic action, conveys many powerful ideas. Because the primary symbol is that of an offering made to God, a number of offerings may occur simultaneously. For example, as the bread and wine are brought to the Table, an anthem may be sung and an offering of money taken.

The Ascription Of Praise

The ascription of praise is a statement made by the minister that signals the beginning of the service of the Table. It is said just after the kiss of peace or after the announcements (if the announcements are between the Service of the Word and the Service of the Table). One of the following or some other appropriate sentence of Scripture may be used in both liturgical and contemporary worship.

The Offertory Hymn

The offertory hymn expresses the action of bringing bread and wine and of coming to the Table of the Lord.

The Preparation Of The Table

The following instructions are especially suited for liturgical churches. However, contemporary churches may adapt these traditions to local usage and custom.

The Examination Of Conscience

The examination of conscience before the Table is used when there has been no confession of sin in either the acts of Entrance or after the prayers of the people.

The Prayer Of Thanksgiving (he Blessed)

The blessing, which is also known as the eucharistic prayer or prayer of thanksgiving, originated from the Jewish Brakah (blessing). It passed through various stages of development, reaching a fixed content in the fourth and fifth century. In the medieval era it became excessively elaborate. The Reformers simplified the prayer, and today the forms of the ancient church are being restored to common use in the church.

The Structure Of The Prayer Of Thanksgiving

The following examples are intended to provide the reader with a sense both of the structure and of the content of the prayer of thanksgiving. For more examples, see Models of Renewing Worship in Sunday Morning Worship.

Guidelines For An Extemporaneous Prayer Of Thanksgiving

Traditions that do not use fixed prayers may follow the suggestions below:

The Breaking Of The Bread (he Broke)

Not only is Christ the broken bread: the church also is to become the bread broken for others.

The Forms For The Breaking Of The Bread

In liturgical churches, the breaking of the bread is accompanied by a litany of response between the celebrant and leader. This litany is often sung.

The Invitation To Receive Communion

Before the distribution of the bread and wine, the celebrant, holding up or indicating the gifts, invites the people to Communion. This moment, of course, is most effective when the people come up from their seats to receive.

The Reception Of Bread And Wine (he Gave)

The giving of the bread and wine is the action of Christ communicated through human hands and speech.

The Words Of Reception

The words of reception are those words of faith said by both minister and people at the giving and receiving of the bread and wine.

The Communion Song

The Communion song is sung by the congregation during the reception of bread and wine.

The Rite Of Healing

The church has always practiced anointing with oil for healing. Renewing worship connects the rite of healing with Table worship. Here at the Table, the bread and wine, as well as the oil with the laying on of hands, communicates an encounter with the healing power of the risen Lord. Renewing churches are increasingly using the time immediately after a person has received Communion for the laying on of hands with a prayer for healing.

The Closing Communion Doxology

The concluding prayer of the Eucharist is a laudatory statement of praise. Following the primitive model of the Jewish meal prayer, the prayer gives glory to God for his provision; the people respond with the Amen. In this way the worship at the Table ends on a strong note of praise. Here are several examples: