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At the Table

Christians go to church to eat and drink. This is nothing new. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, through a complex history of liturgical change, there is one constant: The people of God always worship at the table.

At the center of Eden’s garden-sanctuary were fruit trees, good for food. The sacrifices of Abel, Noah, and Abraham were food rituals, sacred barbecues. An ancient Hebrew worshipper offered an animal, with flour or cakes, on an altar. In the Hebrew Bible, sacrificial fire “consumes” flesh (akal, “eat”; Lev. 9:24), Leviticus calls the offerings of the tabernacle “bread of God” (Lev. 21:6, 8), and Ezekiel says that the altar in the temple is Yahweh’s table (Ezek. 44:16). The “peace offering” was a shared meal: Fat was burned as the Lord’s food, while the rest of the animal was divided between worshipper and priest. The point of erecting a sanctuary was to have a place where Israel could “eat, drink, and rejoice” before Yahweh (Deut. 12:15–19; 14:6).

Though early Christians soon stopped offering sacrifices, food remained central to worship. Jesus came eating and drinking with prostitutes, publicans, and even Pharisees, using meals as occasions for healing and table manners as object lessons for disciples. After Pentecost, the disciples continued to gather to hear the apostolic teaching, to pray, and to break bread (Acts 2:42, 46). Paul assumes that the Corinthians “come together” to share the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:33). When we finally enter the new Jerusalem, we will enjoy the eternal marriage supper of the Lamb. In Christ, we are brought to a better Eden, a better feast where fruit has grown up to become wine.

Read more at First Things. 

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