Faith Stories: The Lord’s Table
A couple years ago I worked with curriculum specialists at the Malawi Institute of Education in Zomba, Malawi, for a couple of weeks. A colleague there asked me if I was a Christian, and I said, yes–a Methodist. She told me she was of another Christian denomination and invited me to her church the following Sunday. I accepted, and we went together to her surprisingly traditional, large, beautiful red brick church with a steeple, wide doors and stained glass windows in the colonial capitol of Malawi.
The service was so familiar to ours that I felt right at home–until, that is, my friend leaned over and told me that in a few minutes, when they started preparing for communion, I would have to leave because I wasn’t a member of that denomination.
Sure enough, after a few minutes the preacher announced, “Those who need to leave should leave now.” I was surprised, but other cultures are always full of surprises, and I took it as a kind of “culture shock,” more interesting than upsetting.
As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one to leave–anyone receiving counseling from the preacher also had to leave. We the Undeserving went to the parking lot, and everyone except me left. I was alone by our car under a tree, where there was a delightful breeze. I listened to the prayers in preparation for communion, and heard the shuffle of people going to the altar. Then, at the conclusion, over a thousand Africans raised their voices and with all their hearts and souls sang “Amazing Grace.” Standing in that parking lot, I felt truly blessed.
Now, during our communion service, every time I hear the words that everyone is invited and this is not a Methodist table but the Lord’s Table, I remember, and I don’t take it for granted any longer.