Written by Gradye Parsons
Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.
It was a generational moment. I had just baptized my grandson and was now presiding at table with my newly ordained daughter. Three generations intersecting in the historic Sacraments of the church. On the table was the freshly baked loaf of bread and the cup full of wine.
If you date a generation by roughly twenty years, sometime in this century we will approach the 100th generation to tear the bread and drink the cup. We should probably pull a committee together to work on that anniversary, because—for me—it marks one of those rare occasions that call us to pause and take stock of the life of the church. It has been a long journey since the first Christians met in small house gatherings throughout the Mediterranean to the multi-continental collection of the people of faith we are today.
Reflecting on centuries of change in the church, could you imagine trying to discuss with Paul the current controversy surrounding projection screens in the sanctuary? Or how would you explain to Timothy the weighty decision of what color the new hymnals should be? Perhaps Priscilla would understand the difficulty of finding room for emerging worshipping communities in the “normal” life of the church.
Yet then and now is the table. It has been wood, marble, bamboo, steel, glass, and plastic. The bread and cup have been made from the respective staples of a wide variety of cultures. The tableware has been silver and paper. And yet in the midst of the constantly changing nature of the body of Christ, the table has remained.
The table is one of those pieces of furniture that slips back into the room no matter how the décor evolves. It is an anchor and a sail. The table transcends time and pulls us forward to the future that belongs to God. The table calls us to be together when we are out of sorts with each other. The table reminds us that the gift of faith is never cheap. The table is yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
100 generations. That is amazing grace.