When you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, for each of you goes ahead with your own. Thus some go hungry while others get drunk. Why do you make those who have nothing feel ashamed? My siblings, no: when you come together to eat, wait for each other. - 1 Corinthians 11:20-22, 33 (adapted)
Waiting to eat until everyone’s seated is simply polite. But Paul isn’t talking about etiquette here. He’s warning us not to desecrate the Lord’s Supper, pointing out the difference between that supper and our own, between Christ’s table and the world’s.
At the world’s table, no one waits for anyone. It’s a demented scramble to be first, shoving others aside, stepping over bodies. Be first and you get prime cuts and excellent wine. Limp in later, you get gristle and dregs. At the world’s table, the wealthy, the privileged, and the strong devour everyone else’s share of the feast of life. But at the Lord’s table, mutual deference is the sacrament’s outward sign, every bit as much as bread and wine.
We eat the Lord’s Supper truly not when we’re morally pure or doctrinally sound, but when we’re giving no advantage to the privileged. When in deeds personal and political we refuse to shame the poor. When our own well-being is inseparable from others’. When we set welcome tables in the streets of our grasping, unequal world as intentionally as we set Communion tables in our sanctuaries.
It’s the Lord’s Supper truly when we wait for each other. When we wait and work and witness until everyone arrives, everyone is seated, everyone is served, and everyone is fed.
Forgive us for profaning the feast of life. Teach us to wait for each other.
Small Group Discussion
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.