"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." (Psalm 23:5)
Two armies. They survey each other from the tops of opposite grassy slopes. At some unspoken command, the armies both begin to advance.
The one army --- Lucifer's army --- is polished and they march in perfect, trained precision. Their dark, glistening armor clanks at each step. Closer, they come. And closer, trampling the fresh grass under heavy feet. Their faces are hidden behind expressionless visors and helmets. Spears glint, banners ripple, horses nicker.
The other army is made up of former barbarians. Every man of them once served Lucifer; each one is now recruited by Christ. He only enlists men from the enemy army. He calls them "out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). Their eyes are savage and many of their bodies are still be-smeared with blue paint, hinting of their past. Their work-roughened hands clutch pitchforks, dented swords, rocks tied to strips of leather, anything that can cut down enemies. These wild men used to be naked. They are dressed now, but not in armor. They don't march --- they walk, many with their arms swinging by their sides. They eye their majestic enemy and some of them shift their weight anxiously, the sweat standing out on their faces. But the surety of their companions keeps them from despairing. These men gaze their enemy in the eye. Without flinching.
Soon --- too soon, really --- they are meeting in the deepest part of the valley. Weapons are ready, bodies tense. The place already smells of death.
But then . . . there in the very center of that valley, in the midst of sweaty men and sharp steel, there is a Table. A plain, wooden Table, spread with bread and wine.
It is the heat of battle; we are on our bellies, dodging trials. Men are falling fast beside us, and evil is thick. Babies die and marriages collapse. Little boys want to be little girls. And little girls want to be little boys. Men are lusting. Women are tempting. Christians are doubting. Satan is laughing.
And right then you say to yourself, "What I really want right now is a table. I'm feeling hungry."
Am I right??
Ehhh....Maybe not so much.
It does not come naturally to sit down at Table, when we think that we should be fighting for all we're worth. It takes true courage to set down our defenses and to take up bread. But that's what we have to be willing to do.
And the ones who are brave enough (or desperate enough) to come forward in crazy, beautiful faith --- they find out that His Table is safe.
The battles we fight in everyday have trained us to cling to our weapons, but there's one day of the week when He strips those away. It is only when we come to Communion truly vulnerable that He will fully bless us. It is only after we have fallen to our knees that He will pick us up.
The Meal is for hungry, dirty, wretched people. It is the only way that we can ever have the strength to keep going . . . And to keep going . . . And to keep going. Because it's at that Table, that He reminds us who we are and what we're fighting for.
"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." (Chesterton).