When We Gather at the Table

Music by Ron Klusmeier
Words by Walter Farquharson

Lyrics as Poetry

When we gather at the table
wine is poured and bread is broken.
Then love claims us, offering healing,
we hear welcome, gently spoken.

Jesus offers our thanksgiving
blessing God for life we’re given.
From the earth comes grain to feed us
watered by the rains of heaven.

Word of promise claims attention
earth renewed by God’s designing.
All the creatures join in praises,
God’s intended wholeness finding.

Come, invited, now draw nearer,
join this holy celebration.
Here be strengthened, called to justice,
living now God’s new creation.

Christ, your coming and your hosting
gives us place at widening table
now embracing world and neighbour
Spirit strong, by love enabled.

Words by
Walter FarquharsonCopyright © 1995 by Walter Farquharson
Administered by Hope Publishing Company
Carol Stream, Illinois • USA

Comments About Song


In the early 1960s many congregations were considering whether or not it was appropriate for children to partake of the bread and wine at services of communion. Following a pattern particularly prevalent in Presbyterian congregations or congregations with Presbyterian background, the pre-communion hymn was often a signal for those who were not members of the church, including children, to leave the sanctuary.

As the Session of the Saltcoats congregation discussed the matter there was considerable ambivalence until one elder, Frank Blackwell, told his story. In the church of his boyhood, children stayed in the church during the communion but were expected to allow the trays with the communion bread and the communion wine (usually grape juice) to be passed by them. “Some day, when you’re old enough to understand what communion means, then you will be able to have the bread, just like the big folks do,” he had been told.

Frank shared with the Session members, “ I couldn’t understand that if this was Jesus’ bread and Jesus’ table why wouldn’t Jesus want me to share this special gift he was offering? Then, one Sunday, the elder who was passing the bread that Sunday sensed how much and how deeply I wanted to taste its sweetness, and he gently whispered to me, ‘Take it Laddie, Jesus sees you love him.’

Unanimously, the Saltcoats’ Session agreed that henceforth all children who wished to receive communion would be welcomed

While many churches guarded the table and defined terms about who could receive “the sacrament”, John and Charles Wesley had both described the sacrament as an “evangelical opportunity”. They saw the call to baptism and the call to the table as an invitation open to all who “truly heard” the call to respond to the welcoming voice of a gracious Christ.

For the early church the weekly gathering on the Lord’s Day was a gathering at the table. A common meal was shared. And in societies that define who can and who cannot share table time together, this is a radical move.

When celebrant and congregation all know that Christ is host, social dynamics begin to change. The gathered community, or family, is not composed of people who agree about all things or who have passed some litmus test of doctrinal or moral purity or superiority. The barriers of race, gender, ethnicity, social acceptability, economic and organizational status must all be rejected and the implications of that rejection must engender changes as we leave the proximity of the table to engage the worlds beyond.

In John’s Gospel much of Jesus’ teaching and commissioning is compressed into the time the disciples spend with Jesus at the last meal they will share together. It begins with Jesus taking the role of the servant/host . He washes the feet of the disciples and emphasizes that he has come as servant among them and that they are to be servants to one another and to the world and to those they meet. It is Passover time and the role of the meal host at the Passover is to recall the slavery the people had endured , their deliverance from slavery and their call to seek and build a promised land.

That emphasis links the Christian “table” to the offering of thanksgiving and to the celebration of deliverance. And the deliverance is always a deliverance offered “in order that …”.
The people are to live as those called to love mercy, seek justice, and to walk with openness and humility before God, God’s creation and one another.

John tells of Jesus reminding those who sit at table with him that they will do the work he has renewed among them, the work of the Holy One, the work of healing, forgiveness, mercy, empowerment.

For me, presiding at the table renewed my commitment to be one who serves, a person welcomed in order to be a welcomer, a person freed of unnecessary and foolish burdens in order that I could help others shake off chains of slavery and not be overwhelmed by the people, attitudes and circumstances that oppressed them.

What a gift it is that we can gather, have love claim (and reclaim) us, offer healing of body, mind and soul – and healing too of community – and send us forth empowered. We leave the table believing we can make a difference. We can participate now in God’s love and God’s intention of a new heaven and a new earth.

Note: The hymn “The bread we eat” touches many of the same themes.

Audio Sample for
”When We Gather
at the Table”

One verse played on piano

Scripture References

  • Genesis:14-18
  • Ruth 2:14
  • Psalm 104:14-15
  • Proverbs 9:5
  • Isaiah 55
  • John 17
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
  • James 2:1-9
  • Revelation 21:1-7

Season, Theme
or Subject

  • Bread
  • Communion
  • Eucharist
  • Heal, Healing
  • Justice, Human Rights
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Spirit
  • Table
  • Wine

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