Sacred Spaces: The Table

The center of fellowship within a home is at the table. Amy and I bought our first house last year, and we began having guests over regularly again (after a certain baby and his accouterments had made entertaining in a cramped apartment impossible!). For invited friends, I’ll spend days preparing and long hours barbecuing a meal to serve them at our table. An unexpected guest or a friend who can “only stay a few minutes” – I’ll invite into my living room. I’ll bring them coffee or tea or water, and we might talk, casually (and superficially) for a while. Though my living room has a fireplace, it’s no longer appropriate to call it a hearth; unlike a century or more ago, no one cooks there anymore.

When we eat with one another, we participate in an intimately human act. The necessity for food is a reminder of common creatureliness. When the food is good, we are reminded of the good provisions that meet our need. When families eat at the table – and distractions are set aside – love for one another deepens through real conversation.

Our Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, sets a table for us at the center of worship. The Bread of Life provides his own body to be our bread. The True Vine provides his own blood to be our wine. Just as our physical bodies are nourished by the tactile, common elements of bread and juice, we are nourished spiritually by the spiritual reality of Jesus’ intimate presence. My body requires something outside of itself for nourishment; my spirit is no different. And Christ provides for my whole soul by feeding me completely.

Years ago, our Pastor Emeritus very wisely moved the pulpit so that the table would be in the center of our sanctuary. Whether we celebrate it on a particular Sunday or not, the Lord’s Supper is the climax and center of our worship. The opening sentences of scripture and prayers call us to the table. The prayers of confession and declaration of forgiveness wash us up for supper. The reading of Scripture and the proclamation of gospel from the pulpit lead us – through both conviction and comfort – to the meal. The hymns keep us joyful as go; the prayers keep us thankfully dependent on our host.

In recent weeks, our Senior Pastor and I have moved our table forward and down to the same level as the congregation. Too often, a communion table in a church will be cluttered with ceremonial items and pushed out of the way. In becoming this, it no longer symbolizes the simple, intimate fellowship of a meal at a family table. It becomes the sanctimonious china cabinet that children dare not touch.

Jesus invites us to touch – and feel and taste. His call to his table goes out to his whole family, young and old. His provision of his body and blood for our food rejects anyone who thinks that they can bring anything to the table he needs. But for the humble, his welcome greets even those who are far off.

Sacred Spaces: The Candles


A few weeks ago during one of the strong storms that passed through our area, the electricity at our house went out. Ava, Braden, and Drew scrambled to find flashlights, lanterns, torches, or anything to make a bonfire. It didn’t matter to them, they just wanted the frightening darkness to go away. Ever heroic, Cindy and I lit candles and as the warm glow filled the room, our three children rejoiced knowing the light protected them from whatever they thought lurked in the darkness. The presence of light made all the difference to them.

We all relate to the fear associated with darkness. We tremble at reports in the news of the darkness in our world. Violence, disease, war, terrorism, political turmoil, suffering, pain, and death bring us tidings of discomfort and fear. We fear whatever it is lurking in the darkness we can and cannot see. However, in the midst of the darkness, the presence of the True Light, Jesus Christ, makes all the difference in the world for us.

In the beginning, God’s Spirit hovered over the waters of chaos (Genesis 1). He began to bring order to the chaos with a simple command: “Let there be light”. John explains to us in John 1:1-9 that Jesus is the true light that cannot be extinguished by darkness.

The light of Jesus, then, illumines us as we live in this world of darkness. We may first scramble around like Ava, Braden, and Drew when the power outage left us in darkness, but the end of our search for the light in our world begins and ends in Jesus. And because Jesus is the light, he makes us lights in the world around us. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells his disciples that they, because they are his disciples, are the light in this dark world. Paul would later say that, “it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, we are “to let our light shine before others” so that, ultimately, God the Father in heaven is glorified by all. We all need to be reminded of this command of Jesus as we live in our world each day as the city set on the hill that cannot be hidden.

To help us remember this truth, our acolytes bring forth the light to the Lord’s Table each week during worship. Yes, the same little children who are often scared of the dark proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ! The deeply symbolic act of lighting two candles on the Lord’s Table reminds us of who God is, where God is, and who we are because of God. The little children who bring this light proclaim that Jesus Christ is the light of the world and is present in our lives every minute of every day. They proclaim that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. They proclaim that Jesus has conquered the powers of darkness and will not be defeated by any evil. They proclaim that Jesus Christ has entered each of our lives and set us up as a city on a hill to the glory of God the Father. These are but a few of the proclamations made by the acolytes each Sunday.

Then, at the conclusion of each service, those same acolytes return to take the light from the Lord’s Table into the world. We do not leave church under our own power. We do not leave with no travel plans. Jesus leads, we follow. Jesus is the light of the world and wherever he leads us is the mission field of God. It is in these mission fields where we let our light shine. We follow Jesus with the confidence that the light cannot be overcome by darkness. Paul says in Romans 8:37 that we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Therefore, we do not leave our “Sunday-selves” behind in the sanctuary after worship. We carry our worship into the dark world and prayerfully allow the light of Christ to shine through us as we serve God each day with faith to know Christ has conquered every enemy we will face.

The next time you see the acolytes bring forth the light into the sanctuary and take forth the light from it, may you be filled with the confidence that Christ is in our presence always (or better, we are in Christ’s presence always). May you know that he has brought an end to all things that threaten to harm you. May you have faith that in him you are able to triumphantly enter the world and do all things despite the attacks of Satan. May you victoriously carry with you the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: God is with us; God loves us; God is for us (and if God is for us, who could be against us?). We have this with all certainty in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.


“He hurt!” Three-year-old Will stared at the print of the crucifixion by Matthias Grünewald I had purchased for my office. “That’s Jesus,” I said. As Will struggled to understand, his face contorted like the fingers in the painting. Jesus is the one who “loves Will,” who “loves everybody!” Who is this man who hurts? Will’s sullen mouth gave voice to the inevitable confession – “Jesus…hurt.”

The cross remains an enduring symbol of God’s love because it communicates, even to a toddler, that God’s love is not sanitized. The love poured out for us in Christ is dirty, naked, bruised, ripped open, and bloodied. It is a love that sympathizes with us in our weakness because it is a love that willingly endured our common weakness – death. God’s love hurts for us and with us.

The cross in our sanctuary is our reminder of this love that hurts. It inoculates us against the false perception that the ultimate cause of our hurt is God. When we look at the cross, we see the reflection of the cause – “for the wages of sin is death.” The cross reminds us that hurt and death were not original to God’s “very good” creation.

Hurt and death are our creations. Our sin is their crooked mold; our rebellion, their forge. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners,” Jesus Christ crushed the mold with his broken body and doused the flames with his blood. The cross of Christ reminds us that the spear we created to pierce God’s side, God has beaten into a pruning hook. The cross reminds us that with his tears, Christ wipes away every tear; with his death, Christ makes death no more.

For the former things have passed away.” This love that hurts transforms our worship and our lives. The cross in our sanctuary stands in judgment over the false belief that our Sunday morning hour is simply about trying to “do better.” It mocks our vain attempt to say that our worship corresponds to any worldly wisdom. It suffocates our aspirations of power and might; it proclaims that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness.”

We comprehend that weakness in understanding that when Christ says, “Follow me,” he is leading us to the cross. And when Christ says, “take up your cross,” he does not bid us to come as spectator. We come as participants. Every Sunday, the cross in our sanctuary proclaims the promise of our baptism, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

The way of the cross – despite its original intention – is the way toward life. When I showed Will the print of Grünewald’s resurrection, Will completed his confession: “Now Jesus feel much better!” The cross in our sanctuary proclaims this “much better” hope to us each Sunday: “For those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” Amen.

Sacred Spaces: Introduction


A sanctuary is a sacred space. It is set apart for holy and life giving purposes. The psalmists often yearn to enter the sanctuary to worship God in his holy presence (Psalm 122). While Jonah is in the belly of the great fish—as he is attempting to flee God’s presence—he ironically sets his heart upon the sanctuary of God and finds comfort in the rest associated with being in God’s presence (Jonah 2).

The sanctuary is a place where people enter and experience something greater than the world has to offer. The sanctuary offers what no restaurant, state park, concert hall, pub, or even one’s own home could ever offer. Not even the baseball stadium can provide what the sanctuary of God offers. Though the Bible tells us that there is no place on earth we can go and escape the presence of God (Psalm 139), God’s people regularly enter into the sanctuary to pray, worship, hear the gospel, participate in receiving the gifts of communion and baptism, and to encourage fellow saints as we live in communio sanctorum.

The sanctuary is more than just a room with pews, a table, a few instruments, and lecterns. It is a dwelling place that tells the larger story of God’s activity in the world. The sanctuary gives a lens by which we see the world. As we observe the grace of God in sunrises and sunsets, by seeing majestic mountain ranges and breathtaking ocean fronts, in everywhere and every time in between, it is the sanctuary of God where we are reminded of the one who made the beauty of the world. It is the place where—during times of conflict, tragedy, and uncertainty—we are reminded of the ever-present and never-forsaking God and his sovereign providence over all creation.

When we enter the sanctuary, we must be focused on the promise of God for us. As Paul asks in Romans 8, “If God is for us, who could be against us?” From the wooden pew to the communion table, from the baptismal font to the pulpit, we are called to see the Word made flesh in Jesus. We are called to witness the salvation given us in Christ by faithfully pointing others to him.

Over the next few weeks, Pastor Sherrad and I will be reflecting on the various features of our sanctuary at Homewood CPC. Hopefully, these reflections will remind each of us of the ever-present and never-failing God who acted in Jesus Christ to bring us salvation and faith in every season of our lives. May we rejoice together. May we be reminded of the promise of God to us in Jesus Christ that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8). May we know we are forgiven in Christ alone. May we live boldly in the service of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And may we rejoice when we see others come to know Christ and worship alongside the communio sanctorum in this sacred space. Amen.

Together in Christ,

Pastor Derek