None should forsake the “assembling of ourselves together” (Heb 10:25,26). Dare we let things slip that are designed to invigorate our faith and our provoking others to “love and good works”? This is a day of small things, but the Memorial meeting is not one of those. How great is our appreciation for the honour and privilege of being at the Lord’s table? The answer perhaps lies in our state of readiness to partake, and that, worthily!

“Upon the first day of the week”

How appropriate and how necessary it is for us to remember our Lord every week on the day that our Lord rose from the dead (Acts 20:7). It is both a looking back to that upper room and a looking forward in joyful anticipation of his coming again to eat and drink anew with his saints. It expresses like no other activity the “sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow”. It is the Lord’s command, but more than that, it is placed like the bookends of a week where, in the intervening days, we can draw strength to serve, to preach and to prepare for his return. Experience shows how vital that weekly remembrance is to ward off any inclination to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb 10:25). Brother Roberts wrote, “the table is a radiating point for those influences that help us to overcome in the battle between the natural and the spiritual” (Seasons of Comfort, p97).

This is a beautiful memorial supper with the Lord represented on the table and all of our senses attuned to the significance of a perfect life lovingly given for his friends. We are delivered from a greater enemy than the wretchedness of Egyptian slavery – ours is a greater Passover, a deliverance from the tyranny of sin and death. Our focus is the culmination of his “fulfilling all righteousness” and we marvel at the extent of that united offering of the Father and the Son. No other moment in the week is so expressive of their love. It is the highest point of our worship.

Due diligence

Ecclesial life in the first century was known for its apostolic doctrine, true fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:41–46). Necessarily there is a sense of etiquette in our assembly before our sovereign Lord whilst not going to the extreme of ritualistic observance. Today the challenge for us is to try and make the fellowship we enjoy as close, as intimate and as fervent in spirit as those earlier “house meetings”.

The presiding brother will consult with the reader and exhorting brother to align their thoughts with the theme of the exhortation. How our spirits are stirred when such a meeting has a cohesive theme from beginning to end! What lasting benefit is derived! Care is taken therefore in the selection of the hymns, preparation of prayers, readings, the word of exhortation and prayers for the emblems. Largely it is in the hands of the presiding brother to unify the meeting and to draw the many threads together. All blend on a clearly defined and uplifting theme rising as a sweet savour to our God. It is as if we draw up our chairs around the table with our Lord in our midst.

At the Lord’s table

Members are dressed as befits the occasion. Whilst it is true that attitudes are more important than the externals of dress, our choice of appearance does reflect our respect for the sanctity and honour of the occasion and the respect for the values of the ecclesia. We meet at the King’s table and casualness is inappropriate, however humble the setting. We come, not drawing attention and possible censure to ourselves, but in all sincerity with the meekness and gentleness of Christ to merge and blend in a holy assembly. Many will know from Bible Mission experience that many cultures see the significance of the occasion and wear their ‘Sunday best’ as they walk to village meetings. Materially they often have little else but their attitude glorifies the God Whom they worship and we would do well to come modestly and neatly dressed in like manner. Conversely the respect and admiration of persons is equally condemned by the Lord of glory when the “rich” look down upon the appearance and social standing of the “poor” (Jas 2:1–4). We are to be rich in faith and nothing about the apparel in its finery will commend ourselves to him who was rich but became poor for your sakes (2 Cor 8:9).

Sisters will wear a head covering so that both they and the brethren come to God as one through their mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Again there is a meekness and gentleness of Christ as the prevailing sentiment and an upholding of the Divine hierarchy (1 Cor 11:3–5, 10–13). The woman’s hair is her glory and must be covered to allow the Divine glory from both male and female to rise unimpeded. Christ manifested God’s glory and that glory is to be reflected in the deportment of the males and the covered heads of the women. All that prevails in that prayerful assembly is glory to God without any dominance or assertion of rights or privileges one above another.

As a family event, children accompany the adults and quickly become conversant and accepting of the protocol. Whilst it is a family gathering, out of respect for the sanctity attached to the occasion parents will be quick to quieten any restless child. It is to be a period of undisturbed worship.

Decently and in order

Meeting times and appointments are scheduled, for the smooth running and due preparation of everything from hall cleaning, table and floral arrangements, rosters to pick-up the elderly, doorkeeping, etc. Small duties faithfully performed week by week are noticed by the Lord and appreciated by those who benefit. The musical accompaniment to the meeting is selected to enhance the tone of worship and to encourage quiet meditative preparation. These lovingly serve Christ. The spirit of the Lord’s sacrifice is reflected in the compliance of all to the agreed procedures for the greater good. When it comes to ecclesial procedures at the Lord’s table, there is no specific injunction as to the form that it should take or to a prescribed set of words other than the basics as recommended by the Ecclesial Guide. To go beyond these and to insist on one form or another to satisfy a personal preference is not wise and not conducive to ecclesial harmony. The greater issue is to all feel a sense of peace and unity which, whilst we are so diverse, we are one by partaking of the one loaf (1 Cor 10:16,17).

We should not forget one all-important focus. Everything about the Memorial meeting is to direct our minds and hearts to our headship, that of Christ. The words of exhortation are just that – they exhort, they encourage our discipleship of our Lord and our readiness for his coming. The exhortation will rightly edify but it is not a Bible Class address. It is to be a suitable mixture of exposition and exhortation drawing upon many parts of Scripture, yet all designed to prepare the mind for the partaking of the emblems. What a treasure store of Scripture is there for us all to contemplate; so many types and shadows; so many Messianic themes woven into a rich tapestry portraying Christ, him crucified and alive for evermore! An exhortation having a rather oblique reference to Christ in its conclusion has not served well the remembering of Christ.

The collections are our “freewill offerings”. In an affluent society, are we in danger of being quite miserly about our contributions, forgetting the many Scriptures that demonstrate the vast richness of God’s gifts to us? Could it be said that we “rob God”? Is it not true that all we have is from Yahweh and that the little we give back is far short of what He is deserving (Mal 3:8–10; 1 Chron 29:12–15)? The spirit of the widow’s “two mites” was warmly praised. She gave all she could. For our part we must guard against a miserly spirit which may be a cover for our self indulgence.

The breaking of bread

Giving thanks for the bread, Jesus “brake it and gave to the disciples” (Matt 26:26). The Greek tense indicates that Jesus took the loaf and breaking it into pieces, he handed the pieces around to the twelve (1 Cor 11:24). When we place ourselves in the upper room we need to visualise the Lord himself giving us a portion, looking us in the eye and saying, “This represents me – take it – eat it, and remember me as you absorb it”! We contemplate what the giving of his life means to us. We can do nothing without, or apart, from him (John 6:51,53; 15:4–10). If we eat and absorb this “living bread”, we shall live for ever. As Peter concluded, “Thou hast the words of eternal life” and it is his life-giving teachings that are to be the motivating force in our lives (John 6:68). Each week we recall that he has chosen us and brought us into a way of life that transcends any other interest; a life that is, in effect, endless since it has the potential to stretch into life without end.

The blood of the new covenant

The Lord offered the cup to the twelve. He told them to pass it from hand to hand and to share it amongst themselves (Luke 22:17). They contemplated the significance of the crushed fruit of the grape, representing his shed blood, shed for the remission of sins. They could scarce comprehend the literalness of this action which was but hours away, but at each subsequent remembrance they, and so many others, would reflect with joy and wonderment at so great a perfect sacrifice confirmed in his resurrection. Our conscience is stirred and our hearts overflow with joy and gladness at so great a redemption. And the marvellous thing is that even at the assembly of the redeemed saints they still are in awe and wonder that they have been redeemed to God by his blood and their robes made white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 5:9; 7:14). Can there be any greater expression of love? It is a cup of blessing!

A joyous fraternisation

How we spend our time after the Memorial meeting is a good indicator of where our heart is. The Lord has observed our worship. He observes our interaction with one another. What characterises our speech? How much of the thoughts gathered from the meeting flow through our conversations afterwards? Let us use those precious times constructively and be bonded with the most precious people we ever come in contact with. Brethren in earlier days were insistent that no “business” or indulging in gossip should occur after the Memorial meeting. We need to be concerned that meetings especially called after the Memorial meeting or during the day or after the gospel address may be thought to be expedient, but they can so easily take our minds away from the primary focus of the memorials. The impact of that remembrance should flow through the whole day, unimpeded.

One day soon we will be invited to eat and drink anew with our Lord (Matt 26:29). Think of the thrill to be invited to the King’s table and there, as his friends, to enjoy the greatest of all social experiences – the close, rewarding and exhilarating contact with our beloved Redeemer! He will have brought many sons unto glory (Heb 2:10–13). They will look back to the path of sacrifice that led to Golgotha’s hill, to when he was Yahweh’s suffering servant. With his multitude of redeemed ones thronging around him, he will rejoice to be the captain of their salvation with all the feelings of a greater than Joseph, drawing his brethren close about him and speaking kindly unto them of that great deliverance (Gen 45:4–7; 50:18–21).