The table as altar

Columnist Sally Quinn , writing about entertaining guests, tossed off a provocative comparison:

When you think about it, there is a sacred quality to the sharing of a meal. Just think of Jesus's last supper as an example. The table can be a kind of altar, with a cloth, candles, wine and bread.

This, I believe, is a valid connection. As we exercise the priesthood of all believers in vocation, we serve at different altars, where we perform sacrifices of ourselves in love and service to our neighbors. We present our bodies as living sacrifices at these altars–which may be a computer, a desk, a diaper-changing table–and they are also places where we can offer up the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. But a table is especially a kind of altar, and it is fitting to adorn special meals, such as the Thanksgiving Feast, with cloths and candles and offerings.

In a meal, we receive the benefit of life sacrificed for us so that we may live–the turkey gave its life for us; so did the vegetables on our plate–life being impossible without the sacrifice of other life. Every time we eat a meal, we experience that truth, which points to the gospel of Christ, who, in turn, gives Himself to us in a meal.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://uest fws

    Indeed! Religion separates the sacred from the profane. In the incarnation God becomes profane making it, once again, sacred.

  • http://uest fws

    Indeed! Religion separates the sacred from the profane. In the incarnation God becomes profane making it, once again, sacred.

  • Rose

    This is an inspiring post, thank you.

  • Rose

    This is an inspiring post, thank you.

  • http://www.reformationtoday.net Pr. John A. Frahm

    Here’s a pertinent quote from Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV:

    Now the rest are eucharistic sacrifices, which are called sacrifices of praise, Lev. 3:1f.; 7:11f.; Ps. 56:12f., namely, the preaching of the Gospel, faith, prayer, thanksgiving, confession, the afflictions of saints, yea, all good works of saints. These sacrifices are not satisfactions for those making them, or applicable on behalf of others, so as to merit for these, ex opere operato, the remission of sins or reconciliation. For they are made by those who have been reconciled. 26] And such are the sacrifices of the New Testament, as Peter teaches, 1 Pet. 2:5: An holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices. Spiritual sacrifices, however, are contrasted not only with those of cattle, but even with human works offered ex opere operato, because spiritual refers to the movements of the Holy Ghost in us. Paul teaches the same thing Rom. 12:1: Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, which is your reasonable service. Reasonable service signifies, however, a service in which God is known, and apprehended by the mind, as happens in the movements of fear and trust towards God. Therefore it is opposed not only to the Levitical service, in which cattle are slain, but also to a service in which a work is imagined to be offered ex opere operato, The Epistle to the Hebrews 13:15, teaches the same thing: By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually; and he adds the interpretation, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. He bids us offer praises, i.e., prayer, thanksgiving, confession, and the like. These avail not ex opere operato, but on account of faith. This is taught by the clause: By Him let us offer, i.e., by faith in Christ.

  • http://www.reformationtoday.net Pr. John A. Frahm

    Here’s a pertinent quote from Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV:

    Now the rest are eucharistic sacrifices, which are called sacrifices of praise, Lev. 3:1f.; 7:11f.; Ps. 56:12f., namely, the preaching of the Gospel, faith, prayer, thanksgiving, confession, the afflictions of saints, yea, all good works of saints. These sacrifices are not satisfactions for those making them, or applicable on behalf of others, so as to merit for these, ex opere operato, the remission of sins or reconciliation. For they are made by those who have been reconciled. 26] And such are the sacrifices of the New Testament, as Peter teaches, 1 Pet. 2:5: An holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices. Spiritual sacrifices, however, are contrasted not only with those of cattle, but even with human works offered ex opere operato, because spiritual refers to the movements of the Holy Ghost in us. Paul teaches the same thing Rom. 12:1: Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, which is your reasonable service. Reasonable service signifies, however, a service in which God is known, and apprehended by the mind, as happens in the movements of fear and trust towards God. Therefore it is opposed not only to the Levitical service, in which cattle are slain, but also to a service in which a work is imagined to be offered ex opere operato, The Epistle to the Hebrews 13:15, teaches the same thing: By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually; and he adds the interpretation, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. He bids us offer praises, i.e., prayer, thanksgiving, confession, and the like. These avail not ex opere operato, but on account of faith. This is taught by the clause: By Him let us offer, i.e., by faith in Christ.

  • Carl Vehse

    Somehow I don’t think a Lutheran understanding of the Lord’s Supper is what Sally Quinn had in mind.

    In her column bio, Sally Quinn states: “I announced to my parents when I was 13 that I was an atheist. And I was a committed atheist all of my life…. I don’t have any idea who or what God is.” In her recent “On faith” [sic] column, “Sarah Palin’s ‘rogue’ Christianity”, it is difficult to tell whether Quinn was spiritually moved more by her terminal PDS or her obvious ignorance about Christianity.

    This is not to say that it is impossible to find some isolated phrase of theological value in Sally Quinn’s columns; just as it is also theoretically possible to find something for your Thanksgiving dinner at a municipal landfill.

  • Carl Vehse

    Somehow I don’t think a Lutheran understanding of the Lord’s Supper is what Sally Quinn had in mind.

    In her column bio, Sally Quinn states: “I announced to my parents when I was 13 that I was an atheist. And I was a committed atheist all of my life…. I don’t have any idea who or what God is.” In her recent “On faith” [sic] column, “Sarah Palin’s ‘rogue’ Christianity”, it is difficult to tell whether Quinn was spiritually moved more by her terminal PDS or her obvious ignorance about Christianity.

    This is not to say that it is impossible to find some isolated phrase of theological value in Sally Quinn’s columns; just as it is also theoretically possible to find something for your Thanksgiving dinner at a municipal landfill.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    Of course she didn’t have it in mind, Carl. People say more than they know all the time. That just makes it ironic, not invalid.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    Of course she didn’t have it in mind, Carl. People say more than they know all the time. That just makes it ironic, not invalid.

  • Carl Vehse

    Coming from Sally Quinn, anything of theological significance would certainly be ironic!

  • Carl Vehse

    Coming from Sally Quinn, anything of theological significance would certainly be ironic!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Speaking of Thanksgiving dinner, Carl (@4), hope you had a nice one, and that you had family and/or friends to share it with.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Speaking of Thanksgiving dinner, Carl (@4), hope you had a nice one, and that you had family and/or friends to share it with.

  • http://uest fws

    carlÇ truth IS truth no matter who says it, even baalams ass.

    I too hope you have a great thanksgiving surrounded by people who love and care about you.

  • http://uest fws

    carlÇ truth IS truth no matter who says it, even baalams ass.

    I too hope you have a great thanksgiving surrounded by people who love and care about you.

  • Carl Vehse

    Yes, I did, tODD and fws; and to you likewise.

  • Carl Vehse

    Yes, I did, tODD and fws; and to you likewise.

  • Don

    Ironic speech often has profound implications.

    e.g. John 18:14 – It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

    This is in fact the jewel in the landfill.

  • Don

    Ironic speech often has profound implications.

    e.g. John 18:14 – It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

    This is in fact the jewel in the landfill.


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