The heart of early Christian worship was Table Fellowship.
Throughout the first three centuries Christian communities gathered once a week for a meal.
“The Pauline model−an evening meal providing real sustenance and also in remembering Jesus: a multivoiced symposium in which all could pray and contribute; face-to-face relationships in a domestic setting−was still persistent 150 years later in Tertullian’s community in Carthage.”
©Alan Kreider, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, 2016, pg 187.
I like that Alan uses the word “communities” rather than “church.” Community conveys the idea of one another fellowship much better that church.
David Stern, in Complete Jewish Bible does the same thing. He translates Jesus’ Word in Matthew 16:18 “I also tell you this: you are Kefa,” [which means `Rock,’] “and on this rock I will build my Community, and the gates of Sh’ol will not overcome it.” Howard Snyder calls it: The Community of the King.
Worship with family and fellow saints.
Since the Hebrews were accustomed to breaking bread as worship, they were oriented to praising and worshiping God with one another in the fellowship mode.
Breaking bread with others is a sign of fellowship. Those Jews who turned to Messiah Jesus after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost gathered weekly in homes and celebrated The LORD’s Supper in worship.
“Those, therefore, who joyfully welcomed his Message were baptized; and on that one day about three thousand persons were added to them; and they were constant in listening to the teaching of the Apostles and in their attendance at the Communion, that is, the Breaking of the Bread, and at prayer. Fear came upon every one, and many marvels and signs were done by the Apostles. And all the believers kept together, and had everything in common. They sold their lands and other property, and distributed the proceeds among all, according to every one’s necessities. And, day by day, attending constantly in the Temple with one accord, and breaking bread in private houses, they took their meals with great happiness and single-heartedness, praising God and being regarded with favour by all the people. Also, day by day, The LORD added to their number those whom He was saving.” Acts 2:41-47 WNT
God instilled within Messianics, as He does in us, new covenant community identity in Messiah.
“But you are a chosen race, a priesthood of kingly lineage [a royal priesthood, priests of a king], a holy nation, a people belonging specially to God, that you may make known [show forth] the perfections of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not found mercy, but now you have.” 1 Peter 2:9-10 WNT
Those early saints were gathering in the Temple and in their homes in accord with what God had made them. Their identity in Christ encompassed all who trusted Jesus for salvation.
That is the basis for our kinship with all who God has called out of darkness into His marvelous light. Whatever we do as royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9-12) is motivated by God’s love (1 Corinthians 13) and anything we do that is motivated by God’s love is ministry of the first order.
The Kingdom of God is in the Spirit (Romans 14:17-18) and God pours His love into our hearts by the Spirit (Romans 5:1-5). And, the fruit of the Spirit begins with love (Galatians 5:22-23).
We gather in our churches reflecting our community identity. We gather in small groups reflecting our community identity in face-to-face fellowship celebrating The LORD’s Supper together in the Pauline mode.
Passover Supper became The LORD’s Supper.
The meal began with a prayer. After prayer at the first Lord’s Supper, Jesus probably spoke Psalm 113 and 114 when he turned the Passover into the prophetic sign of the new covenant.
By the way, the meal didn’t get cold during the prayer, Psalm 113 consists of 140 words, Psalm 114 is only 106.
~ Bill Bremer