We gather round this table (website only)

Original version (76.76.T)

We gather round this table
to celebrate the feast,
compelled by Christ who showed us
the greatest are the least.
Here heavenly love, the wellspring,
the Spirit flowing free;
here brokenness is touched by
God’s generosity.
Earth’s wheat becomes Christ’s body,
earth’s fruit his life-blood poured.
Such goodness grows within us:
humanity restored!

O God, in love you made us,
and heal by suffering,
yet spread a table for us –
our lives are all we bring!
Your Spirit longs to open
our hands and hearts and souls,
to give again your gifts with
the power to make us whole.
With absent friends unite us,
enfold in your embrace,
and build up here a household
that practises your grace.

Words: © Andrew Herbert 2017

Metre: 76.76.T

Suggested tune: Thaxted (StF 606)

Alternative version (76.76.D)

With Andrew’s agreement, we also suggest the additional possibility of singing this text over three verses, which adds a new emphasis to the closing lines of the new verses and allows a greater range of tunes to be used.

We gather round this table
to celebrate the feast,
compelled by Christ who showed us
the greatest are the least.
Here heavenly love, the wellspring,
the Spirit flowing free;
here brokenness is touched by
God’s generosity.

Earth’s wheat becomes Christ’s body,
earth’s fruit his life-blood poured.
Such goodness grows within us:
humanity restored!
O God, in love you made us,
and heal by suffering,
yet spread a table for us –
our lives are all we bring!

Your Spirit longs to open
our hands and hearts and souls,
to give again your gifts with
the power to make us whole.
With absent friends unite us,
enfold in your embrace,
and build up here a household
that practises your grace.

Metre 76.76.D

Suggested tunes: Penlan (“In heavenly love abiding”, StF 736) or Wolvercote (StF 561i).

More information

We might say there is nothing new to say (or sing) about the celebration we call Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper or The Eucharist. Yet those very three names imply that there are different ways of experiencing this shared Christian meal of bread and wine, and it’s surprising how a fresh turn of phrase can shed alternative light on our understanding of the feast.

In “We gather round this table”, Andrew Herbert alludes to a passage in the Gospel of Matthew (23: 1-12) in which Jesus criticises the scribes and pharisees of his day who do not practice what they preach; and he concludes: “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” There are echoes here of the Beatitudes (available now on StF+ in a setting by Kimberley Rayson), and of Jesus welcoming the children to his side, giving them value e.g. Luke 18: 15-17. (See Leith Fisher’s take on this passage in Says Jesus, ‘Come and gather round’, StF 510.)

Andrew emphasises the fact that the feast we share is for all. He speaks of God’s generosity and encourages us to build up a household that practises (presumably unlike the scribes and pharisees) God’s grace.

In the final lines of his hymn, Andrew speaks of absent friends with whom we are united through Communion. (Words that extend Brian Wren’s wonderfully succinct phrase: “Together met, together bound by all that God has done”, StF 588.) These are the “company of saints” who have left both an example of Christian living and whose own participation in the Lord’s Supper has continued the memory of what Jesus did for us in life and in death.

Categories: 76.76. Triple, 76.76.D., All Saints, Eucharistic, Herbert, Andrew, Holy Communion, Penlan, Thaxted, Wolvercote.

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