"HERE AT THY TABLE, LORD"
"When the even was come, He sat down with the twelve" (Matt.26.20)
INTRO.: A hymn which emphasizes the importance of what we do when we spiritually sit down with Jesus in eating the Lord’s supper, as He physically sat down with the twelve, is "Here At Thy Table, Lord." The text was written by May Pierpoint Hoyt, who lived in the late nineteenth century. No information has been found to identify this author. William J. Reynolds in Handbook to the Baptist Hymnal (1991) wrote, "Because her Lord’s Supper hymn has appeared quite generally in hymn collections of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), it has been assumed that she was a member of that fellowship. Hymnologist Arthur N. Wake says that this is one of the favorite communion hymns of the Disciples of Christ." The song is believed to date from around 1889 and first appeared in The Church Hymnary of 1891 compiled by Edward A. Bedell. Almost all books which include the song use the tune (Bread of Life) that William Fiske Sherwin composed for, and to which we sing, Mary Artemesia Lathbury’s Bible study hymn "Break Thou The Bread Of Life." Since many churches have erroneously used "Break Thou The Bread Of Life" as a song before the Lord’s supper, it is possible that May P. Hoyt produced these words to fit the same melody for use as a communion hymn in its place, as later did Ellis Crum with his "Dear Lord, We Break the Bread."
However, I have a personal dislike for using the same tune with different songs, so searching around through some old hymnbooks I found another tune (Enon) that works with "Here At Thy Table, Lord." It was composed by E. S. Widdeman (19th Century). I have been able to find no other information about it or the composer, although one book identifies him as "Rev." E. S. Widdeman." Cyberhymnal does list an Ephraim Soliday Widdemer who composed music for "In Imitation, Lord of Thee." In setting type for older books, a smudge could easily make "Widdemer" look like "Widdeman" or vice versa. Since this tune is found in Mennonite hymnals with songs like Henry Francis Lyte’s "Abide With Me" and John Ellerton’s "Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise," it might be assumed that Widdeman was a Mennonite. Also, the hymn "In Imitation, Lord of Thee" is about footwashing, a common religious practice among the Mennonites, so it is possible that Widdemer and Widdeman may be the same person. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Here At Thy Table, Lord," with the Sherwin tune, appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, it may be found, again with the Sherwin tune, in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann.
The song seeks to apply the benefits of the Lord’s supper to our everyday lives.
I. Stanza 1 refers to the table
"Here at Thy table, Lord, This sacred hour,
O let us feel Thee near In loving power,
Calling our thoughts away From self and sin,
As to Thy banquet hall We enter in."
A. Being "at Thy table" represents communing with the Lord in the bread and the cup: 1 Cor. 10.16
B. The Lord’s supper is designed to help draw us near to the Lord: Jas. 4.8
C. To partake worthily, we must call our thoughts away from self and sin and set our affections on things above: Col. 3.1-2
II. Stanza 2 refers to the feast
"Sit at the feast, dear Lord, Break Thou the bread;
Fill Thou the cup that brings Life to the dead,
That we may find in Thee Pardon and peace,
And from all bondage win A full release."
A. Jesus will "sit at the feast" with us in the sense that He has promised spiritually to eat and drink anew with His disciples in His
kingdom: Mk. 14.22-25
B. As we break the bread, we are reminded that it represents the body of Him who is the bread of life who gave Himself for us: Jn. 6.32-33
C. As we drink the cup, we are reminded that it represents the blood of Christ which gives life to the dead, brings pardon and peace, and wins a full release to those in bondage: Matt. 26.27-28
III. Stanza 3 refers to our lives
"So shall our life of faith Be full, be sweet;
And we shall find our strength For each day meet.
Fed by Thy living bread, All hunger past,
We shall be satisfied, And saved at last."
A. If we partake of the supper worthily, it will help us to walk by faith: 2 Cor. 5.7
B. It will also help us to have the spiritual strength to face each day as it comes: Col. 1.9-11
C. Just as we break the bread in the Lord’s supper, so through the word of God we can be fed with the living bread of Christ to be prepared for eternal salvation: Matt. 5.6
IV. Stanza 4 refers to our hope
"Come then, O holy Christ, Feed us, we pray;
Touch with Thy pierced hand Each common day,
Making this earthly life Full of Thy grace,
Till in the home of heaven We find our place."
A. The figurative nature of this stanza, as well as the whole song, must be understood; the plea for Christ to come and feed us is not literal but spiritual through His presence in our assemblies and our lives: Matt. 18.20, 28.20
B. He does not touch each day literally with His pierced hand, but as we apply the principles of His word, as magnified by our remembrance of His death in the Lord’s supper, to our everyday lives, it is as if we, like Thomas, can see His pierced hands with the eye of faith to lead and protect us: Jn. 20.24-29
C. And in this way, He is pointing us toward that "home of heaven" where we can find a place: Jn. 14.1-3
CONCL.: We must be careful that we do not attach too much "mystical" significance to the Lord’s supper. It is not the actual body and blood of Christ, nor is the "real presence" of Christ in it. It is not a "sacrament" by which sins are forgiven or other direct manifestations of grace are imparted. It is a memorial, designed to focus our minds each week on the sacrifice of Christ for our sins and what that means to us. By remembering this often, we are spiritually strengthened in our resolve to live for Him and do His will. We need to think about these things as we come before the Lord in His supper and say, "Here At Thy Table, Lord."