I had the privilege of leading our congregation in the Communion part of the liturgy today at church. I thought about what I would say all week and tried to put a lot of work into it. Here are some of the thoughts I conveyed, plus some…
Because we take the Lord’s Supper every week, I’ve been more reflective on its meaning now than I ever have in my entire Christian life. Because of the constancy of my participation in this ritual I’ve had a number of ‘ah-ha’ moments. I’d like to share one of them with you.
One of the more meaningful thoughts I’ve had during the Lord’s Supper is articulated most clearly in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians:
“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Here we observe that the Eucharist has two functions – 1. Remembering a historical event, 2. Envisioning a future event.
Remembering a Historical Event –
The Eucharist looks back to the saving events in redemptive history, particularly the cross, where the body of Jesus was crushed and the blood of Jesus was spilled out for us. But this remembering is more than merely a cognitive function. No, far from it, “remembering” in the biblical sense involves participation in the saving events of history, themselves: When Jesus says to do this in ‘remembrance’ he is calling on us to enact this ritual as a means of participating in the redemptive work of God throughout history. In other words, when we participate in the Lord’s Supper, when we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we become one with not only his death, but also those throughout time and space that have become one with his death. We are united with Jesus, and through him we are also united with the disciples at the Lord’s Supper. We are united with the Son of God, and through him we are united with the first century saints who lived in light of the resurrection. We are united with Christ, and through him we are united with the slaves leaving Egypt who placed the lambs blood on their doorposts. In remembering this act this morning, we are collapsing these sacred, historical events into the present and thereby claiming that story as ours – or rather, placing ourselves in that story.
Envisioning a Future Event -
The Christian church is not merely a people who look to the past as the ‘glory’ days. No, far from it, we are a people who are future oriented, waiting for the return of our King. This is why Paul connects the “in remembrance” with the “until he comes.” When we participate in this body and blood before us, we are staking our claim in the future. We are saying that the temporal sufferings, trials, idols, sins, and calls for allegiance in this life have no ultimate claim on us. We are a people who, in participating in this event, participate in the anticipatory story of a Returning King! When we unite ourselves to this returning King in this way we proclaim that his return, though having not yet occurred, is still an established fact. In doing so we are not only united with that King, but we are united with all people, everywhere, in all times who have this hope. And, again, we collapse the future, sacred time, into the present and claim the future of this story as ours – or rather, placing ourselves in that story which goes beyond this present moment and envisions the Kingdom of God come to earth.
So, in both the remembering of historical acts of saving grace and the anticipation of future salvation, this Means of Grace event collapses all time, space, and believers into the present, uniting us under one God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit by enacting the story of redemption in our midst.
Think on these things brothers and sisters.