GodReflection: Life in the Holy Presence
It is not an easy exercise to look afresh at the Holy Supper.
Through the centuries we humans have fought each other about its content, logistics and meaning.
Should members from the first century drop in and see how the 21st century church observes the supper they would not recognize our tiny emblems or our procedures.
Perhaps that is ok.
I am a member of a church tradition that has long honored a weekly participation in the Holy Supper. I like the idea of supper observance on the first day of the week as symbolic of Jesus first day of the week resurrection.
The truth is Jesus did not give instructions as to frequency.
However, it was on the first day of the week—the day of the resurrection—when Jesus first appeared to his disciples. The eye witness John tells us:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)
Luke begins an account of Paul at a church in Troas with, On the first day of the week we came together to break bread (Acts 20:7).
I might note that the commotion and delay caused by a young man who fell asleep and from a second story window resulted in a subsequent miracle that delayed the service into the predawn hours of the next morning before the “break bread” took place.
I’ve often heard that the weekly frequency of Sunday communion is because Jesus commanded us to do so. I doubt seriously it is in line with Scripture to attribute a frequency command to Jesus.
It is worthy of mention that the purpose of the Holy Supper isn’t to verbally rehearse the horrors of crucifixion. Jesus was only one of thousands executed in that manner.
So what is at the heart of the Holy Supper that makes it color my walk?
If I were to select one word to cover its significance I would choose the word sustenance. Jesus picked the two life sustaining commodities most familiar to the people—bread and wine.
He raised the bread before his disciples and declared, “Take and eat; this is my body.” As he tore shares from the loaf he wants them to know, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
It was not a new symbol.
Previously they hear him teach, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.” And later as the disciples recall the Master’s words they must have remembered his remarkable claim, I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
It was common bread—not the rich food of nobility—that provided the daily sustenance of life found in their homes and their markets that Jesus raised as a symbol.
Surely, every first century disciple of Jesus had the “Jesus is living bread” thought invade their mind each time bread was placed upon their table or pulled from their sack lunch.
It must have brought a real sense of joy and hope to assemble with fellow believers as they raised and shared the bread to affirm their lives were sustain in Jesus.
Paul reminds me that I break the bread to affirm my participation in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).
Then Jesus lifts the cup.
Like bread, Jesus tied the wine to his DNA.
Earlier in their presence he taught “I am the true vine.” He made what must have seemed like an outrageous claim the first time they heard it, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
The red juice of the vine fills the cup.
“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.” And he explains, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
And so the symbolic blood of the cup seals the covenant of promises from the Holy.
Paul reminds Corinthian Christians we drink the cup as a cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ.
We drink the cup and eat the bread to remember the promises.
The promises flow from what the Holy did at Jesus’ resurrection. God, Spirit, and Son gifted eternal forgiveness and eternal life. It was a covenant sealed by the Holy with the blood of Jesus and brought to remembrance by the blood of the grape.
The promise is Jesus’ sufficiency to sustain my walk and everything I might encounter while I live on the face of planet earth.
The promise is the next resurrection and the return of Jesus to live at my side and at the side of every disciple who has placed their trust in God and the Son.
The promise is nothing less than eternal perfection lived with the Holy and without the pain and destruction common to my current reality.
The apostle Paul says it this way: For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).
It seems life with the Holy Supper is so much more than my feeble attempt to slow down and give it a few minutes of my attention.
I would love to hear your unique perspective as to how you experience life with the Holy Supper.
Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection on Life with The Holy Supper