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Eucharist

September 19, 2006

I’m sure most of you know someone who considers the saying of “grace” to be a mere formality before the “real business” of eating the food starts.  Some of you may wonder why we stop to say “grace” before eating.  After all, doesn’t it lend itself toward empty ritualism or vain repetitions?  While vain repetition and empty ritualism is not the subject of this essay, we may find one response to these questions in the example of our Lord.  Paul tells us,

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. – 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

Our Lord, in the night of His betrayal, stopped to ευχαριστησας [1].  He gave thanks.  Allow yourself to ponder what He would be “giving thanks” for.  From the several accounts of this event we know that this was the night that He would be betrayed, denied and eventually, forsaken.  Would He give thanks for that?  We also know that soon He would experience extreme anguish and sorrow.  Is that what He gives thanks for?  We know that at this moment He foresees the bodily suffering He will go through.  Is He thankful for that?  I believe His “giving thanks” was more than the often empty ritual that we go through when we bless our food.  The Scriptures do not tell us the words of His thanksgiving, but even if it were a short word of thanks for the bread, Christ knew the significance of that bread.  He followed His thanksgiving by telling His disciples that that bread was His body, which was broken for them.  How could He be thankful for that bread?  —-  How could He not be thankful?  Men (representative of all mankind), who are soon to be freed from the bondage of sin by the sacrifice of His body, surround him.  He gives thanks because a victory is soon to be won.  The greatest victory of the ages is to be won.  This meal is a mixture of emotions.  His body is broken; but that broken body secures the triumph of all time.  The groaning of all creation is silenced in the broken body and shed blood of the Savior.  It is a time for thanksgiving.Â

When we approach the Lord’s Supper, we should remember its “eucharistic” qualities.  We should give thanks also.  Our thanksgiving should come from reflection and cause celebration.  We reflect on the broken body of our Lord and remember the pain and suffering He endured.  We remember how He was forsaken by God Himself.  We remember that it was our sin that placed Him there.  And then we remember that His broken body saves us from that sin.  We remember that through His sacrifice Satan is conquered, death is conquered, the world is conquered, sin is conquered.  Christ’s death makes us victors.  In this Supper, we proclaim the Lord’s death.  But this is not the death of defeat; it is a death of dominion.  And for that we give thanks.

Is our celebration of the Lord’s Supper more like a funeral dirge?  It is called a celebration, and it is a time of giving thanks.  It should not be sad.  While it involves reflection and self-examination, it should ultimately be a time of proclaiming the good news of Christ’s conquering death and resurrection.

The Lord’s Supper is His supper celebrated with thanksgiving in communion with other believers because of our fellowship in Christ.  We show loyalty to the Lord’s Table as we remember His broken body and shed blood, which washes away our sin.


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Footnotes

[1.] eucharistesas – Greek scholars will note that I am not; I know I have mixed my tenses here, sorry.Â

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Categories: Lord's Supper, Voegtlin
  1. September 23, 2006 at 10:39 am

    I liked this post, and it gave me some ideas for my next message on the Lord’s Supper.

    I wonder, have you looked at why the Catholics call the Supper “Holy Eucharist”, or when they began to call it that? I’m curious. They say, “God bless this Holy Eucharist”. I had never stopped to consider what that means. So, they are saying, “God bless this Holy Thanksgiving”. The wording sounds similar to I Cor 10:16 – the cup of blessing which we bless .

    When we approach the table, we need to remember that it is a table of thanksgiving, a feast of thanksgiving, not a policeman’s ball.

    Thanks for this.

  2. September 23, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Mallet Factor said, “When we approach the table, we need to remember that it is a table of thanksgiving, a feast of thanksgiving, not a policeman’s ball.”

    Just for the sake of clarification: Was the reference to “a policeman’s ball” a swipe at those who are convinced of closed communion?

  3. September 23, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    OK, you caught me on that one. Yes, I was, though not them only. Maybe someone can show me that the church’s job is to “police” the table. I haven’t found that yet. The church has the authority to restrict access to the table, based on sin. That would be in cases of church discipline. But does the church have a responsibility to ensure that only those who are right approach the table? In approaching the table, are we not confessing our own unworthiness to approach it? Are we not all confessing that we approach it as men, approach it imperfectly, approach it needing the elements?

    Or do we insist that we all approach it with a perfect heart, or not at all?

  4. September 23, 2006 at 8:16 pm

    I’ll try to come back to this at a later time. I’m watching the great Brandenburg-Haifley debate right now.

    Are you going to deal with my work on Acts 2 in the other thread?

    Have a great night.

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