Reflection on the Unifying Power of the Eucharist

WHAT ARE WE DOING? I Corinthians 11:23-32

By Ted Schroder,
June 1, 2014

When we gather together around the Lord’s Table, what are we doing? Why is it so important to break bread and drink the wine as Jesus commanded us to do?

First of all, it is a Celebration. At the Last Supper in the upper room, Jesus was the host. He still is. He calls us to eat with him at his Table. It evokes memories of the Passover meal. It is a foretaste of the wedding supper of the Lamb in heaven (Revelation 19:9) It looks forward to that day when Jesus will drink the fruit of the vine anew with us in his Father’s kingdom (Matt.26:29). Jesus said that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matt.8:11). Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. (Matthew 22:1-14) We are invited to that banquet. It celebrates the joy of the Gospel of salvation. We are prepared to enjoy the feast because we have been clothed with the garments of salvation – we have been washed in the blood of Christ. Without those clothes we would not feel at home. The king of heaven tells us to go out into the world, and invite everyone, anyone we can find, good or bad, so that they also can enjoy the feast, and experience salvation. It should be a joy-filled celebration of thanksgiving. The Greek word for thanksgiving is Eucharist, which is another term for the Lord’s Supper.

This is the hour of banquet and of song; this is the heavenly table spread for me;
here let me feast, and feasting still prolong the brief, bright hour of fellowship with thee.
Feast after feast thus comes and passes by, yet, passing, point to the glad feast above,
giving us foretaste of the festal joy, the Lamb’s great marriage feast of bliss and love.

(Horatius Bonar 1808-1889)

Secondly, it is a Family Re-union. It is a time of fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Because there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:17) It is our common participation by faith in Christ which makes us brothers and sisters in one spiritual family. The Holy Communion is the most democratic institution in the world. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross. It is Christ who brings us together in a way no one else can. Jesus reminds us that true unity is to be found in the reconciliation he has won for us on the Cross (Ephesians 2:11-22) No one is more or less important to God, or should be to us. We each eat and drink together, not privately, but corporately, to remind us that we ought to love one another as Christ has loved us. This is a love feast.

I come with joy to meet my Lord, forgiven, loved and free,
In awe and wonder to recall his life laid down for me.
I come with Christians far and near to find, as all are fed,
The new community of love in Christ’s communion bread.
As Christ breaks bread and bids us share, each proud division ends,
That love that made us makes us one, and strangers now are friends.
Together met, together bound, we’ll go our different ways,
And as his people in the world we’ll live and speak his praise.

(Brian A. Wren b.1936)

Thirdly, it is a Sign of our Redemption. The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion is a Visible Word. It is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. It dramatically points to the place of our salvation. The bread broken, and the cup taken, are signs of the cost of our salvation from the effects of sin. They speak to us of the fact that Christ died for us, that he suffered in his body, and shed his blood, as a sacrifice to deliver us from our sins. Just as the Day of Atonement in the Temple worship emphasized the substitute God provided for the sins of his people, the sacrament recalls to our attention the costly love of God for us. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed;
Be of sin the double-cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and pow’r.
Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling;
Naked come to thee for dress, Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Savior, or I die!

(Augustus M. Toplady 1740—1778)

Fourthly, it is a Life-Giving Transfusion. By symbolically feeding, we appropriate, in a dramatic way, the benefits of our Savior’s victory over evil. “When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread that we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16, The Message) What we do physically, by eating and drinking, we do spiritually, by faith, in taking Jesus, his eternal life, his salvation, his resurrection power, his Spirit, into our lives. Just as you take food into your body, and its strength is transmitted through your body, so with your soul and your Lord. By faith, which is the soul’s mouth, you take Christ in, with all his grace and power, and he pours out his life and strength in you, and in that strength you live and work with him.

Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face, Here would I touch and handle things unseen;
Here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace, And all my weariness upon Thee lean.
Here would I feed upon the bread of God, Here drink with thee the royal wine of heaven;
Here would I lay aside each earthly load, Here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiv’n.

(Horatius Bonar)

A Prayer of Reception:
Come into my heart and mind and will, Lord Jesus and save me. Come in today, come in to stay. Come in to cleanse me and forgive me. Come in to comfort and heal me. Come in to empower and change me. Come in to guide and direct me. Come in to fill me with your Spirit of love, your peace, your joy, your patience, your kindness, your goodness, your faithfulness, your gentleness, your self-control. Amen.

(SOUL FOOD, Daily Devotions for the Hungry, Volume 3, July, August and September, by Ted Schroder is now available.)

________________________________________________________________

I must confess that I can hardly believe I found this article at the U.S. virtueonline web-site. It is not the site I would normally turn to for Gospel-oriented wisdom. However, I salute David Virtue for taking this opportunity to advertise the Gospel Truth – of the Eucharist at the heart of Christian spirituality and praxis. Nowhere else on this earth can be found such a powerful and yet simple touch-stone of the Crucified, Risen and Glorified Christ. We need more from Ted Schroder on this subject of food for the hungry soul.  

Here, on a conservative  web-site that often talks about the disunity in our world-wide Anglican Communion, is the author’s reflection on the invitation of Jesus to both Saints & Sinners at His Feast:

” The king of heaven tells us to go out into the world, and invite everyone, anyone we can find, good or bad, so that they also can enjoy the feast, and experience salvation. It should be a joy-filled celebration of thanksgiving. The Greek word for thanksgiving is Eucharist, which is another term for the Lord’s Supper.”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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