When He had given thanks, He broke the bread and said, “Take eat, this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” He also took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 1 Cor. 11:24,25
These are likely some of the first recorded words of Jesus, written some years before Mark, the earliest of the gospels. In them rests the warm invitation to eat and drink in a most intimate fellowship with our Lord. (Rev. 3:20) If you’ve read my book, You Are the Plan, you may recall my suggestion that a table is the most accurate symbol of the Christian faith. The Lord’s Supper (communion, eucharist) is the unifying celebration of the universal church.
Those Love feasts of the early believers were their effort to memorialize Jesus’ passion in an enduring way. It was a common meal, each person bringing what they had and sharing it equally among all. It was the place where they also enacted the divine perspective, that is, our commonality, the place where distinctions of class and race and gender are lost, overshadowed by the glorious truth of redemption for us all. It was a meal where men and women lingered in fellowship, conversation, and strengthening ties through a valued unity of spirit found nowhere else.
Unfortunately, among the Corinthians this feast had become a fiasco, with divisions, cliques, selfishness, gluttony, drunkenness, and amazing thoughtlessness. The Apostle Paul censured them sharply, warning their behaviors and lack of reverent regard for others had disqualified them from its intended blessing and instead was negatively impacting them, body and soul! (1 Cor. 11:17-22, 27-30)
So, how are we to properly value our time at the ‘Lord’s table?’ Is it serious? Is it joyful? Is it mysterious? Is it exclusive? Is it perilous?
Well, to begin with, it is helpful to our Biblical understanding to realize the dramatic shift of focus the disciples had to make that night from Passover to the imminent passion of their Lord. With the wine of Passover in His hand, Jesus reached back in time twenty centuries and pulled forward the events of Exodus 12 into that upper room, infusing them with renewed substance and finality. Jesus was saying:
“See that blood on the doorposts of God’s people in Egypt? That was My blood! See that sacrificial lamb on their table? That was My body, sacrificed for all men’s deliverance!” For the forty centuries since that event, men and women of God have, in one form or another, Jewish or Christian, reenacted ‘the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.’
So Paul insists we must properly ‘discern’ the meaning and magnitude of Jesus’ offering of His physical body. He suggests the need for spiritual insight, and our obligation to bear witness to the glory of His cross. Haven’t you sensed the Spirit within, testifying to the importance of those few moments . . . “this cup is the new covenant at the cost of my blood?”
Communion is such a simple thing, a bit of eating and drinking, but in some remarkable way it is more than a memorial, it is a living contact with Jesus Christ by means of the same faith that seized on our salvation! Beloved, we must come to this table believing!
However, ‘discerning the Lord’s body’ likely also means the recognition of our holy relation to all true believers, and the destructive impact of any kind of variance with them. Clearly some of the Corinthians were behaving badly toward other brethren in the ‘Love Feast’ context, thereby dishonoring Jesus’ sacrifice for them. Consequently, when we share the Lord’s Table, let’s bring to it our ‘A’ game, as far as stretching our faith and opening our hearts so we may enjoy the full measure of His redeeming grace!
So then, what is the proper ‘mood’ or ‘environment’ of the Communion? Well, after these fifty years of sharing it with my friends, here’s how I’ve come to view it:
- It is spiritual but not ‘stuffy.’
- It is holy but not solemn.
- It is precious but not pious.
- It is safe for all but the self righteous.
Paul’s word about eating and drinking ‘unworthily’ in no way shuts out the sinner, the searcher, the sincere . . . is not exclusive but inclusive for those who know their brokenness or are exploring the mystery of Jesus Christ. The celebration’s character is never separate from the character of Jesus Himself, the ‘friend of sinners,’ the One pausing for the broken, or making some really good wine for the wedding!
In the FCF days folks would ask me if their little kids could take communion, knowing they were simply fascinated with the ‘tiny cup and a cracker.’ “Sure,” I’d reply, “Jesus was always calling the little ones to Him. Let them come near Him by any and all means!”
The Table of the Lord is always open, warm and welcoming the saint, the searching sinner, the strung-out and the stranger. There are no bars on the windows of heaven!
“He drew a circle that shut me out;
rebel, heretic, thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win;
we drew a circle that took him in!”
“Work, pray, fellowship with the brethren, do good to all, and eat this meal with me,” Jesus says. “And when you eat it, please, remember Me.” Oh yes, Jesus, we will never, ever forget!
Often at Communion I raise the cup in a toast to the Covenant that has taken religion out of the way, and brought remedy, relief, and rejoicing to all who come! We salute You, Lord Jesus! Let’s have a party!