“Whenever you eat this bread or drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)
Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper…these are all names for an interesting ritual that the church performs which seems odd to outsiders, and even slightly odd to those of us who have grown up in church. At an appropriate time, we pass around emblems (an interesting word in itself) to each other, or perhaps we walk to the front to partake, a small piece of bread and a tiny sip of grape juice. It’s supposed to be a memorial, “do this in remembrance of me,” and at times we speak of it as the center of worship, yet honestly, our minds often wander to other thoughts of the day ahead, or the day before. So what exactly is this meal?
The Bible invites us to participate in the story of God. We are invited to find ourselves in the stories of ancient Israel, and the early church. Yet, it’s more than just finding ourselves in the story, the Bible claims the story as our own. Our father was a wandering Aramean. God did not make this covenant with your ancestors, but with all of you who are here today. The Bible speaks not as an ancient history, but as our story, even hundreds or thousands of years later. Whether we are of Jewish heritage or not, whether we understand first century culture or not, these are our stories. We are invited to embrace them as our own.
Thus, when we enter the Supper, we are invited to enter the story of the upper room. Do you remember the night Jesus was betrayed? Do you remember that as we were in the midst of the Passover Meal, Jesus took the bread and raised it up and said – this is my body which is broken for you, and this cup is the new covenant in my blood? Do you remember how he told us to share this meal together, even in the future? Why? Because this is more than just bread and wine? This is actually the body and blood of Jesus. This is the body that was hung on the cross and was broken for you. This is the blood that was shed that inaugurates this new way of being in the world. And as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you aren’t just eating a meal, instead, you are actually becoming a participant in the story. You are proclaiming the death of the Messiah, and that the world is now different because of this event. Our hope in a new world is because the lamb has been slaughtered, and it is specifically because the lamb has been slaughtered that the way of God is victorious.
Again, this makes no sense to most of the world…or even to ourselves. We are confused because it often feels like ritual. But we must remember, the Supper is important because it is a reminder that the world is different. As we partake of the body and blood of Jesus we don’t just remember the story, we rehearse and relive the story. As we partake, we become living testimonies that the world is different. We proclaim not just that we believe Jesus died for our sins so we can go to Heaven. We proclaim that we have now thrown our lot in with the slaughtered lamb, and we will live out the death of the lamb everyday of our lives.
This isn’t just a meal that we eat, this is a reminder of our fundamental story. We will refuse to take up the weapons of war, because the way to overcome evil is not through power, muscle, and strength but through non-violence, service, and self-sacrifice. We will refuse to separate into groups based on culture, race, or economics, but instead we will join with all groups and take the side of the oppressed, even when the oppressed are fundamentally different from the color of our skin or our socio-economic status. We will refuse to demand our own way, but will instead be willing to turn the other check, go a second mile, or be wronged or mistreated because God will lift us up in due time.
This meal, it’s not simply a command that has to be followed. This meal is a chance for us to rehearse the story of the death of the Messiah, and to proclaim that the way of the Slaughtered Lamb is the way to make the world right.
So as we come together, may we eat of the Lord’s Supper. And as difficult as it is, may we live the life of the Slaughtered Lamb until the New Creation comes.