My book on the Lord’s Supper is called “Holy Communion: Celebrating God with Us” (Abingdon Press, December 2014) and is part of the “Belief Matters” series edited by Will Willimon. This book explores the Lord’s Supper as a powerful means of grace for Christian formation and church renewal.
You can read more about it and order a copy by clicking this link. The italicized excerpt below (which is followed by some additional thoughts and commentary) comes from Chapter 3, “Celebrating the Bread of Life Given for All,” and it considers how, through the Eucharist, God feeds our souls in a meal prepared carefully, and indeed lovingly, for us all.
Almost all of us have had the experience of being the recipient of a carefully prepared meal. Maybe you recall meals at your grandparents’ house or your parents’ house, or special meals somewhere else with family and friends, like on holidays. Who can pass up turkey at Thanksgiving? When I think about the idea of a carefully prepared meal, my mind goes back to when Molly (who is now my wife) and I had our first date. She cooked my favorite dish, lasagna. Later I learned that it was her first time using that lasagna recipe. Her mom and sister had strongly advised her that she either cook something she was familiar making or suggest we eat out instead. The stakes were high, but Molly made a delicious meal that we both enjoyed that night. Suffice it to say, she had me from the first bite. I liked her lasagna, but even more, I liked the cook and hostess herself. I wanted to get to know her better. Thankfully, the interest was mutual. Many meals ensued, but I will never forget that one!
Holy Communion is a special meal. It is special because it communicates what is central to our faith. Through it Christ, the host, reveals to us something important about himself; he reveals his heart, which allows us to know him better. So why did Jesus institute the Lord’s Supper? Why did he say of the bread, “Take and eat; this is my body” and of the cup, “Drink from this all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant” (Matthew 26:26, 27)?
There has been much speculation over the years as to the meaning of these words, and the reasons Jesus would say and do this….Perhaps the most compelling explanation that I have come across has to do with friendship. Thomas Aquinas, a thirteenth-century theologian, said that one of the intrinsic reasons behind the Lord’s Supper is the love of friendship (Summa theologiae, q. 75, a. 1.). Friends want to be together.
It has been said that the dinner table—that place where we eat, talk, and share life together with others—is an extension of the Eucharist. For you and your family, what has been the significance of feasting at family gatherings? How does the act of eating together promote fellowship and community? How is that also true for us all in the Lord’s Supper?
A hymn about the Eucharist describes the act of coming “with joy to meet my Lord” in this holy meal. What is your typical state of mind when you receive the Lord’s Supper? Have you ever come “with joy”? What would it mean for you to do so?
In Holy Communion, we celebrate the presence of God with us, Jesus Christ. Through the work of God’s Spirit, in this vital practice of our faith we encounter the Risen Savior himself, our Lord and Friend, graciously beckoning us to come to his table, to be with him, and to be nourished and strengthened in the abundant life that he gives.
This post includes material quoted from Holy Communion: Celebrating God with Us.
Featured image courtesy James Coleman via Unsplash.