Grace and Peace from Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Last month I made a few observations about baptism and how it serves to shape our desires, develop our imagination, mold our habits and set us apart for our calling from God. Baptism is not something that we observe every Sunday, although the font is placed before us every week to encourage us to remember that we live out of our baptisms. The Lord’s Supper, on the other hand, should be seen as a normal part of the worship service. In fact, the great church reformer John Calvin wished that he could observe the Lord’s Supper every week.1 The liturgy of this sacrament, like the litany of confession and the liturgy of baptism, is a microcosm of the whole worship service. Therefore, in the Lord’s Supper liturgy we hear the entire gospel story including even seeing the bread broken and the cup poured.2
In the Lord’s Supper, the people are able to taste and see that the Lord is good as they remember His death until He comes. Thus what is dramatically new in the worship service with the Lord’s Supper is the way the physical body of each baptized worshiper participates using their mouths to taste, as James K.A. Smith says, “with a sort
of sanctified salivation.” He describes the meal’s impact this way:
The tangible display and performance of the gospel in the Lord’s Supper is a deeply affecting practice. Its sights and smells, its rhythms and movements, are the sort of thing that seep into our imaginations and become second nature. Just as a song makes words stick in our memory, so the sights, smells, and rhythms of the Eucharist seem to make the story both come alive and wriggle into our imaginations in a way that it wouldn’t otherwise.3
The Lord’s Supper also is a practice of eschatological imagination (i.e., imagining the end times). We eat together a foretaste of the wedding feast in the new heavens and earth with former enemies now forgiven – a glimpse of how things should be ahead of time.4 The meal shows us the true meaning of “words have to become flesh”5 as not only do we Spiritually feed on Christ, and not only is the sacrament a visible word of God, but also as we practice living the gospel eating and drinking together.
Clearly Jesus instituted this sacrament that we might receive grace from God, be nourished to do His will, and so much more.
1 The government restricted the Lord’s Supper to once each quarter where Calvin served as a pastor.
2 James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, p.197.
3 Ibid., p.198.
4 Ibid., p.200.
5 Garber, Visions of Vocation, p.120.