When Spirit-filled Christians from every continent met in Brighton in the early 1990s for a week to study world mission they did everything together except share communion. The Anglican and Roman Catholic delegates had to ‘celebrate the eucharist’ separately.
If we understood the family meal aright all true Christians could share in the Lord’s Supper together.
Have we lost the meaning of eating together?
The new born baby needs to eat. God so designed things that he not only has to eat regularly for his physical nourishment but he and mother have to eat together for social bonding. The infant experiences social satisfaction in this continual cherishing and nurturing.
The world over, family meals can be times of social enrichment. The dinner table should be the daily focal point for keeping in touch with each other’s joys and pains, hopes and aspirations. Birthdays and other anniversaries ought to provide further opportunities or heightened enjoyment of fellowship.
Jesus added a spiritual dimension to these physical and social aspects of eating together. Orthodox Jews begin every meal with the grace: ‘Blessed are you, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” He surely intended that the Family Meal (communion) should be the highlight of any Week.
Like the first Christians we need to have more meals together during which we break bread:
‘ They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. ’ (Acts 2:46)
And, why not also in restaurants. In fact, we might do well to consider arranging our church meeting rooms as cafeterias – it would make it easier to discuss what is being taught!
First, we each need to LOOK WITHIN
Many members of the church in Corinth were Weak and sick, and some had died because they shared the bread and cup ‘in an unworthy manner’ – immoral practices (incest), superstition (Worship of idols) and religious cliques. Paul advised:
‘A man ought to examine himself before he eats the bread and drinks of the cup. ’ (1 Corinthians 11:28)
We need to put right any wrong attitudes among family members and ask forgiveness from them and the Lord, before we partake.
Then, together, we should LOOK BACK
Jesus launched the covenant meal from two ingredients of the annual Passover supper in which the Jews still recall their natural deliverance from slavery in Egypt under Moses. (See Matthew 26: 17-20; Mark 14: 2-6; Luke 22:7-38; John 13:1-38; Exodus 12:14-20.)
After a series of symbolic actions reminding them of Egypt (eg. a fruit and nut paste reminding them of the day of their Egyptian brick making, and parsley representing the hyssop that painted the lamb’s blood around the door frame, dipped in saltwater like their original tears and Red Sea crossing) they ate the roast lamb. After supper they broke and ate the leftovers of
the Passover bread and drank from the fourth cup of wine, ‘the cup of thanksgiving.’ These were the two items our Lord used to help us recall his death for us – his body given and his blood outpoured.
During the fiercest persecution of Chinese Christians under Communism, as factory workers sat eating their packed lunch in the mess room, one Christian said to another, ‘I remember when I was a boy …’; and, after recounting some uneventful matter, snapped a plain cracker with his fingers. Several Christians snapped theirs too, as they each smiled and murmured, ‘I remember? Later another recalled a different story, commencing, ‘I remember,’ then raised his cup of tea;
the others raised theirs, musing, ‘Yes, I remember!’
…. and LOOK UP
‘Do this in remembrance of me’. (1 Corinthians 11:24-25)
In addition to proclaiming his death (v26), we bring him to our conscious remembrance – just as a married man away from home fingers his wedding ring and instantly brings his wife to mind. The Lord is with us always, of course (Matthew 28:20), but we can expect to become more aware of him as we break bread.
The official view of the Roman Catholic church is that the bread turns into the body of Christ when the ordained priest says the Words, ‘This is my body’. After this ritual they may parade the wafer, hailing it as Corpus Christi, the body of Christ.
However, we should keep in mind two simple clues:
When Jesus originally said these words in the upper room at Passover, his body had not yet been given, nor one drop of his precious blood spilt. Therefore the bread didn’t become his body. He deliberately used verbs of action: ‘Take, eat, drink …. This is my body …. , my blood’.
Suppose you are expecting Uncle Bob to phone from the other side of the World at 6pm precisely. When the bell rings you don’t polish the telephone and admire it and address it as ‘Wonderful Uncle Bob.’ You take it and listen and speak through it to your beloved relative: ‘Hi, Bob, good to hear from you.”
In the Latin mass the priest pronounced ‘Hoc est corpus mea’ (‘This is my body’) from which came the term for conjurers’ tricks, hocus pocus – which is what we want to avoid, of course.
In the booklet What is An Evangelical Catholic? written by 30 authors we are told, ‘Evangelical
Catholics would affirm that the Eucharist (or Mass) is not a repetition of Calvary, ie, Jesus died once and for all.’ Therefore they would have no problem of breaking bread with us.
However, this is the exact opposite of official Roman Catholic teaching about the Mass. The Council of Trent still stands, claiming that ‘the sacrifice (in the Mass) is identical with the sacrifice of the Cross If anyone saith that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God – let him be anathema [accursed].’ This view was ratified afresh in the Second Vatican Council: in ‘the Lord’s Supper the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated the work of our redemption is carried on. ’
The Q & A Catholic Catechism repeats the idea: ‘In the Mass, no less than Calvary, Jesus really offers his life to his heavenly Father’ And ‘the change that takes place at the consecration’ means ‘the sacrament really, truly, and substantially contains the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine.’ ‘He is therefore present with all his physical and human properties, hands and feet and head and human heart with his thoughts, desires, and human affections’ Therefore, non-Roman Catholic Christians would not be able to participate in the Mass with true faith.
Jesus’ first creative miracle produced vintage wine. In his last creative miracle he multiplied bread, commenting: ‘he who eats my flesh; feeds on me; feeds on this bread ’ (John 6:54-58, Greek trogon, to masticate or chew on!),
The Anglican invitation sums up his desire that as we eat the bread we should ‘feed on him in your hearts by faith and be thankful!
We must also LOOK AROUND
to discern the Lord’s Body (the Church, 1 Corinthians 11:29, as distinct from his ‘body and blood,” v 27). We do not dine alone but as family.
…. as well as LOOK OUTWARD
– to deal with everyone justly and work for reconciliation in society (eg. Acts 2:46-47). Let us become broken bread and outpoured wine for a hurting world (see Matthew 25:35, 37, 40).
…. and LOOK FORWARD
‘… until he comes. ’ (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Then We will share in ‘the marriage supper of the Lamb’ (Revelation 1919; Luke 22:28-30) of which the Lord’s Supper is a precious foretaste.