In the past couple of weeks I’ve had numerous conversations about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper and the Presence of Christ in communion. It’s not like I’ve had a flashing neon sign saying, “Hey, ask me about this…”, so obviously something has sparked people’s curiosity.
This Thursday at our Maundy Thursday worship service I will be preaching on this before we receive communion, but I thought today I’d post some of my initial thoughts in a brief outline list:
- He is present when the Word is proclaimed
- The sacraments of Baptism and the Lord Supper are an enactment of the Word of God, a visible demonstration of the Gospel.
- As the Word of God is proclaimed, we also see the Word demonstrated for us in the sacraments. Christ Jesus, being the living Word of God, is fully present whenever and wherever the Word of God is faithfully and prayerfully proclaimed and heard.
- Jesus said in John 14:23 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” There is a “sacramental” connection between the proclamation of the Word and the very real presence of Christ.
- This is one reason why, as Calvin put it, when the congregation does not celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the worship service is like a “dry run.” Everything is the same, just the material of the supper are missing. Christ is fully present when the word is faithfully preached, with or without the celebration of communion. On those days, however, when the Lord’s Supper is received, the Word is accompanied by such a powerful demonstration of grace, to aid and strengthen our faith.
- He is present spiritually in the hearts and minds of the faithful
- One of the hindrances we moderns face is the trivialization of the Spiritual. We have little to no concept of what a spiritual presence means. We hear “spirit” and immediately think of some floating apparition from the movies. Spiritual is no less real than physical. The Spiritual presence of Christ is very real and powerful.
- Those who are in Christ are in Christ because His Spirit dwells in us. The Spirit of Christ “guides us into all truth” (John 16:13), produces in us the essential characteristics of the life of Christ (Galatians 5:22), and quickens us for new life in Christ (Rom 8:11)
- He is present in the congregation – the church is the body of Christ.
- Jesus taught us that, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt 18:20). Too often we are quick to point out that Christ is present in the hearts and minds of all believers who receive him in faith, but Christ is present in the congregation as well. The church is the body of Christ, and when the body of Christ is gathered, especially for sharing of a meal of communion (with one another and with Christ), Christ is truly present.
- Christ is in heaven, interceding before the throne of God for us.
- The Second Helvetic Confession teaches that “The body of Christ is in heaven at the right hand of the Father; and therefore our hearts are to be lifted up on high, and not to be fixed on the bread, neither is the Lord to be worshiped in the bread.”
- The logic is this, Spiritually, Christ is really present with us here, in the preaching of the Word, in the hearts and minds of the faithful, and in the corporate body as it is gathered. But physically, Christ has ascended on high and now intercedes before the throne of God for His church, He rules and reigns over His people, and is bringing all things under his authority. Are we, in the celebration of the sacrament, to drag the physical existence of Christ out of heaven?
- No, instead, we are mystically transported in the Lord’s Supper to His table. In the Supper, we have a foretaste, a momentary glimpse, of the Heavenly Banquet that awaits us in the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9).
- In this line of thinking, Calvin penned this as the Sursum Corda, the liturgy of the Genevan Supper: With this in mind, let us raise our hearts and minds on high, where Jesus Christ is, in the glory of his Father, and from whence we look for him at our redemption. Let us not be bemused by these earthly and corruptible elements which we see with the eye, and touch with the hand, in order to seek him there, as if he were enclosed in the bread or wine. Our souls will only then be disposed to be nourished and vivified by his substance, when they are thus raised above all earthly things, and carried as high as heaven, to enter the kingdom of God where he dwells. Let us therefore be content to have the bread and the wine as signs and evidences, spiritually seeking the reality where the word of God promises that we shall find it.
Well, I hope this helps, and I hope it gets cleaned up before I preach it on Thursday.