Do This

“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:19

I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase lately.  Whenever we gather at the Table in worship, the bread is broken, the cup is poured out, and we hear the words of our Savior saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  We hear these words, we see the signs, and we are reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for our Salvation.  His body was broken, his blood poured out, in order to bear the wrath of God against our sins which He bore on the cross, that we should be reconciled to God and born again unto new and eternal life.

At the Table we are reminded that Christ is the only source of life, and that there is no life without Him.  In John 6 we read, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my mood abides in me, and I in Him.”  Of course, this isn’t a call to cannibalism.  Rather, Jesus is telling us that we make take Him in by trusting and believing in Him and in His atoning death.  Neither is Jesus teaching that merely pulling up to the table and eating the bread and drinking the cup will give you life.  Instead, it is through abiding in Christ, and trusting and resting in Him alone that we find life, forgiveness, strength, and peace.

So we gather at the Table. Christ commands us to “Do this in remembrance,” and so we break bread together and remember Christ’s sacrifice for our Salvation. We see the grace of God evidenced in our communion with Him and with one another. We “do this in remembrance” of Him.

But is that all that is meant by that phrase? Is that instruction tied only to the Table? Is it possible that “do this” could also mean “be broken, yourselves”?

I don’t mean to suggest in any way that Christ is calling us to try to repeat His atoning work. If that were possible, why would he have had to die in the first place.  His death accomplished our salvation, His resurrection secured our justification.  Nothing more could be added to this perfect and complete work.

But are we not also called to a certain brokenness?  The apostle Paul describes his own life as being “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith” (Phil 2:17), and even “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24).  Now Paul couldn’t be saying that Christ’s suffering was deficient in any way for our salvation, for he had just written of Christ saying, “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20).  What was “lacking” in Christ’s afflictions was the ongoing manifestation, the sharing in the sufferings of Christ, “carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:10).  We share in Christ’s sufferings, we lay down our lives daily and take up the cross, we “do this in remembrance” so that His goodness, His love, His grace may be made known in us.

How then are we broken for others?  It is certainly seen in the persecution of the faithful; but it is not limited to such extremes.  Could not our brokenness in remembrance also be seen as we give sacrificially to support missions and the ongoing ministry of the church?  I’m not talking about giving up that extra latte each week – the luxury items you could live without – but genuinely giving sacrificially for the benefit of others. This is the type of giving that Paul honors when writing about the Macedonian churches who gave “beyond their means, of their own accord, begging … earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor 8:3-4).

But let’s get beyond money. Are not our lives to be broken, poured out, for the sake of others around us?  Are you investing in, pouring yourself out to, another person?  Are you sharing your faith with those who do not know God, and encouraging the faith of other believers?  The old hymn goes

Did Christ over sinners weep,
and shall our cheeks be dry?

If Christ was broken for the salvation of his people, and we are called to follow Him, shall we not be broken also in remembrance of Him?

The next time you gather at the Table, eat and drink in remembrance of Him. But don’t leave it there.  When you walk from that table into the world around you, be broken with Him, that all may see and wonder at the amazing grace of His redeeming love.

The Real Presence of Christ

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.