The Eucharist Project: 4. Where to Begin
I sat down to write a quick summary of the Baptist understanding of communion. And realized that it rests upon the traditions of the churches and denominations that have come before it. So I figured I would start with the earliest denomination, the Catholic Church. And then I realized that that is based upon the apostolic churches and early Church fathers and mothers that came before it. So I figured I'd start with them but thats based upon the first communion that Jesus held in the upper room... which itself is dripping with meaning based within the historical tradition of passover. So where should we begin? For our purposes we're going to settle right down into that upper room where Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his disciples. We have three accounts of that moment.
"26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for a many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom." (Matthew 26)
"22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after e blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14)
"14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 i For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine g until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is l the new m covenant in my blood. (Luke 22)
The disciples sat down around the table with Jesus for the Passover feast they celebrated every year. They expected him to give the usual speech about the exile of the Jewish people to Egypt and their rescue from that exile and the eventual complete rescue from evil and sin in the world. But instead Jesus stands up and says some weird stuff about his body and his blood and consuming them under the new covenant.
This new covenant signified the beginning of a new way that God is working in the world. It was the fulfillment of God's promise and the beginning of a new Kingdom. This video does a good job of setting it up.
What happened in that upper room was the beginning of the expansion of the kingdom that would one day right the world. It was a revolutionizing of the Passover meal. The announcement of the fulfillment of prophecies regarding the coming of the messiah and the forgiveness of sins. The early church would look back on this meal and see it in a new light after his death and resurection. But that will be the subject of the next post.
As always pretty much none of these are my own thoughts so here are the some quotes on communion I found intriguing and links to some of the books I'm using for research.
"What Christians do today when they meet to break bread and drink wine together is the central Christian action, which links us in an unbroken line to that little church in Turkey nineteen hundred and some years ago, and ultimately of course to Jesus and his friends in the Upper Room on the night he was about to be betrayed (and denied, forsaken, arrested, tried, mocked and executed)."
"The newspapers love to get hold of scandals in the church – some wretched minister caught with his trousers down or his hand in the till – but the real scandal goes on every week whenever the Jesus-meal is a sign, not of Christian unity but of division."
"At the Last Supper Jesus tells his disciples to eat in remembrance of him. Of all the things he could’ve chosen to be done “in remembrance” of him, Jesus chose a meal. He could have asked his followers to do something impressive or mystical— climb a mountain, fast for forty days, or have a trippy sweat lodge ceremony— but instead he picks the most ordinary of acts, eating, through which to be present to his people. He says that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood. He chooses the unremarkable and plain, average and abundant, bread and wine."
Other books I'm reading or using for research include,