Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Lord's Supper, as a meal

This new book by Tim Chester seemed at first to me to be a little fadish, but he's been posting extracts on his blog and this one about the Lord's Supper stood out as a succinct summary of both the theology and practice of Communion.

But firstly some context; John Frame says the Reformation was essentially about salvation and worship; salvation accomplished through work of Jesus and our worship of Christ (not salvation through ecclesiastical means or our worship of parts of Jesus during Communion). I'm convinced that Communion is a spiritual meal but not because of something peculiar to the bread and wine or unique in the words that are said but because of who participates, God and man at table together, re-enacting the gospel message.  It's spiritual both because the stakes are so high, 'substitutionary atonement' celebrated in a meal (someone else's body broken and blood shed on our behalf) and because God has stepped into history and delineated a special celebration; passover-communion.

Tim Chester (who often writes like fellow Englishman Melvin Tinker) gently reminds us of the obvious New Testament precedent, Communion should be celebrated as part of a meal:

What we call “the Lord’s Supper” is a foretaste of “the Lamb’s Supper” in Revelation 19. It’s a beginning of the feast we eat with Jesus and his people in the new creation. It’s not just a picture. It’s the real thing begun in a partial way. We eat with God’s people and we eat with the ascended Christ, present through the Holy Spirit.  It should be a meal we “earnestly desire” to eat. We should approach it with anticipation. With longing. With excitement. With joy. The Lord’s Supper should be a joyous occasion. A vibrant meal with friends. A feast.  That must surely affect how we celebrate it. Today the Lord’s Supper has commonly become ritualized. We’re the group in town whose central meal involves a fragment of bread and a small sip of wine.  The bread and wine in the New Testament are part of a meal.