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Can We Talk About The Lord's Supper?
I ask us to reexamine our traditions concerning the Lord's Supper.

Where We Learn Our Best Theology

We benefit when we gather together as the Church to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, worship belongs to God, it is His by right, and therefore it is for Him not for us that we worship. But we do benefit in several superlative ways.

Some have said that we learn our best theology from our worship. That is one superlative benefit we gain from worship. This doesn't mean worship is a didactic exercise (didactic means something done for the express purpose of teaching, like a lecture or a sermon for example), but the things we are exposed to in our worship have great learning value. For example we learn from the prayers, the praises, and the psalms and hymns we hear during worship. However there are also teachings or doctrinal statements offered during worship, within the context of bringing praise. Examples of this might be bringing out details of the Lord's person, or His passion on the cross, or many of the things in the Bible that tell us about Him. These are all about remembering Him, His work, His person and character, the things in Scripture concerning Him, and His great love. But all is focused upon Him.

Yes, worship, done in spirit and in truth has teaching value. The direct and intentional purpose of worship is to give the Lord the preeminence in all things. It is our eternal vocation. The theme of our worship is the Lord Himself. Whether it be a psalm, or a prayer, or a praise, or a teaching about Him, all these tell us something about the Lord, all done in remembrance of Him. The purpose of this worship is to give the Lord preeminence in all things. But in pursuing our eternal vocation, where the theme of our worship is the Lord Himself, we so focus our attentions upon Him that we also learn deeply about Him. That is why we say that often our best theology is learned in our worship. And we know from Paul's conclusion in Romans 10:17 that our faith is based upon the hearing of God's word, in one form or another. The import of this for worship services becomes obvious.

What I have described so far is what could be called an open worship meeting organized around the Lord's Supper. Most Protestants don't attend such worship. Rather they attend a sermon based service, and then attend a Sunday School class for an additional hour of exposure. Those are explicitly times for teaching and learning, not worship itself, though the hearing of God's word is, in itself, a worshipful act. This insight was gained through the revolutionary changes the Reformers made. Direct teaching is valuable, but there is also a kind of learning that comes through worship centered on the Lord's Supper. One might suggest that just as it is easier to memorize poetry set to music, it is easier to remember God's Word set to a time of worship. The analogy is based on the idea that it is common to know the words of popular songs, secular or hymns, and it is uncommon to memorize the words of a lecture, or sermon.

All that is being said here is that effective learning takes place in non-teaching situations. There is no idea of displacing times of direct teaching with worship formats. We need both. But it can be seen how at the most basic level our worship can have great teaching value. Because in it we have (or it ought to be so) the great truths of the faith being constantly brought before us in a setting conducive to learning.

The fruit of the Breaking of Bread, the Lord’s Supper, is a strengthening expression of our faith. At this memorial of His death, which proved His love for us, we are celebrating the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Paschal banquet. Here our minds are filled with thoughts of His grace. We link who we are (His people) with what we are doing: declaring communion with Him. This reenactment displays and is an expression our communion in with Him in His divine life and in unity in the Church. We unite our worship with the Heavenly liturgy of worship of the Lamb. This memorial is a summary of our faith, matching the summary Paul gave in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. This portrays the mystery of the faith, it contains the whole Gospel, it decares the entire spiritual good of the Church: Christ Himself. It is our witness to the world. (Rephrased from a Catholic statement)

This is truly the Lord's Supper, He instituted it as the master of the feast at the Last Supper. He asked us to to this in remembrance of Him, and in anticipation of the wedding feast of the Lamb.

This memorial of the Lord's passion and resurrection is a time of thanksgiving for His good gift of life to us. Jesus blessed and broke the bread, giving it to the disciples to signify that all who eat of this bread also partake of the One Broken Bread, having entered into communion with Him, forming one body in Him. For this reason it is called also the Breaking of Bread, the name given it by the first Christians. It is striking that the Emmaus disciples recognized Him when He broke the bread with them. We also are called to recognize Him when we break bread in the assembly of the faithful.

In a figure it makes present the one holy sacrifice of Christ our Saviour. As we partake we offer a sacrifice in return, a sacrifice of praise, spiritual, pure, and holy. This is the most intense expression of the Church in celebration of what is the sacred Mystery of the Faith. In this way Protestants may call it a sacrament. These things are especially true in our celebration of the Lord's Supper (if it so be that we properly celebrate it!). It is fitting that our most profound corporate worship also has the most profound teaching value. The various aspects of the Lord's Supper, each discussed in the preceding chapters, have their own individual lessons for us, teaching us something about the Lord Jesus, whilst at the same time preeminently directing our worship to Him. Then, at the conclusion we are sent forth to fulfill God's will in our daily lives, which is where spiritual and true worship begins (Romans 12:1 describes this).

For these reasons the Lord's Supper is not for the world to partake of. It is for those who are called by His name. But the world may watch, and learn from our communion at this feast. There is the sense of proclaiming the faith, and mysteries, as we eat the bread and drink from the cup. This has teaching value that approaches evangelism. We truly proclaim the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified to the world.

This dual nature of the Lord's Supper: first, a God given memorial to direct our worship to His Son, Jesus that He may have the preeminence in all things; and second, a time when we are blessed in communion with Him, and meditating upon Him and learning about Him, thus seeing Him in part thus being transformed into His likeness in part, we in part taste the hope of glory He has promised us in full upon His return; this dual nature shows a bit of the greatness of God's determinate counsel and foreknowledge whence the Lord's Supper was planned by Him to achieve His purposes in us, through us, and for us. Here worship of our sovereign God cleaves to our communion with the lover of our souls.

©FH 2012

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