Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Lord's Supper

“Do this in remembrance of me.” –Luke 22:19 I can still remember, as a goofy elementary school kid in Fort Worth, being excited when communion Sunday rolled around. It meant free grape juice and crackers! Though I’m sure it had been explained to me, I didn’t understand the deeper meaning of the event. Ceremonies and traditions are great- if we embrace their meaning. Growing up at Arlington Heights United Methodist Church, I learned so much about who God was and how He desired to have a relationship with me. I am thankful for that church. I am thankful for my parents’ example in taking my brothers and me to church. We always hunted on Saturday so we wouldn’t miss church on Sunday. My dad taught Sunday school and my mom sang in the choir. Though my dad fell asleep sometimes in church (I love you dad), church was a value my parents wanted the boys to embrace. When I became a teenager, I got involved with a fantastic youth ministry called Young Life. All around the world, Young Life chapters are there to bring the good news of Jesus to teenagers. There, my relationship with Jesus deepened and I put my faith in Jesus. Leaders like Dale Volrath, Tom Wilson and John Trent poured their very lives into me. As they discipled me, I learned so much about God and so much about myself. The value of the church and its traditions became even more important to me. The Lord’s Supper, or communion, as some call it, is a beautiful ceremony practiced in most evangelical churches around the world. No church worship team came up with this idea- Jesus Himself not only invented and encouraged the ceremony, but became a real life illustration of it for us. But it means little unless we embrace the meaning. Jesus captured it in Luke 22: “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 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.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” -Luke 22:17-20 I’m not sure the disciples understood what Jesus meant when He shared the last supper with them. They did their best but, like us, sometimes they just didn’t get it. He wanted them to have a real life ceremony or tradition that would remind them of His death and resurrection. He wanted them to have a visual picture of the new covenant. But they struggled to embrace the meaning. Paul captured it in First Corinthians 11: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” .In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. -1Cor. 11:23-28 Paul was admonishing the young church in Corinth for treating the Lord’s Supper like a regular meal. The tradition was awesome as remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection, but they forgot to embrace the meaning. Amos captured it in Amos 5: “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen” -Amos 5:21-23 The Northern Kingdom of Judah was at its zenith of power. Commerce and power thrived but morality and lifestyle had sunk to a low. Religion flourished but their relationship with God floundered. The practiced all the festivals, offerings, and feasts, but God despised the hypocrisy. They forgot to embrace the meaning. There ceremonies were awesome, but the people just wanted the “juice and crackers”. They had forgotten the “reason for the season,” which is our tendency as well. Our flesh “cozies up” to the ceremony and forgets the reason. Of course, it’s not about doing away with the traditions, but about us renewing our commitment to the Reason. May we all be careful not to “play church” but to embrace the ceremonies and traditions as vehicles to loving and trusting our Lord God even more. May we be “all in” as we celebrate Communion and Easter and Lent and Christmas and Thanksgiving and every other tradition. They exist to steer us back to a solid and genuine relationship with our Lord. As we dine on the juice and crackers…. …may we remember the sacrificial love of our Lord. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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