Monday: 17 September, 2012 –– 24th Week in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 11: 17–26, 33 / Luke 7:1–10
My wife and I came into the Church in June of 2007 after over 30 years of pastoral ministry in Evangelical churches. My journey into the Church opened up as I read the early Fathers –– things that gave explicit witness to the centrality of the Eucharist in Christian worship from the beginning.
The inference of the New Testament is that Communion was not only a regular part of corporate Christian gatherings, but the focal point. The oldest written statement that we have concerning the Lord's Supper is here in 1 Corinthians 11. This is primary witness to what Jesus gave to his disciples the night before he went to the cross.
Jesus gave a meal that points to himself. Of course, we know that Communion points to Jesus' death on our behalf. But it’s more. It is meant to bring us to ultimate reality. The Eucharist is a Heavenly Meal. The time of sharing Communion together is a time to call all of us ― collectively ― to the big and great thing that God has done and is doing through his Son.
The New Testament word comes to us, Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. The whole plan and purpose of God ― that goes back beyond the foundation of the world, that centered on Abraham, and expressed its redeeming power in the Exodus ― comes to its full expression in Jesus Christ. In continuity with all that came before in the Old Testament, Jesus
was Isaiah's Suffering Servant. He brought Jeremiah's New Covenant into being. We are in solidarity with all those things when we come to Communion.
And not only are we in solidarity with those things that are part of God's saving work in the past, we have our hopes fixed on God's continuing work. Jesus projected that by saying his next meal with his disciples would not take place until the kingdom of God comes (Lu 22:18). That became the focus of hope for the early Christian believers. So Paul says here: Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes (11:26).
Christians are a people with a powerful past and we are a people with a glorious future. In the meantime we're “in between” ― suspended in this old world that is passing away. So Jesus has given us this special, tangible way to enter into what God has already done, what he's going to do, and the fact that he is with us all the way.
When we come together in the Eucharist, we come as a collective body of people who compose part of that select group called the people of God. We come remembering that God has always had a people. Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Miriam, Ruth, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Esther, Mary, Peter, John, Paul.... on and on across history until we come to today. Communion reminds us of who we are. We are invited to believe that we are part of the great thing God has been doing throughout history and continues to do all over our world today. That is part of what Christian Faith means.
One day we will sit at meal with Jesus in the glory of his kingdom in all its fulfillment. We are part of the people of the promised age to come. The Eucharist is our celebration that the risen Jesus and his kingdom is a reality right now.