Eucharist - Lord’s Supper - Holy Communion

As with Baptism, the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper has many meanings. When holding or smelling or ingesting bread and wine, myriad stories come to mind. Bread: unleavened, for angels who sojourn with Sarah and Abraham at Mamre; from heaven, for hungry escaping slaves; miraculously abundant, from a small bowl of flour for Elijah, a widow, and her son; with milk and honey, in the promised land; leavened by a woman, in a saying describing the coming new age; multiplied, with fish, to feed five thousand; broken on a fateful night, as a command to love and to remember. Wine: for the wedding banquet, made from water; for the Passover feast; for the feast of the new covenant and its weekly commemoration; for the final banquet where none shall want for anything.

These scriptural narratives shape our understanding of the Lord’s Supper. As with baptism, we affirm that the supper is a gracious gift of our God who is free, yet freely chooses to approach us here in love. At the table we celebrate our embodied selves as creatures of the earth, dependent upon the goodness of the earth for our existence. With the broken bread we acknowledge the brokenness of the world. In the words we recite we come to know our own redemption from the ways of sin, and we anticipate the future banquet at which all will be fed. At the table of the Lord we renew the covenant, we encounter the Incarnate One, and we receive again the gift of the Spirit.

Thanksgiving at the table shapes us as grateful people who everywhere and always give thanks to God. Joining together for the meal, we are reminded of the call to make sure that food and drink, both ordinary and holy, are shared adequately among all. By the power of the Spirit, both past and future coalesce, as around our table we eat with Christ on that last night as disciples ourselves and as guests at the great feast of the Lamb that is promised and will surely come to pass.

Through the sacraments, God provides an inexhaustible well from which we can draw the very substance of our faith. Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are simultaneously gift and call. This double grace of gift and call is what we receive in the sacraments. Both dimensions of the sacraments need to be held together. Baptism symbolizes the gift of life, of forgiveness, and of the Spirit. The Supper symbolizes the gift of life and the gift of new life in Jesus Christ. Both symbolize the gift of covenant community, the gift of new relationship we receive in Christ.

Selections from Invitation to Christ - Font & Table: A Guide to Sacramental Practices (Presbyterian Church U.S.A. 2006.