Every week at Redemption Hill Church, we celebrate the Lord’s Table. We celebrate the Lord’s Table to remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. When a person remembers, they look back at an event. But remembering also means looking forward. It is a bit counterintuitive to say that remembering means looking forward, but that is what we read in Holy Scripture. Take a look at this passage from 1 Corinthians 11. Along with Isaiah 53, it is the classic text for communion.
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, 24 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.”– 1 Corinthians 11:23-24
Ok. When a person approaches the Lord’s Table, a holy moment occurs. The Holy Spirit is at work. The 16th-century reformer John Calvin placed a high emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit during communion. Calvin said that a Christian is “spiritually eating” during the Lord’s Supper. In conjunction with the work of God the Holy Spirit, the Christian is called to remember (v. 24). The Confession of Faith held by Redemption Hill also focuses on the confluence between the spiritual and intellectual – the act of remembering. We read,
On the same night he was betrayed, the supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him to be observed in his churches, to the end of the world, for perpetual remembrance. The Lord’s Supper shows the sacrifice of Christ in his death, the sealing of all its benefits to true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, and their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe to him. It is to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him and with each other.– TFC Confession of Faith, 32.1
Our Confession of Faith says much more about the Lord’s Table; therefore, I will refer you to it here. But least you think I am picking up something that needs to be set back down; let’s continue to read 1 Corinthians 11. The emphasis continues in the following verses.
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.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.– 1 Corinthians 11:25–26
Great. More remembering. But did you catch the last line? Every time we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are to proclaim the Lord’s death until he returns. What is assumed between the death of Jesus and his return is that Jesus rose from the grave. After Jesus rose from death, he ascended into heaven, waiting to return. Notice that the second coming of Christ is directly connected to Lord’s Table. Christians sometimes miss this point or can not connect the dots between the crucifixion of Christ and the return of Christ. But here it is in verse 26. The instructions are clear. We are called to remember the atoning work of Christ on the cross while at the same time eagerly waiting for the return of Christ. As we wait for the return of Christ, we remember the work of Christ at the cross.
So we should not fly by the fact that when we celebrate the Lord’s Table, we remember events grounded in reality. In other words, Christians eschatologically look backward and forwards. We remember what Christ has done and what he promises to do.
Remind Me Often
I do not know about you, but I need to be reminded often. I am embarrassed to say that birthdays would be missed without my digital calendar or my wife providing reminders. So if I have wished you a happy birthday, it’s not because I have remembered; it’s because something digital or my wife sent me a text. If it is important to remember trivial events and dates (I tend to think my birthday is trivial), how much more important is it to remember the work of Christ?
If you do not mind me pontificating for a moment, it seems that evanjelly Christianity has forgotten the significance of the Lord’s Table. I poke at Evangelicals because that is the lane I run in. Ironically, some pastors and churches need to remember why our Lord Jesus instituted the table. In an attempt to not look like a Catholic, the Lord’s Table is arbitrarily regulated to a once a month or a quarterly event. Once in a while, the silver platters come out, and a few prayers are said, but nothing meaningful happens. Yes, some churches highlight and focus on the Lord’s Table more than others. However, it is disappointing to see that remembering the work of Christ through the means of communion occurs at an anemic rate.
Not So Rote
If one of my evangelical friends were sitting next to me as I write these words, he might say, “Pastor Shawn, when you celebrate the Lord’s Table every week don’t you risk it becoming rote?” I get the question. I grew up Catholic, and I partook in the Eucharist more times than a NASCAR driver turns left. But I could quickly respond, “Because you go to church every Sunday, do you risk church becoming rote?” The argument of roteness fails. It could be applied to various aspects of life. If anything, a good argument can be made that because the Lord’s Table focuses on the crucifixion, 2nd Advent, and everything in between, it is an opportunity to accent the work of Christ every time the church gathers. If partaking in the Lord’s Table seems rote, I suggest a potential two-part problem. The problem exists in the heart of the participant, and/or the problem lies with the church elders who lead poorly through the Lord’s Supper. Either way, the problem is not with the sacrament of communion but with those who participate.
Those Who Can Not Remember
Every week there is a segment of people who attend church who can not remember. They can not remember because they do not believe. Therefore, the Lord’s Table is reserved for Christians only. It is mindboggling to imagine a person participating in an event they do not know about or believe. Here is an example from my life. In the past, I have visited a Catholic church for various reasons. I sit and listen during the mass, but I will not partake in the Eucharist. Why? I do not believe in the theology of the Eucharist. With all due respect, the doctrine of transubstantiation is about as tenable as pigs flying. So how could I ever consider participating in the Eucharist if I do not believe in the theology of the Eucharist?
But the Table is also not for Christians who do not take the moment seriously. Talking to the church at Corinth, Paul says,
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.1 Corinthians 11:27
After verse 27, Paul continues to lay out the paraments for examining the heart before partaking in the Lord’s Table. 32.8 of our Confession of Faith succinctly brings it all together.
All ungodly persons are unfit to enjoy communion with Christ and cannot partake of these holy mysteries without great sin while they remain in unbelief. Indeed, whoever receives it in an unworthy manner is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord and eats and drinks judgment on himself.– TFC Confession of Faith, 32.8
Instead of the unbeliever participating in communion, my prayer for those who can not remember is that they be awakened to the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The ability to remember requires a regenerated heart and faith from God. For Christians, the Lord’s Table needs to be sobering. We need to remember that our sin is great, but the grace and mercy of Christ to forgive is greater.
Do Not Waste The Moment
Building off the Passover celebration, Christ inaugurated a New Covenant supper. It is a covenant that flows from the blood of Jesus (Luke 22:14). It is a covenant that needs to be remembered every time the church gathers. And when the church gathers to worship God, the Holy Spirit is at work in worship in song, through the preaching of the Word, and in the Lord’s Table. When we celebrate the Lord’s supper, we remember what Christ has done, and we look forward to what he will do. We look forward to another table, the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-10). I want to end with this exhortation to all Christians. If you celebrate the Lord’s Table once a week, once a month, or once a quarter, do not waste the moment. Remember and celebrate what God has done and what he will do in and through Christ.