Monday, July 23, 2007

The Lord's Supper

From NIV:
24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:26 says, in regards to the Lord’s Supper, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” In pondering this verse I came to the realization that I always practice this sacrament with a certain level of introspection; I’m more focused on my shortcomings and prayerfully approaching my participation in the Lord’s Supper, than I am concerned with any other congregant’s experience. However, the use of the verb, “proclaim,” is interesting in that it defines the action of participating in the Lord’s Supper as something all (believer, nonbeliever alike) will see and take note of. I never before thought of the possibility that any bystanders were taking note of my involvement in Communion, nor that by my participation I was making any sort of proclamation other than that I was a confirmed member of the church. The secret? Therein lays the proclamation.

The Hyperstatic Union song, “In Remembrance of Him,” is largely focused on the believer’s experience during Communion: taking the bread and wine and prayerfully considering what it symbolizes (I use that term loosely, there’s another time and place for a doctrinal debate on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper). While, yes, we are to “do this in remembrance” of the sacrifice of our savior, and Hyperstatic Union’s lyrics and melody beautifully demonstrate the thoughts and feelings behind this act, 1 Corinthians 11:26 hints at a more influential reason for partaking of the Lord’s Supper. It’s not just a sacrament between you and your savior. It’s not just something we Christians do because Jesus said so. It’s a way for us to express our beliefs, “proclaim the Lord’s death,” and share our reasons for doing so with anyone who asks.

This thought is made clearer by my experience as a missionary. I’ve been to church services around the world and in several languages. I didn’t always understand what was being said. Okay, strike that, I usually didn’t understand what was being said, and I had little to no communication or fellowship with my fellow congregants. Nevertheless, this verse is saying that even though I didn’t speak the language, even though I had little in common, culturally, with the other congregants, and even though I was an outsider I could still be effective as a missionary through the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Simply by participating in “the breaking of the bread,” and, “the drinking of the cup,” I was able to “proclaim the death of my Lord.”

Maybe someone who never heard of Jesus saw me go into that church on Sunday and asked themselves, “Why?” Why would a turista (which is what they probably thought I was) take the time out of her sightseeing schedule to spend an hour at church service? Why would this visitor go out of her way to attend service and eat a bit of bread dipped in wine? (Intinction: highly recommended for bread served with sour European white wine) Maybe, just maybe, that same person took the initiative and asked a fellow communicant, and native speaker, why he or she takes part in this sacrament. Who knows?

1 Corinthians 11:26 gives me a bit of hope that God was using me in ways in which I wasn’t even aware. In fact, there are probably hundreds of similar instances when I thought I was acting normal, mundane, and He used it to open the curiosity and heart of a nonbeliever.

Oh, and for the Worship Leader's out there, the next time you need a hymn to sing during communion, try the song I mentioned above. There are many possibilities for instrumentals between verses and improvisation with the chorus. Take a listen on iTunes (it's the bonus track after "Now That It's Over")'s a stirring tribute to this blessed sacrament. 

In Remembrance of Him by Hyperstatic Union
Oh Sacred hands, wounded for my soul
This brokenness makes me whole
So my hands break the bread
Heeding words Jesus said
And I do this in remembrance of Him

By His stripes our bodies are healed
For this sacrifice the covenant was sealed
So my hands break the bread
Heeding words Jesus said
And I do this in remembrance of Him

This sacrament demands my purity
His blood was spilled and I have been set free
So my lips touch the glass
Doing what my savior asked
And I drink this in remembrance of Him

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