Eugene Peterson, in his book, "Christ Plays in 10,000 Places" has greatly stimulated my thinking about the Lord's Table. Again, here are some thoughts that come from that work, as I have processed them...
The church is a funny thing - by that I mean that it is quirky, goofy, and occasionally silly. And I also believe that Christ is quite fond of his 'bride,' in all her quirky self.
And here’s the really quirky thing: the church is a wide spectrum of understanding and mission. We have the cloak and incense bunch on one end; the store-front missions, independent fundamentalists, and Pentecostals on the other end; and the middle-church of the Presbyterians, Methodists, and established Baptists.
Friends, all of them is us. We are all the church; a rather diverse spectrum we are, indeed. Yet, in all of that, we affirm and practice - on a regular basis - the special gathering that we variously label: “Eucharist,” “Lord's Table,” “Breaking of Bread,” or simply “the bread and cup.” Excepting the Quakers, we all do this.
Biblically, there are many things - in scope and depth - that are accomplished in the Lord's Table. But here are two: the remembrance of Jesus and the proclamation of Jesus.
Let’s start with “Remember.”
This word means more than a mere mental activity. It is a re-enactment of what actually happened. It is more than recalling the memory of what Jesus did – though it most certainly is that. It also calls us to participate right now, at this Table in what he did and continues to do. This is where our Roman friends get confused: Jesus is not actually re-crucified. Hebrews, chapters 8 through 10 are clear about that. But as we go through our time here, we affirm that Jesus does continue to work redemptively in our world today, and we re-present him in these physical symbols of body taken and blood received. At the start of our week, we reaffirm that the gospel is for everyday, weekly life.
That takes us to the second thing that is accomplished ... Proclaim.
We proclaim the Lord's death. In what we do this morning, we - as a group - are preaching Christ crucified and raised. In a way, the Lord's Table is a parable of action to be observed by the world Christ came to save. We are exhorted: "How are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?" (Rom 10:14b) Alas, relatively few have taken that offer to be saved. Yet, we act out a parable which means this: "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
So that is the proclamation: Salvation is accomplished in Jesus' death, and only in his death.
These two things, to remember and to proclaim, are the intertwining magnetic poles of the Lord's Supper. We always remember the crucifixion of Christ and then always proclaim what has happened.
Remember and Proclaim.
But there is an implied warning here. If we emphasize one of these over the other, we get disoriented - our compass goes askew.
· Yes; we can “over-remember” - if we only remember and are not also authentically proclaiming Christ
· And, yes, we can “over-proclaim” - if we only proclaim and we do not also remember the grace we received in Jesus' death
Or, putting it more simply: we can be over-devotional or over-active.
Here, at the table, we are called to remember and proclaim; to be devoted and to act. As we do the Lord's Supper here together, we are encouraged to then co-operate with God as we leave this place.
Both together here and apart later, we remember and proclaim.