A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Lord's Supper in Wesleyan Perspective #5

Christology and the Celebration of the Lord's Supper

Christologically, the celebration of the Lord's Supper affirms Christ as God's supreme gift to us, as the liturgy proclaims,

We thank you, holy Lord God, that you loved the world so much you sent your only Son to be our Savior.

When Holy Communion is celebrated, we remember Christ's complete surrender in love for us. In the Lord's Supper Christ's sacrifice is proclaimed as universal atonement. What atonement means should be affirmed in all of its theological richness. Whether Christ's death is portayed as substitutionary, as victorious over evil, as a ransom, as reconciling and healing, as exemplary in nature... all understandings have precedent in Scripture and church tradition... and all together elucidate the richness of Christ's work on the cross.

In the Lord's Supper, we acknowledge that, in Christ God has intervened in human history on behalf of his world, and Christ's presence continues to assert his presence in our midst; for Christ is indeed presence in the celebration of Holy Communion. Again the ancient liturgy informs us:

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ...

By confining the presence of Christ to the elements themselves, the dynamic nature of the divine presence is diminished. At the same time, in reducing the celebration to nothing more than a symbolic act, the celebration of Holy Communion is undervalued in reference to its mysterious nature and it fails to affirm that the salvation offered in the work of Christ is holistic in nature, involving both the transformation of the soul and the body. Do we not sing:

Be present at our Table Lord be here and everywhere adored...

While the Lord's Supper is a memorial meal, it is memorial only insofar as we remember what Christ has done for us, but it is much more. Holy Communion is not a funeral meal offered in honor of a dead friend, but a celebration of the living Lord who now reigns in our midst. To view the Lord's Supper only in terms of symbolism and, at the other extreme, to place Christ's presence solely in the elements themselves, restricts the richness of Christ's presence with us as we celebrate. Christ is indeed present in the present. This is why we remember "the mighty acts of Jesus Christ." They have real significance for the present and the future. In the Lord's Supper "we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." If this is the case, this ritual of remembering is observed not just so we don't forget, but that Christ's real presence would dwell with us in the times we know as past, present, and future.

1 comment:

Ted M. Gossard said...

I love this post on the Lord's Supper, Allan, because you're speaking to a place that is deficient in my understanding and hence, practice of it. Thanks for the continued great sharing with us.