All the Promises of God

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This meal is a ritual that was established by the Lord Jesus the night He was betrayed. We observe it as a ritual—which is not the same thing as an attempted reenactment. In a reenactment, everything is essential. In a ritual, only the essential things are essential. But what are those?

How much sand can you put in the sugar bowl before it is no longer a sugar bowl?communion20elements20-20dickow

Some of the differences between what we do and what the first disciples did at the Last Supper are in fact sand in the sugar bowl. When we discover what those differences are, we should attempt to get rid of them. But other differences are not sand at all. They have no significance—they just come with the exigencies of translation. How do you tell the difference? Well, the first rule would be to avoid dogmatism. Nothing blinds in discussions of the Lord’s Supper like unwarranted dogmatism.

Suppose someone observed the Lord’s Supper with orange juice and potato chips. Suppose someone else did it sitting up straight, instead of reclining at Table. Suppose the ritual is separated from an accompanying meal. Suppose there is no foot washing beforehand. Suppose some use grape juice instead of wine. Suppose some wait for one another before partaking while others partake as they go.

The account we have in the New Testament (informed by Old Testament practices) was originally conducted in Aramaic. Our canonical source documents are a translation. The background assumptions governing a first century meal, and particularly a Passover meal, are lost on all of us. If you were magically transported back there, to sit among them as a thirteenth disciple, you would have no idea of what was coming next, what the table etiquette was supposed to be, and what you were supposed to do next. They lost you when you couldn’t find the salad fork.

All that doesn’t matter. But that does not mean that nothing matter. Keep it simple. Here is bread. Here is wine. Here are all the promises of God.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

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David Cochrane
David Cochrane
6 years ago

Not just a ritual brother.

6 years ago
Reply to  David Cochrane

He didn’t say it was “just” a ritual; he said it is a ritual. Which it is.

It’s more than that, but it’s not less than that.

Your complaint is like when RCCs mock us for supposedly thinking it is “just a remembrance”. Um, we didn’t say “just”, and Jesus says that it is a remembrance.

Charlie Reifinger
Charlie Reifinger
6 years ago

You raised a lot of interesting questions in the beginning that I was looking forward to hearing your take on. I was a bit disappointed that most of them never got dealt with. I understand that your communion homilies are short, but it would be a great post topic to hear your opinion on what are the essentials and what are acceptable cultural variants for the Lord’s Table. why is it ok to discard the Aramaic and reclining, but not to use orange juice and chips — or is it? Obviously circumstances are different and the heart is most important… Read more »