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    ThuThursdayAugAugust31st2017 Take, Eat; This is My Body.

    If someone in front you in a cafeteria line reached over, picked up a loaf of bread, handed it to you, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matt 26:26), wouldn’t you think him a bit daft? I suspect two questions would immediately come to your mind: “Does he really believe that the bread really is his body?” and, “Why is he telling me this?”

    Our church teaches when Jesus broke bread with his disciples the night he was betrayed, the bread in his hands was not really his body and when we partake of the bread today at the Lord’s Supper, his body is not present in the bread, actually, really, or spiritually. The bread is a symbol of his body, broken for us.

    As for why Jesus is telling us that the bread is his body, Jesus himself supplies the answer: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19).

    A third, very practical, question comes to mind: What exactly are we to remember? I can think of two initial answers. First, we are to remember that he died for us. His body was given for us. Second, he is coming again: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26) A third answer comes to mind but it will take a bit of explanation.

    Look closely at what he said: “This [the bread] is my body… take and eat it [the bread/his body]… Do this [the eating] in remembrance of me.” The eating itself is the remembrance. Of course, we should not just “go through the motions”, as if the eating itself has merit if our minds are elsewhere. But he didn’t say, “Eat something, whatever you want, and think about me.” He called the bread his body and then commanded us to eat it, not anything else, and eat it in remembrance of him, not eat it and remember him. But why would eating bread be a remembrance?

    The answer is right in front us: Eating the bread is a remembrance because the bread is a symbol of Jesus and especially his body broken for us. When we eat the bread, we are eating his body symbolically.” Dare I say that we are pretending to eat his body?

    This “pretending” is important: It’s not child’s play and, as long as everyone understands that we are pretending, it’s not lying. We watch people pretend every time we go to a play or movie. When a couple renews their vows, they are pretending they are getting married for the first time. Hobbyists and historians re-enact great battles or great speeches. The pretending helps strengthen our experience and our thinking. The point is this:  Jesus wants us to think “I am eating his body” when we partake of the bread.

    It’s a symbol, but what a potent symbol! “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) He nourishes us, he strengthens us, he refreshes us, we can’t go a day without him, we enjoy him. All that is symbolized when we eat the bread. Think about these things the next time and each time you partake of the Lord’s Supper: he died for us, he’s coming again, and he is our bread of life!

    Dan has written two previous Elder Blog posts about communion, you can read them here:
    ThuThursdayMayMay7th2015 Baptism and Communion
    byDan Dillon Tagged Baptism Church Communion 1 comments Add comment

    If you only watched Baptism and Communion and didn’t hear what was being said, you’d probably be confused. Why is everyone excited about watching someone getting dunked into water? Why are these people drinking one ounce of grape juice and eating a mere smidgeon of a cracker? Many things we observe make sense “without the audio,” so to speak: someone taking a bath, eating a meal, driving to work. We understand what’s going on because they are so familiar to us. But without the audio, Baptism and Communion are just odd, even strange.

    Here’s another thing that’s odd about Baptism and Communion. If much of our preaching and teaching follows the form, “Believe this; now demonstrate your belief by giving yourself over to good works,” where do Baptism and Communion fit in? They aren’t things to be believed. One doesn’t believe Baptism or Communion; one gets baptized and partakes in Communion. But while they are something to do, they aren’t really “good works,” such as loving another, speaking truth, and helping the poor. Those commands are ethical, that is, commands to do things that, in and of themselves, are good and can be done by anyone, even non-Christians. But Baptism and Communion are to be done only by those who have faith in Christ, and one would hardly call them “good works.”

    So if they aren’t things to be believed or good works, what are they? They have been called many things, including “sacraments,” “ordinances,” and “rites”. But perhaps the simplest way to think about them is that they are ceremonies: formal events that have very specific meanings and are meant to celebrate, symbolize, and honor that meaning.

    Part of the “oddness” of Baptism and Communion is because they are ceremonies and our culture (and sometimes our own churches!) don't value ceremony. We don’t like the formality of ceremonies. We don’t like doing the same thing over and over again. We want to do something new and unique, not old and just like everyone else. Why do we need a ceremony? Let’s just get on with it. What matters is the reality, not the ceremony. All rituals are empty or, at least, not very important and certainly not required.

    The other part of the “oddness” is that, as ceremonies, they don’t make a whole lot of sense unless the “audio is on”: someone needs to explain to you the significance of the ceremony. Much more could be said about their significance. They are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed, and they are meant to be honored and obeyed. Even if they are not ethical acts or good works, “be baptized” (Acts 2:38) and “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19) are still required.

    If you have confessed Christ but not been baptized, follow his command and be baptized. If you have confessed Christ, do not neglect to participate in Communion, even if it takes extra effort (e.g., it is offered at Sunday evening Family Gathering). Do these things to celebrate and honor Christ.

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