It’s interesting to me how we often associate one part of life with another. For example, have you heard the expression, “That’s something to chew on?” When a person makes that statement, he’s not necessarily talking about consuming a food product; she could be talking instead about a concept that merits our most studied reflection.
The combination of consumption and reflection has been on my mind this week as I’ve made preparation for our service Sunday at our traditional worship hour in which we’ll be observing the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is one of two “ordinances” in Baptist life (not “sacraments”), along with baptism. It reflects our obedience to Jesus’ command to remember his sacrifice and celebrate it accordingly. “Do This in Remembrance of Me” was the Jesus saying carved into every communion table at the front of every church I grew up in. But strangely, the observance itself was sporadic and inconsistent. I couldn’t tell you when those churches scheduled their observances. It just seemed to happen every now and then.
I want you to know that at Mountain Brook Baptist Church we observe the Lord’s Supper regularly. We observe it at least four times a year in the Sanctuary and on the last Sunday of the month at our contemporary service in Heritage Hall. We will do so this Sunday at 9 a.m. in our traditional worship. All of our observances are intended to bear witness to how serious we are about our obedience to Jesus’ teaching.
But sometimes I wonder if our regular observances might make the experience too perfunctory (which may be why the churches I grew up didn’t do it more regularly). Do we take the time to reflect on this signal act of worship? So, how might we give thought to what we’re consuming?
In the first place, understand and appreciate the incarnational nature of our salvation. God took on human flesh in Jesus so that our faith isn’t merely a smarmy spiritual exercise; it’s instead related to everyday life. The elements remind us of this incarnational aspect to our faith.
Secondly, the Lord’s Supper is supposed to give us the chance to express our gratitude for how Jesus’ sacrifice does for us what we could never have done for ourselves. In other denominations, they speak of the Lord’s Supper as “Eucharist,” which comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. When we receive the elements, they represent in part how all of life is a gift, both the abundant life we know in Christ here on earth and the eternal life we will know in heaven.
Lastly, it does remind us how the core of our faith involves sacrifice and risk. Jesus’ death points us to what is required of us who are serious about being his disciples. As the Body of Christ, the church continues to give of itself, believing that only then can transformation and resurrection happen.
I contend that such notions of the Lord’s Supper can ensure that our observances never stoop to the level of being mechanical or routine. Instead, I’d invite you to come this Sunday to our 9 a.m. worship service prepared to “take and eat and drink” and then reflect long afterward on how such activity bears witness to the gospel and our commitment to it, until the day comes when we observe it anew in the kingdom of heaven.
“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).