December 8, 2005

From Bread to Wine 2

Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Permalink

In the first chapter of From Bread to Wine, James Jordan draws some interesting conclusions from the order in which Jesus administered the Supper. I won’t list them all here, but these ones particularly interested me.

First, Jordan notes that there are two rituals here, one with the bread during the supper and one with the cup after supper. This, says Jordan,

implies that all present should eat the bread before all are given the cup, which strikes against the practice of serving both elements, in sequence, to small groups one after another (as is the custom in most Anglican and Lutheran churches, for instance). This is important because part of the meaning of the rite is that the entire congregation is knit together into one loaf by eating the body of Christ, for the “body” is not only Jesus but also the Church (1 Corinthians 10:17; 11:29), and then the congregation as a whole is sacrificed by drinking the blood of Christ (p. 5).

This observation also militates against the practice of the Supper that I’ve seen in the Canadian Reformed Churches, where, say, a fifth of the congregation comes up to the Table at a time, sits around it, partakes of the Supper, and then returns to its place to make room for the next group. Jesus wants the whole congregation to partake the bread first and then the whole congregation to take the cup. The whole congregation is one body, not just the fifth of the congregation that happens to be gathered around the Table. It’s important to think about the ways in which our liturgical practices can obscure the meaning of the Supper.

Second, Jordan writes:

It is clear that Jesus did not identify the bread with His body or the wine with His blood until after He had passed the elements out of His hands into the hands of the disciples…. What this means is that the bread provides Jesus’ body, and the wine His blood, in the act of consumption. There is no hint of “consecrating” bread and wine before they are passed out, and this eliminates any kind of adoration of bread and wine as they sit on table or altar. It also means that any leftover bread and wine are nothing more than bread and wine. They only function to transmit Jesus’ body and blood during the course of their actual consumption. The Bible clearly teaches what is called a “receptionist” view of the Lord’s Supper (p. 5).

Later, he notes that the Supper is a meal which,

following the Lord’s example, should be enjoyed in a posture appropriate for a meal. In our culture, this normally means sitting, in a posture of relaxation. The covenant is a sign of peace between us and god, and the meaning of God’s giving us bread and wine is that we are seated with Him at His table. To receive the elements in a posture of penitence is to obscure its meaning. In Christian worship, the time for kneeling and penitence is at the beginning of the service, when sins are confessed and absolution is received. Then we stand for praise and to hear the word of our King, and are invited to “recline” at a meal (p. 6).

Good stuff.

Posted by John Barach @ 7:26 pm | Discuss (0)

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