Preparing for Eucharist

EucharistCup.jpgThe Eucharist, though many today have never experienced it in such a manner, was part of a meal and not an isolated sacred set of rites.

The meal-shaped Eucharist begins with Jesus: his routine evening meals with his disciples gave rise to the “last” supper. And that last supper was the last one until he would eat again with his followers in the kingdom. Meals then were at the heart of the Lord’s Supper.
Both Acts 2:46 and 20:11 as well as 1 Corinthians 11:20 reveal that meals were the context of the Lord’s supper. 
They did not eat morsels and sip out of little cups, but the bread of the Passover week meals and the wine of an ordinary meal were suddenly transformed by Jesus into symbols of his singular saving acts. (I’m not talking here either transsubstantiation or consubstantiation.)
The Lord’s Supper then is to be seen as ordinary elements of a meal that were used by Jesus to offer to his disciples the redemption that he alone could bring. The context is a meal, an event where friends ate with one another.
I base this first in a series on John Mark Hicks, Come to the Table: Revisioning the Lord’s Supper
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About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://unveiledface.blogspot.com Mick Porter

    As we wrestled with John Mark’s book (well, with the Scriptures under the prompting of his book), we really felt compelled to change our approach.
    For a couple of years we had a church here in Brisbane that shared a meal every Sunday (lunchtime, not evening) – often around one really big table, which was a whole lot of smaller tables joined together and running in an L shape.
    As pastors, we served the bread (a crusty loaf) and wine (choice of red or white, generally a shiraz and a chardonnay) and we all served one another with food that we brought.
    I really, really, miss those times!

  • http://www.theparablelife.blogspot.com Michelle Van Loon

    Imagine what it would be like if more congregations did what Mick’s old church did. Wow!

  • Terry

    Mick, I love what you shared. As a congregation we eat together once a week, twice during the summer, with this very thought in mind, though, we’re large enough that we never quite get everyone together. Twice a year, once on Palm Sunday and once in the Fall, we gather everyone together, with an entire community meal shaped around the Eucharist (or the Eucharist shaping the entire meal) — we call these gatherings Jesus Feasts. Simple foods, drink, prayers, hymns, Scripture reading… these feasts are the the central expression of our worship as a body.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    I love the fact that we have Holy Communion offered weekly. I hated to miss it this morning, but stayed away due to my cold, though I was glad to be well enough to be there (no handshaking). But it would be good perhaps if we would at least have a regular time when we would share it as a meal together. I must say though that I find this regular practice powerful for me, and as I said, I now hate to miss it.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    I wonder if the separation of our church communion services has contributed to the separation of Sunday behavior from week-day ethics. I’ve thought more deeply about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the context of communion, and connected what Paul commended in 1 Cor. 11 — that our behavior toward others reflects (or not) Christ in our bodies/Body and sharing daily provision from the hand of God and God’s servants reminds us of that.
    I’m looking forward to the series.

  • elias

    “The meal-shaped Eucharist begins with Jesus: his routine evening meals with his disciples gave rise to the “last” supper. And that last supper was the last one until he would eat again with his followers in the kingdom. Meals then were at the heart of the Lord’s Supper.” If we Follow Luke`s gospel and this kind of logic then we should also consider opening these meals to outsiders and even to enemies (at that time the pharisees) I like the Idea of the Lord`s supper being the continuation of the suppers during he had in first century Palestine, but then it will not be a desciples only supper but also one that is open to the outcasts and the poor and maybe also enemies.

  • http://mysticallimpet.blogspot.com Travis Greene

    At my church we’re trying to get back to this, with Eucharistic meals about once a quarter.
    elias @ 6, “If we Follow Luke`s gospel and this kind of logic then we should also consider opening these meals to outsiders and even to enemies”
    Amen.

  • http://www.gettingfree.wordpress.com T

    We’re considering starting an Alpha course at my church, and as we’ve been going down this road, I can’t help but think that no small part of the success of the Alpha course is the theological and redemptive power of the shared meal in Jesus’ name (often underestimated in Western evangelicalism). I honestly wonder which is more “Eucharistic”–the shrunken and ritualized wafer and juice of church ceremony, or the full meal of pasta prepared by the saints for sake of outsiders and newcomers to the faith, which we all eat together as we talk about Jesus.

  • T

    I should add: My wonderings weren’t meant to offend. They come from an acute ignorance about communion. I don’t want to minimize the experience of those in higher churches who worship most deeply during communion. I grew up in low church and I’m still there, but thanks to Scot’s book, Praying with the Church, and to Robert Webber, the BCP, and others, I have a fast growing appreciation for much of what other traditions have and do. I’m honestly really wondering about the spirit and intent of communion, the size of the meal vs. the specifics of what’s served, the presence or absense of conversation with others, and even the tone and setting. With all of the editorial differences b/n the last supper and current practice, I wonder if Alpha has hit something, or several somethings, significant that the Church has edited out of its modern translation of the practice.

  • EricW

    Scot:
    Thanks for mentioning Hicks’ book, in which Hicks describes a lot of what I had concluded after studying this matter in depth – an emotionally and spiritually agonizing depth, in fact, because I came to realize that what I had concluded from studying the Scriptures and church history was that I could no longer be part of the non-Protestant church/communion I had only recently joined, since I could no longer confess/affirm their doctrine of the Eucharist as being true to Jesus, Paul, and the Scriptures (both OT and NT). I came across Hicks’ book in October 2008 after I had already formulated most of my ideas about the Lord’s Table.
    I have toyed with putting my complete thoughts and conclusions online, including thoughts about 1 Cor 11, The Didache, the Eucharist in the Liturgy, John 6, etc., but have not yet taken the time to write them all out. Maybe your series of posts here will make that unnecessary.


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