We often begin in the wrong place. Too many begin eucharist discussions with the debates between the Lutherans and the Catholics and the anabaptists, and ask how Christ is present (and they disagree and miss the point). It turns eucharist blurry instead of offering clarity.
The place to begin is when God walked between body parts in Genesis 15. He made the covenant with Abraham by doing something that put the promises into reality. He enacted the promises.
That solemn ceremony was when God made it clear that the divine promise and divine commitment were so reliable that God said you can dismember me if I am unfaithful to my promises.
The Lord’s Supper then is first and foremost an act of God’s promise to you and to me, an offer to take and eat and accept and participate in and enjoy the promise of God to be with us, to be for us and to make us God’s people. The Lord’s Supper, and so also baptism, is a “performative utterance” by God to us. It says “You can count on me. I’ve got your back. Dine with me because I’m dining with you. This is my promise. I do this for you.”
So A.C. Thiselton in his new book, Life after Death. What Thiselton does here is offer to those who are doubting, those who wonder if there’s more beyond death, to listen to what God says in offering the essence of divine promise and commitment, God himself, to us in the eucharist. We can face death with the eucharist in our hand and say to God “I’ve counted on you.”As Abraham’s sign of the covenant was circumcision. This Abrahamic promises runs right through the New Testament, from John Baptist to Paul and Hebrews. We know that covenant got its upgrades in Moses and David, and its anticipations of the ultimate upgrade with Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and then Jesus is the enactor of the new covenant. God’s promise had become one of us and he did for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Eucharist, then, is an effective, performative sign of God’s covenant. Thiselton dips into the last supper and Passover, and observes that the Passover meal was a promise that God would liberate Israel from slavery.
In faith we eat and drink as we accept the divine (performative) word at work in the bread and wine.
Hope beyond death is about trusting God’s promise, and God’s promise is “signed” to us in eucharist. Eucharist is God’s pledge to us. Take, eat.