The Lord’s Supper is intended to provide spiritual nutrition so that Jesus’ disciples might grow up to maturity in Christ. St. Augustine writes in recalling “as it were” the Lord’s “voice from on high: ‘I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me. And you will not change me into you like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me’” [St. Augustine, Confessions, translated, with an introduction, by Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), Book VII, p. 124.].
McDonald’s happy meal adventures are advertised as providing exciting toys and tasty treats. But do they provide nourishing food that will last and grow children to maturity? Here you may call to mind the movie, “Super Size Me.” At the very least, one cannot make a steady diet of such food if one intends to live well and grow up to maturity.
What would a spiritual equivalent to the happy meal adventure look like? Some might claim that the spiritual equivalent involves replacing the bread and wine or grape juice with chips or fries and soft drinks respectively. Whereas societies can function with the former items as substantial staple foods, can the same be said of the latter? In my estimation, the spiritual equivalent of a happy meal involves living completely in the present without a care in the world; one seeks after one’s best life now with all the fun and frivolity one can capture. One could even approach the Lord’s Supper in this distorted way, since there is no magic formula that keeps us from having distorted notions of this spiritual meal, as was the case with the Corinthian church in their celebration of the agape feast (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
Feasting spiritually on Jesus at the Lord’s Supper in an appropriate way involves remembering his death (1 Corinthians 11:23-25), participating in his life (1 Corinthians 10:15-17), and anticipating communion with him at the eternal banquet (Luke 22:14-18). While there is joy with such recollection, participation and anticipation, there is no sense of silly frivolity, as one might sense with the spiritual equivalent of happy meals. Moreover, there is no quick fix to address one’s spiritual hunger, as with the religious alternative to fast food. Even so, spiritual fast food often leaves one feeling hollow because it replaces feasting on Christ with feasting on carnal appetites such as getting what I want when I want it at the least cost to me.
In addition to consideration of the vertical dimension (our relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit), one could also ponder what a happy meal equivalent would entail on the horizontal, creaturely level for people as well as animals. One need not eat a happy meal in the fellowship of others, but one is called to partake of the Lord’s Supper in the company of his family. The Lord’s Supper requires that we care for one another. As Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 11, the well-to-do must care for the less fortunate; the Lord’s Supper requires that we move beyond fraternity church existence to family church, where all members of God’s household—rich and poor alike—are given equal treatment and share in God’s provision.
Consideration of the horizontal, creaturely dimension does not end with humans. Not only must we award humane attention to the less fortunate among our fellows, but also we must do the same for animals. Having said that, our society often does not account for the inhumane conditions of animals prepared for slaughter. What difference might consideration of the Lord’s Supper make? Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice replaces animal sacrifices. It is also worth noting that in Judaism, great stress is placed on the proper treatment of animals with prohibitions against cruelty to them. In Judaism, the connection is made that how one treats animals has a bearing on how one treats humans: “Judaism has always recognized the link between the way a person treats animals and the way a person treats human beings. A person who is cruel to a defenseless animal will undoubtedly be cruel to defenseless people, and a person who cares for the lowest of creatures will certainly care for his fellow man.” In Christianity, Jesus is the high priest of all creation and the final Passover lamb. What one does to the least of people and the least of animals has a bearing on him. How one treats the Lord, how one treats humans, and how one treats animals are all connected.
Food for thought. Next time you and I who are Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper, what will we be thinking about? Will we be thinking of happy meals? Will we be thinking of our best life now, or will we remember Christ’s death until he comes, as Paul exhorts us? “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26; ESV). Will we be thinking of others—especially the least among us, or only ourselves? There sure is a whole lot of super sized thought to digest as we remember the Lord over the wafer, wine, and bread, isn’t there?