We all need food to energise us for daily life. We all need food to energise us for our journey to heaven. There is something relationally encouraging and engaging about sharing a meal with a friend or family member. This is why the early church often ate together, even integrating a meal into regular worship. Of course pilgrims have not only normal meals to keep them going – we also are under instruction from Jesus to celebrate the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper – the meal of the new covenant. The Lord’s Supper emperors us to live for Jesus in a unique way.
Christians treasure the death of Jesus. We value the Lord’s Supper for the way it draws us closer into union with Jesus’ death for us. Charles Hodge argued in his systematic theology that the ongoing celebration of the Lord’s Supper is evidence of the cross: ‘It is just as certain that Christ died upon the cross as that Christians everywhere celebrate the Lord’s Supper.’
Cranmer followed Calvin’s lead, who was in turn indebted to Augustine – as they presented a vision of the Lord’s Supper that enables believers to supernaturally, by faith and in the power of the Spirit, feed on Christ. The benefits of the cross are given to us as we see, touch, taste and eat the sign of the gospel which is joined to the Word we hear.
We need and depend on every word in the Bible – and many varied aspects of discipleship are addressed in the divine book. But the Lord’s Supper focuses our senses on the death of Christ at the heart of God’s Word. And God’s Spirit uses that to draw us deeper into union with the Son.
Like so many of the disciplines which God uses to bring spiritual reality into our lives, the Eucharist looks weak. We easily accept church attendance at a service in place of the spiritual food that God lays out for us. In earlier days preparation for receiving the Supper was more common – repentance for sins, relational restoration, time away from the world’s distractions. One of the ways we can be revived and fed to keep going in our pilgrimage, is to not only seek out the Lord’s Supper in obedience to him, but plan on approaching it with due preparation and spiritual expectation.
Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon is rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells: www.emmanuelanglican.uk