The Lord’s Supper

preachinga sermon, based on 1 Corinthians 11.23-26, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on Maundy Thursday, March 24, 2016

On Maundy Thursday, we commemorate Jesus’ institution of Eucharist. Let us reflect on what Eucharist is, guided by the Apostle Paul who reminds the Corinthian Christians and us of one thing expressed three ways.

First, Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper. Not the Corinthians. Not ours. As Paul says, “I received from the Lord what I handed on to you.” Jesus is host. We are guests invited to dine. So, the words of the hymn: “Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest. Nay, let us be Thy guests, the feast is Thine.”[1]

Christ with the Host, Pablo da San Leocadio, c 16th century

Second, Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper. We come to the altar in response to His invitation: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Remembrance, from the Greek, ‘anamnesis; meaning more than mere mental recollection, but existential commemoration through which we join Jesus in the past and bring the past into our present. Again, the hymn: “We meet, as in that upper room they met.”

The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci (1494-1499), the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

Still more, Eucharist is an act of celebration in which we join Jesus as he offers his body and blood, his life to us in offering ourselves one to another. Once again, the hymn: “One with each other, Lord, for one in Thee.”

Third, Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,” Paul declares, “you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

Crucifixion, Nikolai Nikolaevich Ge, 1894

 

Jesus, committed to his mission of unconditional love and justice for all, willingly faced death at the hands of powers and principalities that sought to maintain privilege for the few. Every time we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim our intention to follow Jesus being as he is, doing as he does, living, willing to die, metaphorically understood, forsaking ourselves, doing something for the sake of love and justice for all.

Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper. We feast on the life of Jesus that we may become what, nay who we eat. In that spirit, let us pray:

One with each other, Lord, for one in Thee,

who art one Savior and one living Head;

then open Thou our eyes, that we may see;

be known to us in breaking of the Bread.

 

Illustrations: Christ with the Host, Pablo da San Leocadio, c 16th century; The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci (1494-1499), the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan; Crucifixion, Nikolai Nikolaevich Ge, 1894

Footnote:

[1] Words: George Wallace Briggs (1875-1959); my emphases

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2 thoughts on “The Lord’s Supper

  1. Paul,

    Thanks for so beautifully sharing with us the meaning of Eucharist. I think at times we are so focused on ourselves that we forget what the true meaning of Eucharist is. It is the Lord’s Supper and NOT ours….

    I’m always reminded on Maundy Thursday that I don’t focus enough on the Eucharist. When I go up to receive the body and blood of Christ, I need to remind myself of everything it stands for. Maybe I don’t always focus on it because I know I’m not worthy that week because I wasn’t following Jesus and the way HE lived as I should. Maundy Thursday should make us all better…more focused on remembering that Jesus died on that cross for us – BUT first shared a meal with his friends which he KNEW would be his last. What would most of us be doing if we knew we were having our last meal. We’d probably be very panicked and not be poised enough to share a meal with others. In other words, we wouldn’t be like Jesus!!

    I missed service so I appreciate being able to read your words tonight.. Thank you!

    Like

    • “Maundy Thursday should make us all better…more focused on remembering that Jesus died on that cross for us – BUT first shared a meal with his friends which he KNEW would be his last. What would most of us be doing if we knew we were having our last meal. We’d probably be very panicked and not be poised enough to share a meal with others. In other words, we wouldn’t be like Jesus!!” – this, Loretta, for me, is gospel. I believe and agree with all you’ve expressed in this.

      And is it not a wondrous paradox that we are not worthy of Jesus, yet, in his love for us, in Eucharist, expressed in his invitation to us, we are made (he makes us) worthy! This is what I’ve come to hold, to hope.

      Like

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