The Back Page – The Lord’s Supper

The Back Page

The Lord’s Supper

It has many names—the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist, the Mass. Whatever we call it,
this ritual is how we obey the Lord’s request that we remember him.
Roman Catholics take literally the Lord’s words, “This is my body; this is my blood.” For Catholics,
then, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of the Lord, though retaining the outward
appearance of bread and wine. Eastern Christians teach something similar. Anglicans seem ambivalent
about whether such transubstantiation occurs, but do affirm a Real Presence of Christ in the elements.
Methodists similarly affirm a Real Presence, but clearly deny transubstantiation. Lutherans teach that the
Lord’s body and blood are present “in, with, and under” the bread and wine, which nevertheless remain
fully bread and wine. Reformed churches (e.g., Presbyterians) affirm a spiritual presence of Christ for
Our understanding is that the bread and wine remain bread and wine. But because Jesus requested
that we eat and drink them in remembrance of him, they become for us pictures of his body that was
battered and his blood poured out for our sakes. They remind us of our need to feed on him for spiritual
life. He himself saves when we trust him to do that for us; the bread and wine do not.
The American flag is just a piece of cloth. It will never be other than cloth. But because of what this
specific pattern of colors and shapes represents, those who believe we should honor our country (despite
its flaws) do not disrespect the flag. “But it is only a piece of cloth, and will only ever be a piece of
cloth!” True, but this particular piece of cloth speaks to us of our nation. The bread and wine at the Lord’s
Supper will only ever be bread and wine. But because of the One of whom they remind us, and the price
he paid for our salvation, we do not treat the Communion bread and wine casually or disrespectfully.
Scripture urges that we eat and drink at the Lord’s Table in a worthy manner. Those who do
otherwise invite judgments on themselves. But for those who believe, and who approach with faith,
humility, and a genuine desire to live in obedience and unity, the Lord’s Supper provides a warm
opportunity to worship and thank him, and to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

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