“Whoever, therefore, does not receive, but goes from the holy table, when all things are prepared, either does not understand his duty, or does not care for the dying command of his Saviour, the forgiveness of his sins, the strengthening of his soul, and the refreshing it with the hope of glory.
“Let every one, therefore, who has either any desire to please God, or any love of his own soul, obey God, and consult the good of his own soul, by communicating every time he can; like the first Christians, with whom the Christian sacrifice was a constant part of the Lord’s day service. And for several centuries they received it almost every day: Four times a week always, and every saint’s day beside. Accordingly, those that joined in the prayers of the faithful never failed to partake of the blessed sacrament.” (from John Wesley’s sermon entitled “THE DUTY OF CONSTANT COMMUNION,” published in 1788)
This sermon from Wesley , interestingly enough, was a rewrite of a sermon that Wesley had written 56 years earlier in 1732. He changed very little about the sermon in the rewrite, except that he used fewer words. His sacramental theology and the sense of urgency therein had remained intact for over a half a century! I can only aspire to that kind of sacramental consistency.
On this Maundy Thursday, for obvious reasons, I find myself thinking about the Eucharistic meal that I will experience with my congregation in just a few hours. I can hardly wait. It will be a sacred opportunity for all of us at Central Highlands Church to move beyond the mundane arguments with which we so often truncate the meaning of the sacrament. (What do I mean by mundane arguments? Try this one on for size. “We dare not celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly because anything celebrated that frequently would lose its meaning and become routine.” Of course, no one makes this argument about the Lord’s Prayer. Or the Doxology. Or breakfast, lunch, or dinner…………………Or sex.)
At any rate, in the rhythms of the church’s year, Maundy Thursday affords to us a unique opportunity to lay aside such tedious discussions, long enough to gather at the table of our living Lord. I describe him as a “living Lord” for the purpose of emphasizing my conviction that Christ will be as dynamically and transformationally present with us in tonight’s sharing of the bread and cup as he was with the first disciples long ago.
The other day, I looked through one of our family photo albums. The album contains plenty of embarrassing childhood photographs of yours truly. There are also some pictures of Tara and me and our present life together. Interestingly, there are also several blank pages in the album, pages waiting to be occupied by photographs that have yet to be taken. The photo album, in other words, compelled me to look, metaphorically speaking, in three different directions. It compelled me to look to my past. It compelled me to look to my present. And it compelled me to look to my future.
It might be said that the Lord’s Supper functions as the church’s sacramental “photo album.” By that I mean that the eucharist compels us to look in three different directions. When we partake of Holy Communion, we are brought into a powerful remembrance of the things that Christ did for us some two-thousand years ago. But there is more to it than reflecting upon the past. When we share the bread and cup, we also celebrate a very PRESENT Christ, a Christ who saves and redeems in the here and now. Beyond that, the Lord’s Supper is also a foreshadowing of the eschatological banquet, an anticipation of the heavenly table where we will feast on an eternal Eucharistic meal with all the saints who have gone on before us.
In just a few hours, I will have the opportunity to join my congregation in opening up the sacramental “photo album” called the Lord’s Supper. As I said earlier, I can hardly wait.