Eucharistic Theology

The Eucharist has to do with Communion or the Lord’s Supper. It is not something that is occasionally tacked on at the end of a worship service. It should be central to our worship and integrated with the preaching of the Word. Both the Word and Sacrament point to who Jesus is and what His ministry means. In his resurrection appearance to the travelers to Emmaus, <Jesus revealed himself by sharing both the scripture and bread and wine.

Much of the disagreement between the liturgical and non-liturgical churches has to do with the interpretation of the real presence of Christ in Communion. Why so? We want Christ to be real in our preaching do we not? Why should He not be real and present to us in our sharing of His body and blood? Jesus said:

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53)

Putting aside any “scientific” explanation, let us simply agree that Christ wants to communicate Himself to us in a way that is spiritually refreshing to us. How this technically occurs is really beyond our understanding. Suffice it to say that the Eucharist is a mystery. We get into trouble when we try to explain the how and why. It is Christ’s desire to impart Himself to us so that He may cleanse us and strengthen us. As communicants, we have a responsibility to open ourselves up to Him to receive His gift.

How do we receive Him? We do so through anamnesis. The word in Ancient Greek is ἀνάμνησιν meaning memory. It has its origin in Jesus’ words at the Last Supper in which He was betrayed: “Do this in memory of me.” ( “τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν.”) The word conveys that we may experience what Jesus did for His disciples as if we were there with them on the night of the Last Supper. We are transported back in time so to speak. We are not just remembering. We are experiencing. We are participating in the Eucharist with Jesus.

Not only does anamnesis bring the past into the present, but it also brings the future into the present. The person that God the Father wants us to become in His Son is made more alive in the present through the spiritual empowerment of the Eucharist. Jesus is imparted to us. His life and His Spirit are poured into our being.

Do we want to receive Communion with Jesus? If so then we must examine ourselves and come to Him with penitent hearts.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

The Gospel of John alludes to this when Jesus, during the Lord’s Supper, got up to wash His disciples’ feet:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.   (John 13:3-10)

By this foot washing Jesus was obviously setting an example of servanthood for His disciples. But there is another meaning to foot washing. Peter said: “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head.” When Jesus tells Peter he is already clean He is referring to Baptism. We have been baptized into the Body of Christ and made clean by His blood. Our feet, however, get dirty as we walk in this world. We need periodic correction and direction from our Lord. This is foot washing.

Before every Communion Service, we need to receive the Word of God for correction, followed by our confession of failings and shortcomings. The liturgy is designed to help prepare us for Communion.

(See Eucharistic Preaching, The Living Communion, and Home Communion.) for additional material that may be helpful.

2 responses to “Eucharistic Theology

  1. Pingback: A Call to Communion | Preaching the New Lectionary

  2. Pingback: A Call to Communion | Rapture Preparation

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