There are times when I can’t help but say, as a good friend of mine is very apt to say, “Thanks be to God!” I have to confess, however, I usually say that when I come across really great food. Today I was sitting at a table with pastors from different parts of the US. We sat down in a little place in St. Louis – devouring Hot Pastrami sandwiches. Believe me, if you like Hot Pastrami sandwiches you’ll love the ones at Carl’s in St. Louis. To borrow from my southern heritage – “they’d make a puppy pull a freight train.” They are that good.
What stood out in my mind, even as I enjoyed bite after bite, is how right it was for us, as pastors to enjoy this meal together. The Christian life is marked by meals (Biblically Jesus broke bread with all sorts of folk and Christian folk are known for potlucks). What makes our sharing all the more appropriate is that we had spent the morning discussing the Lord’s Supper – the meal that Jesus gave to His people the night that He was betrayed – and the meal that Christians ought to be most known. There is something about a meal and The Meal in the Christian life and imagination which is ever so important.
What makes the Lord’s Supper so amazing is that it holds within itself what Mark Dalbey calls the full picture – at the same time it plays a part of the gospel centered or focused worship. The Lord’s Supper itself possess something else – a trifecta so to speak. It not only points back (not just to when Christ instituted it but further to Passover), it deals with the present (because those who partake of the meal are in the present – aware of their present need and grateful for what Christ has done for them), and it also deals with the future (the hope in Christ’s second coming). In that way the meal points to another meal – the feast – the banquet – the grand celebration when God’s Kingdom is fully restored.
I sat among these men this morning listening as many of them shared their questions as well as their struggles with the meal. Each of them, I am sure, wants nothing more than the meal to do all that Jesus intended for that meal to do for His people. What stood out to me is how long between meals so many of Christians go between meals. Some out of concern for the meal becoming “rote” or “to ordinary.” Some men shared concerns over the elements – wine or juice. All along the words of institution kept rolling through my mind. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim Christ’s death until He comes.”
That I think is what makes the meal significant, whole. It really isn’t the mode. It really isn’t in the elements themselves (wine or juice). It isn’t in who distributes. The meal is significant, for lots of reasons I suppose, but mostly, I believe, because through it we remember Christ’s death until He comes. What is it that we are to remember about His death? What He has done for us by His death and resurrection. How could we ever grow tired of remember that? How could that ever become rote or ordinary?
There is something significant about meals in the life and imagination of the Christian – especially the Lord’s Supper and one day the Supper of the Lamb and the Banquet. Thanks be to God!