‘Twas Christ the Word that spake it,
The same took bread and break it,
And as the Word did make it,
So I believe and take it.
– a young Queen Elizabeth I, reflecting upon the Lord’s Supper. ( a very Protestant reflection, by the way)
In front of us sits a Table and on it is bread and wine. As we approach this central piece of Christian worship to eat and drink some questions may arise for us. What does it mean? Who can come? How should we come? What happens when we partake?
This act has different names. And there is a lot contained in a name. Each name can answer a different question about it. Here are the names by which it is known and what they tell us:
The Eucharist. This name may sound unusual or carry High-Churchy connotations. But it is a perfectly appropriate name for what is on the Table. The word means, quite simply, thanksgiving. … It answers for us the question: How should we come? We should come thankful because we’re about to receive a gift. We should come remembering what Jesus did for us on the Cross – his body crucified, his blood shed. And He did it for us. Remembrance (and being thankful), that is what we’re commanded to do. And so how we come is aware of what Jesus has done for us. And we come thankful for the gift.
The Lord’s Supper. This answers for us the question: Who can come? It tells us who can come to the Table because it tells us who it belongs to. It is the Lord’s Supper and it is his Table. We don’t fence it off. We don’t determine who is worthy and who isn’t, who can approach and who can’t. Everyone can come. But even as everyone can come, all who do need to realize something. It is the Lord’s Supper and they can’t bring anything to it. The Gospel tells us we are saved not by anything we have done or can do. We are saved by the work of Jesus alone. Therefore we can’t bring anything to this Table, we can only receive and consume. Anyone who comes needs to know that.
Communion. This name answers probably the most interesting question of all: What happens when we consume this bread and wine? The easiest question to answer is what does the bread and wine represent. Answer? Jesus’ body and blood. Nobody has ever disagreed on the fact that they symbolize that. But you are encouraged to believe something more than that. When you eat and drink in faith, God’s Holy Spirit communicates to you the grace and promises of the Gospel. That is why it is called Communion – because something is communicated to us. It is not by automatic magic or by the transformation of the bread and wine. It is by the Spirit’s work through the elements as we eat in faith. If that is true, than this meal is indispensable to the Christian life because it is a means of grace. That is, it is one of the appointed ways for God to give us what he promises in the Gospel. And it is serious business.