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Friday, June 03, 2016

'This is My Body'

Jesus uttered these immortal words as He was about to offer the ultimate sacrifice, as He had said earlier, 'Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends'. The Body that the Creator of Heaven & Earth had prepared ( Hebrews 105 ( Psalm 40:6-8 ) from the foundation of the 'kosmos' was 'fattened', just to be offered for a pleasing aroma, well-pleasing to the Lord! When Jesus spoke these words of instruction during His last Passover celebration, He was doing more, gloriously more than telling His disciples how to memorialize His Final Oblation; He was telling them in metaphor what His Body was made up of, the normal things of life, ordinary, though extraordinary people like you & me!

Communion, or more correctly, 'The Lord's Supper', like water baptism, has become one of the greatest issues to divide the Church, although really, this has been so almost from the beginning! 'How are we to baptize?' Baptists, or baptistic denominations would most likely say, almost without exception, that one must be fully submersed in order for it to be a true baptism. Along the same lines, the one being baptized must understand, more or less, what it means ( Believer's Baptism ). Although there are some Presbyterians who follow this form, most would say that sprinkling & pouring are the more Orthodox way. These same Presbyterians, for the most part, also practice paedobaptism, or the baptism of children & infants before they've reached the so-called 'Age of Accountability'.

Speaking of the Presbyterians, including most if not all Reformed & Orthodox congregations, paedocommunion is also a regular practice. As you can probably guess from the earlier explanation, this refers to the practice of including children & infants when the rite, to whatever extent, is observed. Again, it is to be noted that such is prior to the previously mentioned 'Age of Accountability'. Though most Reformed congregations, including the Presbyterian, follow the same basic order of service, there are still differences among the various congregations on how often & in what manner it should be observed.

For the most part, there is general agreement among all Christian denominations, though, that when our Lord poured the wine & divided the loaf, He was instituting a new way of observing the Passover, of which the first was only significant. Though most would probably not think of it in this manner, Jesus' Final Sacrifice on the Cross led us, His People out of the slavery of sin & death ( Egypt ), into the Promised Land of Rest in Christ ( Hebrews 4 ). The apostle Paul, as this blogger has mentioned previously, referred to this revelation in his first letter to the Church at Corinth ( I Corinthians 11:23-34 ). My conclusion was that, rather than referring to Jesus' own biology, Paul was speaking of the Body of Christ, the Church. Understanding Jesus' instructions in this manner would go a long way toward the cessation of much bickering & division in the Church!

Among the Roman Catholics & even certain Protestant denominations, the doctrines of transubstantiation & consubstantiation have taken hold because of a woodenly literal understanding of Jesus' words. It is not because we physically ingest His Body ( that would be like, cannibalism, right? ) that we partake of His Body; that is just common sense! We are part of the Body because we commune with His People, not just when we gather 4 times a year, monthly, or even weekly to follow a certain rite, no matter if we believe it to be an actual participation in the Body & Blood of our Lord, or whether it's just a memorial to be observed!

We are the Body of Christ! No matter how one looks at it, whether it's understood metaphorically or actually ( literally ), it is we who are the subjects of what has been called 'The Lord's Supper' for so long. As the Body of Christ, we have the duty, the privilege really, of communing with each other, to whatever extent, on a daily, hourly & minutely basis! To divide, as we have in the Church, over these issues is pure heresy; these are issues that unite us, they should not divide us!

Jesus used such common elements as mere bread & wine to symbolize His Body & Blood, not just because they were already extant in the Passover meal, but because they pictured perfectly the simplicity of His Gospel, the Good News that it was not a certain elite that would inherit the Kingdom prepared for them by the Father, but that Jew & Gentile alike would bear these blessings. The bread & wine of the Passover meal were significant of the blessings promised to Israel of old for obedience; they were also significant of our daily bread, the simple bare necessities of life!

As we commune with the Body of Christ then, let us always remember that it is not by following some prescribed rite that we partake of or in His Body & Blood, but through our daily walk, through our communion with each other; this is True Communion & it is not what divides us, it is what unites us!

Charles Haddon Shank

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