When words fail…use a sacrament!

Not wanting to stir up the usual debates over the Lord’s Supper, N.T. Wright keeps his comments short in his introductory apologetic. Nevertheless, they are very good. I have to say I feel robbed that nobody told me anything like this growing up. The Lord’s Supper was held in remarkably low regard. It meant almost nothing. Bummer.

Three opening remarks. First, we break bread and drink wine together, telling the story of Jesus and his death, because Jesus knew that this set of actions would explain the meaning of his death in a way that nothing else – no theories, no clever ideas – could ever do. After all, when Jesus died for our sins it wasn’t so he could fill our minds with true ideas, however important they may be, but so he could DO something, namely, rescue us from evil and death.

Second, it isn’t a piece of sympathetic magic, as suspicious Protestants have often worried it might be. This action, like the symbolic actions performed by the ancient prophets, becomes one of the points at which heaven and earth coincide. Paul says that “as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). He doesn’t mean that it’s a good opportunity for a sermon. Like a handshake or a kiss, DOING it SAYS it.

Third, therefore, nor is the bread-breaking a mere occasion for remembering something that happened a long time ago, as suspicious Catholics sometimes suppose Protestants believe. When we break the bread and drink the wine, we find ourselves joining the disciples in the Upper Room. We are united with Jesus himself as the prays in Gethsemane and stands before Caiaphas and Pilate. We become one with him as he hangs on the cross and rises from the tomb. Past and present come together. Events from long ago are fused with the meal we are sharing here and now.

-N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, p. 153