An overseas Advent Christian minister asks, “Is the Lord’s Supper a celebration only of the past event of ‘the body which was given’ and the ‘blood of the new covenant?’ Or does it also have present and future meaning?”
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One way to answer this (though certainly not the only way) is to reflect on Paul’s warning that we rightly discern the Lord’s body (1 Cor. 11:29). I think of the Lord’s “body” in three tenses — past, present and future. These utilize three graces — faith, hope and love. And they emphasize three names for this feast — Eucharist, Lord’s Supper and Communion.
Looking by faith to the past, we recall the SUFFERING body of Jesus, that human tabernacle in which the divine Word camped for about 12,000 days on this earth and showed us the nature of God in the life of a man. In that human body, Jesus perfectly kept God’s will for humankind, then offered that perfect obedience to God in that body on the cross. The term “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving,” and we give God thanks for Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice as we eat the bread and drink the cup.
Looking in hope to the future, we anticipate the GLORIOUS body of Jesus, coming again in power to receive his own people, to be with him forever. The expression “Lord’s Supper” brings to mind the great Messianic Banquet to come, when we will sit with Jesus and eat and drink with him in the Eternal Kingdom.
Looking around ourselves with love in the present, we see the GATHERED body of Jesus — not all of it, of course, but a representative portion, and a true one at that. Unlike the Corinthians, who were using this sacred meal as an opportunity to demonstrate their factiousness and exclusive spirit by breaking into closed groups, we see brothers and sisters for whom Jesus also died. In that bright vision, all earthly barriers and distinctions of race, language, status or position blur and dim and disappear at this Table. The designation “Communion” reminds us of this present reality, as we share in one loaf and one cup.