Communion, Not Just a Pre-Lunch Snack…

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Devotional Word for Wednesday, June 23, 2021

We have spent the last few devotional times looking at the way in which the sacrament of baptism (which is of water) corresponds or acts as a sign directing us to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  For Christians, we understand that they are just as surely baptized by the Holy Spirit as we are baptized with water.  As reformed Christians, we understand there are two sacraments.  The we must ask, “If our water baptism directs us to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, what does the other sacrament (which is the Lord’s Supper) signify?” 

Question and answer 75 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks this question in this way.  “How are you reminded and assured in the Holy Supper that you participate in the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and in all His benefits?”  Communion reminds and assures us that we participate in Christ’s sacrifice, and we receive His benefits.  That is what communion signifies.  The answer instructs us how we might have confidence of that.  It says, “In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread, and to drink of this cup, and has joined to this command these promises: first, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup given to me, so surely His body was offered and broken on the cross for me, and His blood was shed for me; furthermore, He has promised that He Himself feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with His crucified body and shed blood, as surely as I receive from the hand of the Elders, and taste with my mouth, the bread and cup of the Lord, which are given to me as sure signs of the body and blood of Christ.”

Lord willing, we will look at more of the parts of this answer in our next devotional time.  For today as we think of this question and answer, I would like to focus on the very last bit.  It says that the bread and the cup are sure signs of the body and blood of Christ.  If we look at Matthew 26:26-28, Jesus institutes the sacrament of communion.  There, He calls the bread His body and the cup His blood.  Are they signs or are they actually those elements?  Question 76 asks, “What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink His shed blood?”  The answer responds, “It is not only to embrace with a trusting hear the whole passion and death of Christ, and by it to receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  In addition, it is to be so united more and more to His blessed body by the Holy Spirit dwelling both in Christ and in us that, although He is in heaven and we are on earth, we are nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, always living and being governed by one Spirit, as the members of our bodies are governed by one soul.” First, it is not some sort of divine cannibalism.  Rather as we participate in communion, embracing with a trusting heart the whole work of Christ upon the cross, we grow closer in our union to Him by the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells both Christ and us. 

This then results in a rather strait forward understanding of communion.  As we consider Christ at its inception or His ministers in the centuries which have followed, the pronouncement of body and blood in the bread and cup serve as symbols of that body and blood.  Just as we actually touch the bread and the cup, just as we taste those elements, just as real to us as those experiences we have the more sure promise of Christ’s death on our behalf.