LAST SUPPER AND LORD S SUPPER Luke 22:14-20 First Presbyterian Church of Georgetown, Texas Dr. Michael A. Roberts March 6, 2005

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1 1 LAST SUPPER AND LORD S SUPPER Luke 22:14-20 First Presbyterian Church of Georgetown, Texas Dr. Michael A. Roberts March 6, 2005 We celebrate the Lord s Supper today because of what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper. If it were not for Jesus' words and actions at the Last Supper, the Christian church would never have communion together. This morning we will look at the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. We want to think together about the meaning of the Lord s Supper. And then practically, I will try to explain why we do what we do when we partake of the sacrament of the Lord s Supper. Jesus said to his disciples in verse 15: "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. That last meal before he died was a Passover Meal that celebrated God's great redemption in the Exodus. It was on a night long ago that the angel of death passed over the homes which had the blood of the lamb on them. This Passover lamb was eaten to remember how God had acted on behalf of his people. It was a slow and long meal by our standards. There were four cups of wine that were drunk at specific times in the course of the meal. The meal could easily stretch out for hours with the required readings, the eating of the lamb, tasting bitter herbs, and the drinking of the wine. Jesus used the Passover meal, then, to teach his disciples. One scholar has said that Jesus did not give us a theory to teach us about his death. He did not give us a theory, he gave us a meal. Verse 17 tells us he took a cup (probably the first cup of Passover) and after giving thanks he said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." He will not drink and eat again until the kingdom comes. It is likely that in Jesus' mind, there was an image of the future messianic banquet. This image is found in the prophets. Listen to Isaiah 25:6-8: "the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines...he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from their faces." In this image we find God's people yearning for the future. This image depicts the future, joyful communion between God and his people.

2 2 The last supper is a sad, somber occasion. Jesus is going to die tomorrow. It's going to happen. But in the midst of "This is my body" and "This is the new covenant of my blood" we hear Jesus say "until the kingdom comes." It will come. You can count on it. The promise of Easter is present even in the dark shadows of the Last Supper. Then, it says in verse 19: he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. The disciples had seen Jesus give thanks and break bread many times. And now he tells them Do this is remembrance of me. Remember me by participating in the breaking of the bread. And this the church has done. Consistently, through time, and around the world. We have remembered Jesus by participating in the Lord s Supper. In verse 20 Jesus takes another cup (probably the third cup of wine at the Passover meal) and claims that he fulfills and seals the new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34 with his blood, with his death. We call verses the words of institution. Jesus instituted (or began) the sacrament of the Lord s Supper with these words at the Last Supper. This is what Protestants believe is a sacrament, a specific word from Jesus that commands the practice. Protestants have two sacraments, both of which we participate in this morning: the Lord s Supper and baptism. We do so because of Jesus words: do this in remembrance of me, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). In the scriptures, there are different versions of the words of institution for the Lord s Supper. They are found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and in 1 Corinthians 11. In our church, we always use these words before we partake. It is these words of institution that provide the mandate, the meaning and context for what we do. This sacrament is known by different names in the church. We call this meal as I just said the Lord s Supper. This sacrament is not something we invented. No group of disciples sat around saying this would be a good thing to do. We do this because Jesus asked us to, because he instituted this sacrament. It is not a Presbyterian supper. It is the Lord s Supper. It is for all Christians who believe and trust in Christ.

3 3 In addition, to the Lord s Supper, we also call this the sacrament of communion. We are talking about communing with God and with each other. In the quiet moments we commune with God, giving thanks and expressing our needs. The Reformed tradition of the church has affirmed a view of communion known as spiritual presence. We have not believed, as others have, that the elements become the literal body and blood of Christ. Nor have we claimed that this time is only a simple memorial of what Jesus has done. We hold a meditating view, spiritual presence, by which we mean that in this sacrament Jesus Christ is spiritually present, intensively present through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And so we commune with God. We also commune with each other. We pass the elements to each other. Communion is something we do together. And there s also a broader sense in which this is true. We commune with Christians around the world who also participate in the sacrament. We even commune with the saints who are now in heaven, looking forward to the future kingdom, to the future messianic banquet when we will all be together. Communion is not a private sacrament. We commune with other believers in Christ. Yet another name for the Lord s Supper and Communion is the Eucharist. This is not a word we use very often in Presbyterian circles and I think that s unfortunate. Our English word Eucharist comes from a Greek word eucharisteo which means to give thanks. This is the word scripture uses when it says he took a cup, and after giving thanks he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks. In both cases the Greek word is eucharistasas. Communion is the church s thanksgiving dinner. This is a time to give thanksto give thanks for God s creation, for Jesus, for meaningful life, for comfort and peace. In the quiet moments of the sacrament, we not only remember, we also give thanks. These three names help describe the meaning of what we re doing: the Lord s Supper, Communion, Eucharist. In conclusion today, I want to say some words about the order of our communion service and why we do what we do. This has been a common order for communion for at least the last generation in Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and Catholic churches as we all have rediscovered the practice of the early church.

4 4 We begin with the invitation- inviting people to partake. We use words of scripture, concluding with our savior invites all those who trust in him to partake. We practice open communion. Unlike other denominations, one does not have to be a member of this congregation or a Presbyterian to participate. The Lord s Supper is open to all who trust in the Lord. The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving is a formal designation of a certain type of prayer going back to the second and third centuries of the church. It is also known as the Eucharistic Prayer. I tell the children that this is a great prayer because it surveys God s great acts of redemption throughout the history not because it is a great prayer or is prayed by a great prayer. There is a Trinitarian format to the prayer historically. In the prayer we give thanks for God s great acts in the world. We remember what Jesus has done for us. We call upon on the Holy Spirit to be present and conclude with an affirmation of our own commitment. We then state clearly why we are participating in this sacrament- we state clearly the words of institution that Jesus gave us at the Last Supper. In the early and medieval church these words were always included within the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving but it was John Calvin in the 16 th century who moved the words from the prayer and had them read separately as proclamation and warrant for the sacrament (Presbyterian Worship p. 60). At every service of communion we restate these words of institution, usually using the scriptures from Matthew 26 or 1 Corinthians 11. Then we commune together in different ways. Most Presbyterian congregations practice pew communion, with the elements being brought to the worshippers where they are sitting in the pews. It was Ulrich Zwingli in the 16 th century in Zurich who began the practice of sitting for communion. In John Calvin s Geneva the people came forward to the Table and received the elements either standing or kneeling. In Strasbourg the people went forward to the Table, receiving the bread at one end of the table and the cup at the other. Worshippers formed a continuous line down the center aisle. The practice of the Reformed church in the Netherlands and parts of the Scottish church was to sit at a long Communion table in the choir or in the aisles of the nave. People were served, in other words, in small groups (Presbyterian Worship p. 62). Sometimes the leaders go forth to serve the people. Sometimes the people come forward to receive the sacrament and respond to Christ. Sometimes we come forward and receive the elements together, known as intinction. While the bread and cup are served, our constitution says (W ) the people may sing, the choir may sing, instrumental music may be played, Scripture may be

5 5 read, or the people may pray in silence. All of these are appropriate ways to commune with the Lord and with one another. The service of the Eucharist concludes with a brief prayer of thanks and a promise to live our lives in the light and power of God s grace that we have seen in the Lord s Supper. This order of the Lord s Supper that we use throughout the year goes back to the earliest history of the church. Christians have been celebrating this sacrament using an order and prayers like these since the beginning of the church. In this sacrament we connect with all who have gone before us. In the Lord s Supper we remember what Jesus has done for us, we commune with the saints past and present, and we look forward to God s glorious future kingdom. Jesus invites us to come in the book of Revelation: I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. Amen.

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