Communion Helps Prepare the Church for the Future

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Communion is a further way that the church proclaims the gospel to the world. The sacraments are very different from preaching. Preaching is the Word that goes forth and strikes the ears of the world and the believing community. Communion visibly demonstrates the gospel and is not just an ear witness, but an eye witness of the mystery of the gospel. It is not just something we say; it is something we do. We remind ourselves and the world that the kingdom has not yet fully come. We do not live in a perfect or perfectible world, but a fallen world. Our world is full of sin and fallenness, and we eagerly await the visible, bodily return of Christ. Paul himself testifies about this when he says in reference to the Lord’s Supper, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of His death until His bodily return. Every time we share in the Lord’s Supper, we do not only look back and remember our past redemption. We do not only receive Christ’s forgiveness and grace as He walks with us right now, today. It is also a testimony to future realities. By faith we look to the culmination of this great story of redemption. Christ will return and fully inaugurate His kingdom. One of the high points of the Communion liturgy is when we say as a congregation, “Christ has died (past), Christ is risen (present), and Christ will come again (future).”

We look to that day when Christ will fully consummate His kingdom. We currently live in the tension between the “already” and the “not yet.” Someday, all the enemies of Christ will be put under His feet and the kingdom of God will be fully realized. The Scriptures teach that the culmination of the ages and the inauguration of the kingdom will be accompanied by a great banquet, a feast with all of God’s people through the ages, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11; Rev. 19:9). This banquet will also include the thief on the cross and all of us sinners who, by grace, have received the good news of the kingdom. It is known as the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9 ESV), and it is the time when all the realities of the New Creation will be fully revealed. There will be new heavens and a new earth. All will be restored. The biggest transformation will be the absence of sin and the full manifestation of the eternal presence of Christ. The elements of the Lord’s Supper are actually connected to this larger feast at the end of time. You should see the elements of the Lord’s Supper (bread and wine) as the hors d’oeuvres in anticipation of the larger feast which is to come.

It is also a sign that the New Creation has already broken into the present order of life. For the Christian, we do not just wait for the glories of heaven to come, we are to live in anticipation of those realities in the present. The church should be a mini outpost of those realities. The church (whether meeting together on Sunday morning, or as we are scattered around society throughout the week) should be a visible sign of radical grace, joyful forgiveness, bold justice, and sacrificial love. In the midst of a world that is preoccupied with the smaller narratives of war in Afghanistan, the latest Hollywood film, or the rise and fall of the stock market, we should be the living testimony of a greater, grander narrative that is unfolding in the world: namely, the glorious redemption of sinners who are being adopted by God and brought under His loving rule and reign.

Did you enjoy this entry? It is part of a book by Timothy Tennent titled, Ten Words, Two Signs, One Prayer: Core Practices of the Christian Faith. In its pages, Tennent casts a vision for a long tradition of Christian discipleship and catechesis focusing on the Ten Commandments, the two sacraments of baptism and Communion, and the Lord’s Prayer. It will helps individuals and groups:

  • Gain a deeper Christian appreciation of God’s Ten Commandments to his people Israel
  • Learn the meaning of the two sacraments—baptism and communion
  • Discover the value of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray (the “Lord’s Prayer”)

 

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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