Many in my denomination prefer the term “Lord’s Supper” to “communion” when discussing the breaking of bread and the (obviously non-alcoholic) fruit of the vine. The word “eucharist” is practically unheard-of! (Literally.)
Recently, I was explaining to a friend[*] that the use of the term “Lord’s Supper” in Southern Baptist circles was meant to emphasize the memorial nature of the act (see: Zwingli).
Ironically, I had only known this blessed practice as “communion,” since pretty much the only time I partook was when visiting my high school friend’s (not-so) non-denominational Christian church. Actually, it was the only question I stumbled over during my licensing to ministry; I couldn’t remember what the “two ordinances” of the church were, but I knew the sacraments!
The big rub (as far as I can tell) with the idea of “sacrament” is the ex opere operato view, which basically contends that taking the (properly blessed) bread and cup does something positive to a person’s spirit just by taking it, regardless of their attitude or disposition.
This just can’t hold water. According to Paul, there may even be negative physical effects from taking the eucharist in an unworthy manner (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
It was after rounding out some of these finer points at lunch and getting a little carried away that my friend blurted out a sentence that has given voice to many of my thoughts on spirituality: “It’s not magic!”
That was it. Newton’s laws of motion may not be the source of the problem, but they sure are analogous. Whatever our view of sacraments, we tend to view God mechanically: from “if it’s properly blessed, it’s efficacious” to “if I share and type ‘Amen,’ then I’ll receive that new job.”
All of this misses the very point: communing with a Person. It has traded the God who can be known for a machine that can be predicted.
And yet, communion has enormous potential for deeply moving and spiritual experiences of the Lord’s presence.
Believers can rightly anticipate the spiritual presence of the Lord in His supper, not because He has been invoked by some ritual or incantation, but because He has promised that every moment bursts with intimacy for His Spirit-sealed people. Our expectation in communion is not ex opere, but in the character of Christ.
It may very well be an “ordinance” and a “memorial,” but it is the visitation of a once-dead-now-resurrected King. A wake is significantly different if the deceased is alive and His Spirit powerfully present. A eulogy is far more hopeful when the casket is empty and the seat of honor filled.
Sure, the Lord’s Supper is an ordinance to be obeyed. But what has Christ promised to those who keep His ordinances?
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
By God’s faithfulness, we are never alone at Christ’s table.