Apr 17 2013

Christ in a Container

Published by at 12:08 am under Medley of Thoughts

Commercialism is creeping  into Communion, the most sacred act of Christians of all times and all places.  The writer of the Gospel according to Matthew tells us that Jesus, on the last night of his life took bread and broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup of wine and said, “Drink from it , all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many…” (Mt. 26:26ff) Today  a congregation can serve the body in a thin paper-wrapped wafer and the  blood in a plastic cup with a pull off cover. That is very convenient for huge congregations–no more filling hundreds of little cups with wine or grape juice. No more placing wafers on a tray or searching the bakery for a fresh loaf of bread to break.

This makes the Eucharist/ the Last Supper/ Communion very easy to serve. However, in the twenty centuries since the first supper of Our Lord, Communion has never been convenient or easy.  Almost from the beginning theologians have debated about what this sacrament means.  From this debate proceeded three versions of what happens to bread and wine when they are served as the body and blood of the Holy One.  One understanding is called “Transubstantiation” which means that the elements become the actual flesh and blood of Jesus.  The second, Martin Luther called “sacramental unity” meaning that the body and blood of Jesus coexist with the bread and wine.  The third understanding takes the elements to be symbols of the body and blood.  Eating them together with a whole congregation of fellow believers is a remembrance of the act of Jesus on that last night before his death.

Whatever the understanding of what hapens to make the elements sacred, they are sacred.  Generations of devoted Christians have prepared these elements for congregations to share in remembering Jesus. Now, with an eye to making money that pervades our whole culture and society, a church can buy Jesus in a cup conveniently topped off with a wafer.

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