This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26 GNT
I will give you many descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will bless you and make your name famous, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2 GNT
With the Lord’s Supper God has bound up his own honor, for in Christ alone he desires to be acknowledged and worshiped as our God. So far as the Holy Supper is a confession before men, the communicant proclaims Christ and teaches faith in him. He helps to spread and preserve the kingdom of Christ, strengthens the influence of gospel and sacrament, aids in the conversion of sinners and in storming the devil’s kingdom.
Meaning is then not something we discover in ourselves, or in our lives. The meanings we are capable of discovering are never sufficient. The true meaning has to be revealed. It has to be “given.” And the fact that it is given is, indeed, the greater part of its significance: for life itself is, in the end, only significant in so far as it is given.
More seriously, the question is not only whether the discipline is doing good but whether it might actually be doing some harm. Could it be that systematic theology as usually practiced actually frustrates the proclamation of the gospel?
I have been in many missional seminars, and read many books about making the church more evangelistic. Read a ton of books about apologetics, and church growth, and personal, lifestyle evangelism; while beneficial to my faith, they haven’t really been as effective as I would have hoped in helping me share Jesus with others.
No where near as effective as experiencing Christ in the Lord’s Supper.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians notes the missional value (the benefit to sharing our faith) found in the Lord’s Supper. When we are partaking, when we are in communion with God, we are naturally proclaiming His death. Specifically, that His death was “for us”.
I always thought we were preaching to the choir, to the other men and women that are with us there at the altar. But Luther noted that proclamation is more than that. When we realize this is God is in this moment, giving Himself under the bread and wine, the moment can and should become life transforming. We come to the altar tired, broken, plagued by the things of the world, tormented by guilt and we leave, our spirits lifted, our hearts set free, and our outlook on life changed.
This is the gospel that systematic theology should drive pastors and professors to talk about in Bible studies, sermons, books. This is the outside factor that Merton talked about, the revelation giving definition to our lives. it is what Abraham learned from God, that he was blessed, and part of that blessing, a major part is that God’s work through him to bless us, and all who depended on God throughout history.
The blessings come, as Abraham learned, because God is present with us. He is not just the topic of conversation as we ponder the mysteries of our faith. He is present, joining in the conversation, present in the bread and the wine, present as we realize we share in His death and resurrection.
And then we leave church, and see people experiencing the brokenness, and realizing how He is healing ours, and we share with them that His death was for them as well.
Missional thought, being evangelistic comes from hearts and souls touched by God and responding to it.
Consider what God is giving you in the Lord’s supper… and then.. in awe, ask Him to show you others that need it.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 392–393.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 6–7.
Gerhard O. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), viii.