I celebrate the many flavors of Christianity which gather within The Pastor’s Workshop. As such, I recognize and respect the different names we use to refer to the meal we share as Jesus commanded- Holy Communion, Communion, the Eucharist, and the Lord’s Supper being the most common. This worship guide will use the name Communion simply because its easiest to type. I also respect our diverse theology related to Communion, and hope this guide remains helpful to you.
1. Passover and the Last Supper
Scholars are not in agreement as to whether the Last Supper was a Passover meal. They do agree it was not a Seder as it is now celebrated. The modern Seder includes additions and traditions added over time to reflect the continuing experiences of Jewish persons.
It’s interesting to consider how Jesus uses food at the Last Supper to tell the story of his role in the story of salvation. The use of food to tell a story would be very familiar to the disciples, since a Passover meal uses food to tell the story of God saving the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.
- The unleavened bread of quick escape
- The bitter herbs of years of pain and injustice
- The sacrifice of the perfect, male lamb whose blood washed the threshold of the home so death would pass over the home. (The 10th plague, death of first-born sons)
Just as the Hebrews were commanded to continue the Passover meal and continue to tell the story of their deliverance, Jesus commands us to continue the Communion meal and continue to tell of his saving death “until he comes.”
2. Corinth and Communion
The congregation in Corinth reflected the diversity of their seaport community, including both wealthy persons and poor persons. The congregation most likely met in the home of one of the wealthier members. When they gathered as a congregation, the wealthier members behaved like they were at a party, overindulging with their friends and excluding the poor.
In his commentary on First Corinthians for the Interpretation Series, Richard B. Hays interprets Paul connecting Jesus’s death to the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Paul uses similar language to Isaiah 53, especially the idea of Jesus being “handed over to death by God.”
The lack of hospitality by the wealthy members of the congregation to the poor members of the congregation not only ignores the new covenant made in Jesus’s blood, but it further disrespects the sacrifice of Jesus’s crucifixion and death.
Christians look to Communion as one or more of the following
- a memorial of the Last Supper
- a mystical act of grace to strengthen and sanctify the faithful
- an act of thanksgiving for God’s gifts of creation, forgiveness, transformation, healing, and salvation
- a reminder of Christ’s presence among us and our unity in Christ
- a foretaste of the heavenly banquet
Yet this is Maundy Thursday, the night in which Jesus was betrayed and denied, the night of wrestling in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night of mocking and injustice followed by the day of agony and death. This night, we look to Communion, and we see sacrifice.
Jesus breaks the bread, telling the story of his broken body – his beatings, his flogging, Jesus being nailed to the cross, his exposure to the heat of the sun and the heat of humiliation, his stabbing by a Roman centurion to ensure he was dead.
Jesus raises a cup of red wine, telling the story of a new covenant not made and kept through the blood of animal sacrifice, but made once and for all through the shedding of his blood. Jesus is the Lamb of God. Jesus is the Threshold (the Gate). In Jesus we are freed from slavery to sin and shame. In Jesus, death passes over us like a shadow. A shadow can do no harm.
Lisa Degrenia is an ordained pastor currently serving Coronador Community United Methodist Church. Lisa studied at the University of South Florida and received her Masters of Divinity from Duke Divinity School. She’s served congregations in Largo, St. Petersburg, DeBary, and Sarasota.
In addition to serving as a pastor, Lisa enjoys leading retreats, photography, theatre, travel, and writing. She is indebted to the many wonderful mentors and teachers in her life, including her mother who first gave her a love for words.
Lisa met her beloved husband Ed on a trip to NYC and they were married ten months later. They are blessed with two grown daughters, two sons-in-love, one new grandchild, and two dogs. You can find more of her work at https://revlisad.com/.
I am held. I need to be held. I will be held.
I am held captive by downfall and
falsehood or I am held by Christ
whose outstretched arms free me from fear and captivity
Who holds me? Death or Christ?
Great Love bends low to us
Suffers with us and for us
Tastes death so we might be free
What does death taste like?
Amniotic fluid and stable hay
Breast milk and sawdust
Bread broken before sour wine
Salty tears, bitter fear
Ashes to ashes, mud pie
Blood and water served on a centurion’s spear
Linen, spices, or stone?
Taste and see that the Lord is good
I am held. I need to be held. I will be held.
Hold me, Jesus
The Taste of Death by Lisa Degrenia, www.revlisad.com
was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness; not by force but by sacrifice. Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win; He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by allowing death to conquer Him.
A.W. Tozer, Preparing for Jesus’ Return: Daily Live the Blessed Hope