But Christianity says no, no, no. The goal, in fact, is just the opposite. The goal is not to escape the material, but to bring heaven and earth together. The word became flesh….Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven… And I saw the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to the earth as a bridesmaid ready for her groom…
What we are doing in Christianity is pulling the spirit and the material together. We are not divorcing them, but we are pulling them together. So, Christianity can not be practiced properly without water, wine, and bread, these material objects. Some are offended by that, that’s the gnostic in you. I don’t want it to be like that, I just want it to be about ideas and spiritual things and revelation, that’s all…No, Christianity involves the necessary sacraments of baptism and communion, because these always ground us back into this good earth that God created, not to be abandoned but to be redeemed and restored and recovered.
Now let’s hear from the apostle Paul about this. Jesus, with his mysterious Eucharistic theology at Capernaum doesn’t really give much explanation, he just announces You’re going to need to eat my flesh and drink my blood. But Paul begins to show us how we participate in that. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 ESV. One bread, one cup, one faith, one baptism, one spirit, one Lord who is over all. We share in the one body and one blood of Jesus through communion, and we become one body. We partake of the body and blood of Jesus that we be His presence in the earth, that we might become the body of Christ. So, the cup is blessed and the bread is broken. In the blessed cup and broken bread of the Eucharist (meaning thanksgiving – Jesus after supper took a cup and gave thanks, Eucharist) we have what Paul calls a participation in the body and blood of Christ. The Greek word there, koinonia, means fellowship, sharing, communion. We don’t try to explain that. This is revelation and confession, not reason and explanation. When Jesus and the apostle Paul tell me that I need to eat the body of Christ and drink his blood, and that when Paul tells me that the cup that we bless and the bread that we break is in fact a mysterious participation, sharing, koinonia, union, fellowship in the body and blood of Christ, we simply confess it. Because it is revealed to us through scripture from Jesus and the apostle Paul, we simply say Amen to it.
And we enter the Mystery that through bread and wine we participate in the body and blood of Jesus. This communion, this sharing of bread and wine, is the very heart of Christian worship. Christians from the very beginning (literally the first day), assemble on Sundays because it’s the day we commemorate the resurrection. We did this long before Sunday became a public holiday. If it were once again not a public holiday, we would still do it. We’d just have to get up very early, and that’s what we’d do. We come together on Sunday, and at the heart of our coming together is not the sermon, not the singing, but the table. That is the most important thing we do. You could dispense with the sermon. You could dispense with the singing. You could dispense with both the song and the sermon. But we can not dispense with that which is both the center and heart of Christian worship, from the very beginning, that is the coming to his table.
I know, I know. Many churches do exactly the opposite. We emphasize the sermon and the song, come to the table monthly if we’re lucky. Maybe bi monthly. Maybe quarterly. Have a great “communion event.” This is a problem. The pre-eminent, over arching reason for our gathering together on Sunday is to come to the table of the Lord and receive communion. And it is received, not taken. You do not take communion, you receive communion. You don’t take like a thief, you receive, because communion is ALWAYS a gift offered by Jesus to you. That’s why there’s always someone standing, in the name of Jesus, to offer it to you. “The body of Christ, broken for you.” “The blood of Christ, shed for you.” It is during the Eucharist that we enter the sacred mystery of participation in the body and blood of Jesus. This should send a thrill through you.
Do I mean that? Yes. Can I explain it? No, but I confess it. Do I believe it? Absolutely. That in the Eucharist, we are invited to enter the mysterious participation into the body and blood of Jesus. This is not a Catholic thing. This is a Christian thing. This is what Christians have always believed. It’s not a Catholic thing. It was not abandoned during the reformation. The reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, confessed what we call the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine.
So did the revivalists, John Wesley and George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards. It was only in very modern times, coming into the twentieth century, the height of empiricism, and a kind of return of Gnosticism, that we lost the sense of sacred mystery with communion. On Gnosticism one more time – Gnosticism is spiritual. Christianity is sacramental.
I’m not done with this yet.
“”Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV