Future in the Lord’s Supper
For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
1 Corinthians 11:26
In yesterday's reflection, we noted how both past and present are central to our celebration of the Lord's Supper. Through the elements of bread and wine, we remember the death of Jesus, an event in the past, and we experience the presence of God in the present.
Most Christians are familiar with these temporal aspects of Communion. Yet there is another temporal dimension that can be surprising because it is often overlooked. I'm speaking here of the future in the Lord's Supper.
This future can be found in Paul's concluding description of the Supper: "For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord's death until he comes again" (11:26). Did you see it? "Until he comes again!" Here is an unmistakable pointer to the future, when Christ comes in glory to finish the establishment of God's kingdom. The language in 1 Corinthians paraphrases something Jesus said in the Last Supper: "I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God" (Mark 14:25).
Jews around the time of early Christianity sometimes envisioned the future kingdom of God as a great banquet, a feast with fine food and drink. Jesus drew upon this vision in his institution of the Lord's Supper, and Paul's "until he comes again" assumes it. When we receive the bread and the cup, we are not only remembering God's salvation in the past and experiencing God's presence in the present. We are also looking to the future, when God will wipe away every tear and his kingdom will be complete. Thus, in a sense, the elements of Communion are hors d'oeuvres, appetizers that enhance our yearning for the feast of the future.
Sometimes, in the context of the Lord's Supper, I will think about the messianic banquet yet to come. I wonder what it will be like to share a meal with Jesus himself. I imagine how it will feel to share in this meal with friends and family members who have gone to heaven. I realize that my feeble mind can't really begin to grasp the reality of the future, but it gives me hope to dream a bit. What will it be like when Jesus actually breaks the bread I get to eat?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: When you participate in the Lord's Supper, do you experience its future dimension? When you think of the messianic banquet of the future, what comes to mind?
PRAYER: O Lord, what a marvelous hope you have given me . . . the hope of one day living in the fullness of your kingdom . . . the hope of one day being present with you and sharing in your meal in an altogether new way . . . the hope of celebrating with all your people, including my loved ones who are with you now . . . the hope of the world finally renewed . . . the hope of your shalom in all the earth.
Thank you, dear Lord, for adding a future dimension to your Supper. Even as I remember your past sacrifice and experience your presence in the moment, I am also blessed to think about your future and my part in it. Thank you for packing so much meaning into such a simple sacrament.
"Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Amen.