Communion Shapes Character by Eleanor Kreider

By Eleanor Kreider

With liveliness and intensity, Eleanor Kreider encourages church buildings to rediscover the biblical and theological subject matters which formed early Christian Lord's Supper practices. Renewed communion is a key to renewal, witness, and very important worship, she says.

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It was a complete repudiation of the Lord in whose name they met. Just as there was trouble at the table, so Paul finds a solution at the true table of the Lord. In the story of Jesus at table as well as in that tradition's deep history, which was rooted in Passover, the Corinthians could find the hint and inner dynamic for keeping Jesus' true memory alive in their community. Jesus had spoken and acted out a parable about his life-giving love, broken and poured out like bread and wine. "The new covenant is like this," Jesus said.

When they had all received, he tore off a piece for himself, and they all ate at once.  . gave it to them and said, Take; this is my body" (Mark 14:22). How those words must have surprised the disciples! They were puzzling words, breaking into an accustomed silence. After the supper (the main meal) came the traditional blessing of a ceremonial cup. Jesus, host at the Last Supper, sat up, took the cup of watered-down wine, and said, Let us praise the Lord our God, to whom belongs that of which we have partaken.

A dozen people? A real meal, with proper courses of food? A worrying disruption as a trusted member abruptly departs? A foreboding mood? Brief, puzzling sayings ascribed to Jesus, along with certain gestures? Prescribed questions and answers, stories and songs woven into an ancient ceremony? Psalm-singing? If I were asked to describe a modern communion service to a nonChristian inquirer, I would choose virtually none of those qualities and actions of the Last Supper. Only the few words and gestures of Jesus himself, in blessing the bread and cup, persist to link us to that Last Supper in the upper room.

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