Weather Report May 2017

On Maundy Thursday evening, nearly every chair in the chapel was occupied. The seating arrangement was such that the participant could observe his/her neighbor at worship. At the center of the room was a table prepared for our observance of the Lord’s Supper. Having just shared a meal together in the fellowship hall, we entered the chapel to eat and drink spiritually.
The hymns we sang and the words of Christ recited were intentional. They conveyed the whole power of the Lord’s Supper. We lifted our voices singing, “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.” We attuned our hearts to hear the words of Christ which instituted this very observance: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took the bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you.’ After the meal, Jesus took the cup and said: ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’”
I found the transition to worship to be a challenge. Our Wednesday evening church family dinners are anything but quiet; that is the nature of healthy fellowship. There is spirited exchange at the table, children ever-tempted to run and play round the room. The worthy preparation and proper observance the Lord’s Supper necessitates appeared to be out of my reach.
But somewhere between the first hymn and the choir’s offering of “Ave Verum Corpus” I discovered the angle of repose worship requires. I was guided to turn my eyes and heart simply to the institution of Christ alone. “Take, eat; this is my body given for you.” “This cup is the new covenant; drink of it, all of you.” In the words spoken by Jesus resides the power greater than sin. I received them.
In my meditation I said that our observance of the Lord’s Supper was not a reenactment in the sense that we might gather in and around Franklin to recreate the appearance of the Civil War battle fought there in 1864. If that were the aim we would have been seated on cushions on the floor and observed a Passover meal. More importantly, a reenactment, like a memorial, celebrates an absence, not a presence. I invited those present to anticipate an event, the presence of Christ Jesus and his transforming grace.
In the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus spoke of a “new covenant” or “new testament.” A testament is a promise made by one about to die. In that promise, a bequest and heir(s) are named. Jesus named the bequest when he said “for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus appointed the heir when he said “for you.” The table at the center of our Maundy Thursday worship was prepared for us. The bread and the cup were signs to a living presence, not an absence.
Presently, we observe the Lord’s Supper six times a year. Several through the years have expressed an interest in a monthly observance of this ordinance. I am open to this change, where the object of the celebration is the presence of Christ Jesus rather than an absence. I am ready to increase our observance of this ordinance where worthy preparation includes our focus on the promise of “the forgiveness of sins.”    —Steven