This evening I had the honor of presenting the Lord’s Table as part of the Advent service at my church, The Dwelling Place. I had been praying and thinking for a week about what to say, and the biggest problem I had was resisting the temptation to try jamming six sermons’ worth of material into a few minutes’ meditation. But although I had all the pieces of the puzzle, try as I might, I just couldn’t get it to go together. The problem persisted right into this evening; I was wandering around the piazza in front of the church just minutes before the service, praying because I still didn’t know what I was going to say. About five minutes before I actually had to get up and start talking, God made it all click together, and here it is.
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death til He comes.”
Paul’s meditation on the Lord’s Table includes past, present, and future. In the past, Jesus died and rose. In the present, we proclaim that truth by celebrating the Lord’s Table, and we will continue doing that until, at some point in the future, He comes again.
Nor is this some sort of late development brought into the church by Paul. At the very first celebration of the Lord’s Table, Jesus passed the cup and said, “Drink from it, all of you, for I tell you that I will not taste of the fruit of the vine again until I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” From the beginning, the Lord’s Table looked forward to the day that we eat and drink with Jesus in the Kingdom.
Each season of the church year has its own lessons to teach, and all of these lessons apply all the time in our lives. For example, Lent is about repentance, but of course if we wait for Lent to come around before repenting, we’re going to lead miserable lives; we need repentance every day. But we set aside the seasons to focus on particular lessons and particular skills in the Christian life. This season is Advent, and it is about waiting. Advent anticipates Christmas. Jesus is coming, but He has not yet come, and so we wait.
It was a long wait. God placed Adam in the world to be His image, and Adam blew it. Eve had a son and said “I have gotten a man from the Lord” — hoping that this would be the Seed of the Woman who would crush the serpent and put the world to rights. Instead, he was Cain, the bad priest who slew his brother Abel, the good priest. They began a long succession of flawed images: Aaron, the High Priest who made an idol, David, the great King who committed murder and adultery, Balaam, the prophet of God who gave in to greed. There was a long succession of prophets, priests and kings who failed — a long succession. But not, God be praised, an endless succession.
Jesus came, and God’s people recognized Him for who He was: the Messiah, the priest, prophet, and king who fulfilled all their hopes. Then he was crucified — which is what happens to failed messiahs. All was lost…and then He rose from the dead, and victory was assured.
So what remains to us? We’ve won, haven’t we?
Jesus died, rose, and ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. Once again, God’s people are waiting for Messiah to come, and we can’t even imagine what we will be on that day. As John put it in his first epistle, “It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
While we wait for that day, God has given us the task to be His image in the world, the very Body of Christ. And this is a job that, by His supernatural grace, we can do, because we are what we eat.
So come now to the Table: This is the body of Christ, broken for you. This is the blood of Christ, shed for you. As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death, til He comes.