Christ the Core of Our Faith, part 1
The Lord’s Supper

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In the congregation north of here where I sometimes attended as a teenager, I recall an on-going debate between two of the brothers over the Lord’s Supper. These men were both regarded as leaders and bible students, so before a class or a men’s business meeting, or the pre-worship huddle where we figured out how to get the trays into the end zone, these two brothers had their friendly debate, and everyone else listened in. (Of course it may also have been that the rest of didn’t want anything to do with it or didn’t know what they were talking about.)

One brother would take the position that the bread and the fruit of the vine really was the body and blood of Christ. That’s why he would pray for the bread “We thank you for this bread which is your Body, O Lord.”
The other brother had no problem with that prayer but pointed out that logically the bread and the fruit of the vine only symbolized the body and blood of Christ. That’s why he would pray, “We thank you for this bread which represents your body, O Lord.”
And so it would go and they would make good points until the leader in the pre-worship huddle would say something like: “Let’s figure out who prays which prayers and then you can pray what you like as long as we start worship on time.”

It was all in a spirit of fellowship and no harm was done that I can recall. Though it was confusing to me personally when I was in graduate school years later. You see, I did not have the benefit of an undergraduate in Bible or Church History. When I had to take Graduate level church history there were some things assumed when our professor would ask us to review what we had learn. I didn’t know about the Marburg Colloquy (1529) in which Martin Luther argued for the real presence of Christ in the elements of the communion. The most famous member of the colloquy to disagree with him was Ulrich Zwingli who contended that the Lord’s Supper only signified the Last Supper of Christ. Their debate was impossible resolve and the Protestant movement split into two factions.

Now in grad class when we were asked “Who said that the bread and wine really is Christ’s body and Blood, and who said it is just symbolic? And what happened after their debate?” Quite naturally I said, “I went to church with those two and would be happy to explain it. And as far as what happened afterward, I think that’s when we would pass the tray for the collection – of course we understood that it was separate and apart.”

[I will confess to some embellishment here for the sake of a good joke. It didn’t happen exactly like that in grad school – but the friendly debate between the brothers is accurate – as was my surprise upon hearing it “retold” in church history. I was surprised to learn that the Marburg Colloquy was going on in my hometown.]

I don’t know Luther and Zwingli. But I know the two brothers. I know that their differing interpretations of the Lord’s Supper never took away from their ability to serve one another around that table. I know that both of them would agree and often did that what is of most importance is Christ. Not the type of bread or the color of juice (or its proof) or whether it was one cup or 100. What mattered most of all was that it was about Christ – whether you said “is” or “represents” it was about Christ who died on the cross, was buried in the tomb, rose again on the third day. The Living Lord welcomes us to his Supper on his day and one day he will come again.

Read Luke 24:13-35

Through September and part of October, I want us to dwell on they ways that Christ is the Core of our Faith. In our worship, service, and study – Christ is at the heart of it all, and if he isn’t then we are going through the motions. In our communion, in our baptisms, in our preaching and use of the word, Christ is truly present. He is with us and revealed to us. Without Christ at the core, our faith and fellowship are empty.

Who did Jesus meet on the road to Emmaus?
He met disciples without hope. They are downcast and sorrowful. He met Cleopas and company who were dwelling on the death of Christ. Christ walks among them as a stranger. They didn’t know the whole story. But the risen Christ says that’s because they hadn’t understood the word of God. So Christ, who came to them unrecognized, opened their minds and hearts to God’s word. Later on they will reflect about the hope that was revived in them because the word was alive.

When we have lost hope, when we assemble downcast and sorrowful, Christ meets us at his supper table. He makes us one despite our little debates. He gives us hope – so much hope that we want to bring others to the table too. We want to share good news with one another. Next time you are at odds with someone. Sit by them as you partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Was that the Lord’s Supper in Emmaus?
"Supper at Emmaus" by Caravaggio, 1616
Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio

You tell me: Cleopas and company invite the stranger in for a meal. It is hospitality. It is a common ordinary meal. It is late and they are travelling and there is the need to have a good meal. But this ordinary meal becomes extraordinary when the unrecognized Christ “takes the bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread.” Those are the very same words used in Luke’s account of the Lord’s Supper – do you think that’s accidental? You tell me.

This is the Lord’s Supper at Emmaus, and I believe that Luke is saying to the disciples of his age and to all of us who read it, to Luther and Zwingli, and brothers back home, Luke is saying: Christ is what makes it the Lord’s Supper.

When Cleopas and company of any age ... gather in Christ’s name ... welcome him as a guest ... regard him as the host ... then Jesus is really known to us.

I can still recall a sermon at that church north of here. The preacher said, “Christ commanded us to ‘Do This in Remembrance of Me.’ But how can we remember an event that we were not present for? We can think about it. We can imagine. But Christ didn’t want us to remember an event. He wanted us to remember HIM.”

Cleopas and his companion were enthused after meeting Christ. They weren’t even stunned by the fact that Christ disappeared from their sight. They were compelled to share the news about their encounter. Was your heart opened today when we gathered around this Lord ’s Supper meal? Who will you tell?

I don’t mean to say that burgers and pizza are a fair substitute for the Lord’s Supper, but remember that Christ made his presence known to Cleopas and friend over an ordinary meal. Most of us will go to a meal today. Will it just be ordinary, or do we believe that the spirit of Christ is present with us there and that we can serve as witnesses to others so that they will see him in our fellowship. Open our eyes and open our hearts to the fact that Christ meets us in our journey.

Christ is at the Core of the Lord’s Supper. Let Christ be at the center of any meal we enjoy together. Let Christ be at the Core of our lives, everyday.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 12 September 2010

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