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Resources > Position Papers > The Lord's Supper



The Lord's Supper

The Lord’s Supper is at the heart of worship here at Providence, and with good reason. It is the center of our worship because at the center of the Lord’s Supper is Jesus Christ Himself.  In and through the liturgical rite of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus Christ offers His own body and blood to us, for the nourishment of the Church in their union with Him. 


The institution of the Lord’s Supper is found in all the Synoptic Gospels [1], and summarized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:


For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.


In the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the Lord Jesus Christ inaugurated the New Covenant, the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and its promises. These promises proclaimed not only the coming of Christ as the Lord and Savior of the world but also the coming reign of Yahweh as King, ushering in peace and justice in the world, as it submits to Yahweh’s righteous rule. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom, a feast of the New Humanity created in and by the person and work of Christ Jesus. It is a celebration where the Church comes together in unity to bless one another and fellowship in anticipation of the fullness of the Kingdom that she has begun to experience in the here and now. 


In the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the Church designates herself as a distinct people. Through the participation of the Supper, the people of God are not only set apart from the world, but recognize themselves as children of their heavenly Father, given a place beside their elder brother Christ, as they commune by the Holy Spirit, with the Triune God, and one another. The Lord’s Supper is therefore not to be seen as a static ceremony of “remembrance” (as a merely mental exercise) of one who is far off, but an active participation in the life, love, and glory which has become theirs through the Son, and by the Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.  It is a participation, or communion with the body and blood of Christ, as Paul states in 1 Cor. 10:16-17. And as we partake of Christ in the Supper, we are made into one body, and one bread. One people of God is formed, where all are made one in Christ Jesus. 


As a meal of communion with God and each other, the significance of the Supper can be best expressed as a rite. While some of the sacramental language used historically is not to be despised, “…many…traditional descriptions of the sacraments fail because they obscure the fact that sacraments are actions”. [2] This allows us to consider how the community that enacts the Supper, i.e. the Church, is formed and sustained in its existence and flourishing. All societies have their rites, some more harmless (or harmful) than others, and they all say something about the group engaging in them. In the Christian Church, engaging in the rite of the Supper sets forth a confession of unity as the family of God who worships the Father through the Son by the Spirit. The Church is, therefore, a community that takes up a public presence in the world, and is not privatized or separate from it. This keeps us from forgetting the concrete reality of the Church. The Church is not a “spiritual” reality, only manifested truly in an invisible way, but is, without qualification, the visible community that performs the rites of the Christian Church. And as a visible community, she proclaims her King as a real Savior, a true Lord, over all the earth. And she visibly lives and exists as a people where there is to be no division, no disunity, but in harmony with the Holy Trinity, a life devoted to the glory of God, partaking of the One who is our life, Jesus Christ. 


Concerning Children and the Eucharist


Since the Church is one body visibly manifested through the rites of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the question of who may take communion should be addressed. Another distinctive of Providence is the communing of covenant children in the local body. While it is common in most Western traditions of Christianity to keep children from the table until they reach an ambiguously defined age of accountability, we believe that the Kingdom is made for such as these (Matt. 19:14). Children who have been baptized were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, and therefore are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2;6). They are children of their Heavenly Father before they can comprehend the glories of this reality when they are baptized and keeping them from the table actually works against the promises that are theirs in baptism. If they are kept from the table where their Father feeds them, can they really know that Jesus loves them? Can they really know that God has chosen them as His own? By allowing Children at the table, they are confirmed in their infancy and youth that God has, by His pure grace, accepted them before they could even respond. That is true grace that God loved us before we loved Him, that he has fed us and been with us for the whole of our lives unreservedly.


Concerning Real Presence

As a Reformed Church, Providence upholds the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and professes it as the ground of our hope. That Christ is among His people even now, and yet such a ground of hope can only be understood as a great mystery. To consider what it means to partake of the Christ who is present in the Eucharistic act is not something that can be contained to a simple formula. Instead, in the words of T.F. Torrance, Christ, “…is really present through the Spirit, not that he is present only as Spirit, far less some spiritual reality, but present through the same kind of inexplicable creative activity he was born of the Virgin Mary and now rose again from the grave”.[3] Such a presence cannot be fully comprehended except in the proclamation of the mighty act of God that He has come amongst His people and gives Himself to us. The elements of bread and wine are therefore seen as not bare signs but, in some mysterious way, a means by which we receive the Lord Jesus Christ in the fullness of His life. 

Christ has given Himself for the life of the world and gives Himself as true food and true drink to those who partake of His life in and through the Spirit. And through that entrance into communion with Christ, we have access by one Spirit to the Father. Therefore, let us keep the feast, and in unity, worship our God as we partake of His Son, and find our life in Him.

[1] Matt. 26:26-29, Mk. 14:22-26, Luke 22:14-23

[2] Peter Leithart, The Baptized Body, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2007), 22 

[3] T.F. Torrance, Theology in Reconciliation, (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1996), 119-120.

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