They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In our image-saturated culture, I personally think we could use more words, but I’m willing to give pictures credit when its warranted.
A few Sundays ago, I saw a picture that completely transformed the way I view the Lord’s Supper. No one posed for it. No one drew it. It happened spontaneously in real time. In fact, if you weren’t paying attention, you would have missed it. I asked around. A lot of people worshiping beside me didn’t see it. But I saw it, and now I’m going to try my best to find words to communicate what I saw.
Some people struggle with the Lord’s Supper. We debate over the meaning of certain words. We wonder why Jesus left this for us to do. We study history and realize that this strange rite has often been the source of bitter disagreement. Some traditions botch it so badly that it comes to represent the very opposite of the gospel that it’s supposed to communicate. Other traditions, in response, choose not to emphasize it at all. It’s just kind of there. We keep doing it, but no one really knows why.
I am not going to attempt to explain the full theological significance of the Lord’s Supper though there are several thoughtful books that attempt to do that well. I just want to describe what happened last Sunday at our morning worship service and hope that some of the same profound significance that I saw live and in person translates through my best effort at written communication. My goal is that my little reflection will cause you to worship Christ even more next time you’re at the table.
First, I need to give a little background. A few months ago, two ladies in our church had a disagreement. The specifics of that disagreement are not important here other than the fact that it ultimately led one of the ladies to leave the church. Despite our best efforts, we could not bring about reconciliation through Christ. For months, those involved were saddened but continued to pray for repentance and reconciliation. We know that Christ breaks down walls of hostility and reconciles sinners to one another, and we remained hopeful that he would here.
A couple weeks ago, the lady who left reached out and said she wanted to come back. She knew she would need to pursue reconciliation, and she knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But she was trusting Christ to lead her. Led by his Spirit, she looked by faith to the cross to provide the power for her repentance and reconciliation with those she had hurt. She was humble and ready to go for it, and we were thrilled to have her back.
At the beginning of the year, our church decided to start celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly. We also decided to change our distribution system. We used to have ushers distribute the bread and cup to members who remained seated, but we were not satisfied with this system. It just didn’t seem to capture what we read about in 1 Corinthians 10:17: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread.”
The Lord’s Supper, among other things, is meant to be a unifying sacrament. The one loaf of bread represents the one body of Christ broken for his body, the church. As the church gathers to partake of the bread, we are by faith partaking of the body of Christ broken for us. We are reconciled to one another and unified as a dissimilar group of people on the sole basis of Christ’s death and resurrection. No matter how diverse we are and how severe our differences, Christ overcomes them. The Lord’s Supper, among other things, is a weekly celebration of the unity we have in Christ.
Here’s what happened Sunday: Our church lines up in two lines toward the communion table in the front where the two pastors distribute the bread and the cup. It just so happened that the two women who were previously in dispute with one another arrived at the table from the two separate lines at precisely the same time. They met in the middle to receive the bread of Christ’s body simultaneously. Brought to the table by Christ, they noticed one another and embraced, reconciled literally by the body of Christ, brought together physically by the physical sign of Christ’s reconciling sacrifice.
It was beautiful. I don’t believe in coincidences. God providentially ordained for these two sisters in Christ to arrive at that precise moment. God wanted his church to see a living picture—one that only he can paint—of the power of the cross. Christ reconciles sinners. Christ’s body was broken to unite his people into one body—one family. We eat bread and drink the cup every week to celebrate that union. Last Sunday, God drew a picture of reconciliation, and it was worth a thousand words. Last Sunday, we met Christ again at his table.