Formations 04.07.2024: Joyful, Joyful

Luke 24:30-35; Acts 2:42-47

What are your earliest memories of the Lord’s Supper or Communion? What do you remember being taught about this sacred act of the church?

What was the favored terminology for this observance in your church? Was it the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, or something else? What words or actions communicated what this observance was supposed to mean? What emotions were associated with it?

Everyone’s experience is different. For me, the church’s gathering at the table was always and exclusively “the Lord’s Supper.” It was a reverent, solemn occasion meant only for the members of my local church. And people were supposed to be reflective, subdued, a maybe even a little bit sad when they participated in it.

Worship renewal expert Robert Webber used to call this the “funeral dirge” approach to worship. I can’t say he was wrong.

In recent weeks, I’ve noted how there are an abundance of metaphors or word pictures used in Scripture to describe Jesus’s saving work. In this unit, we’ll discover that the same thing could be said for this most distinctive of Christian observances.

We begin this week by raising a respectful critique of the “funeral dirge.” In Luke 24, the risen Christ is made known to the disciples “in the breaking of the bread.” In Acts 2, part of the customary life of Jesus’ disciples is the breaking of bread. Indeed, “they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (v. 46).

Did you catch that? In these verses, especially in Luke, the breaking of the bread is associated not with the death of Jesus but with his resurrection. It is wrapped up in the joyous declaration that God has raised Jesus from the dead, and now he is present among his people. Therefore, the appropriate response is gladness.

The breaking of the bread was part of the early church’s life together: worshiping God, sharing their possessions, praying, and devoting themselves to each other and to the apostles’ teaching.

To be sure, it is sometimes appropriate to approach the table with an attitude of solemn reverence. But today’s passages invite us to imagine not a mournful observance but an expression of overflowing joy inspired by Christ’s resurrection and the Spirit’s presence among Christ’s gathered people.

Discussion

• What has your upbringing taught you to expect when Christians gather at the Lord’s table?
• What are the hallmarks of the community that “breaks bread” together as an expression of joy?
• How does Communion inspire our fellowship with each other and our witness to the world?
• Where do you find joy in the Lord’s Supper?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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