I won’t take too much of your time with this. I could bore you really quickly with the Reformation and the ideas about the Sacraments (Lord’s Supper and Baptism) in the minds of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, specifically. I have a long, long way to go in understanding the course of human history since the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom here on earth!
I’m doing a case study on Luther and the sacramental views he had. Specifically, it’s the argument of the 1500’s over “real presence” – what the Catholics referred to as Transubstantiation. It is the idea that the body of the Lord Jesus somehow penetrates the loaf and the wine at the supper, some sort of mystical embodiment not in physical terms… but in some sort of “essence” within the elements of the Lord’s supper. You see there was a humongous argument going on in those days over the doctrinal position one took on such things, and Luther fell into a camp more of “consubstantiation” than transubstantiation. Basically, Luther’s take was that the Lord could not possibly “embody” the elements, but though there is no physical change in substance, Christ is present in the bread that we eat. Luther didn’t care “how” Jesus was present in the eating of the supper, but he just wanted him there in the elements of the eating.
What is the point? I come from a Restoration heritage, a position that came down through the ages and was a product of the hundreds of years of attempt to Reform – all the way back to Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and others. Though Luther is still thoroughly Catholic here, he is trying to reform, or bring back the truth of the New Testament Christian doctrines. Where I came from, was the heritage that came down through Lutherans, Scottish Presbyterians, Methodists, and many other combinations of denominational craziness. So by the 1800’s, there was a simple plea to break loose from the chains of dogma and doctrine – not true Christian doctrine, but in fact the dogma of “the Church” (Catholic Church). Things that they value as authoritative as the text of the Bible itself; Church history, which they would argue is more valuable than the text in many cases, because the text was compiled finally by the late 200’s, or 300’s. Church history stretches back all the way back to Pentecost and the Apostles.
I digress – the point is this; How do we celebrate the supper? The sacraments of the church were doctrines and became holy in and of themselves. But how would Jesus have intended it to be memorialized? We seem to have a western world take on “memorials” and the Lord’s supper is no exception. What about our observing what Jesus said to observe? “As I have washed your feet, so you should wash one another’s feet.” When Jesus said that, was he laying down a commandment for the Lord’s supper from now on? Or was he laying down a principle of service, of self-sacrifice, of genuine understanding of WHO and WHAT Jesus was! The eating of the meal together was a celebration of his love, sacrifice, and resurrection – but how often have we made it an occasion of morbid silence? His dying was sad, in fact it was brutally evil, and the work of Satan. But it was the plan of the Creator! It was God’s plan for his son to die, and rise up to save us from sin. To defeat death once and for all! Our eating of the supper must be sacred and holy. But it should be understanding the covenant Jesus set up as well. That “you should love one another, even as I have loved you,” and our celebration of the Lord’s supper should be a feast of celebratory occasion! Praise God for the steps of the journey that led to where we presently are. And though those men of 500 years ago served God with a deeply Christocentric lifestyle, they were simply steeped in dogma and tradition to the point that even their steps “OUT OF” the dogma, – to reform – the Church, were still deeply Catholic in nature. Praise God for the memorial, and may he help us to understand what he wants us to understand when we “discern the body rightly,” as in I Corinthians 11.