The Lord’s Supper in the 21st Century

Something I’ve struggled with for a while is that the Lord’s Supper often doesn’t fit easily into a more contemporary informal church service. Everything else is done in normal understandable language and with an eye to helping outsiders fit in. But then the Lord’s Supper suddenly reverts to a very formal style that uses sentences with way too many clauses (this is particularly a problem with Presbyterian liturgy), white table cloths and funny little cups. It’s hard not to seem ritualistic and either be boring, or reinforce those unhelpful misconceptions that it’s a bit of magic mumbo jumbo instead of rejoicing in the death of Christ and feeding on him in our hearts by faith.

Sorry it’s a bit long – but here’s some liturgy I wrote for our Lord’s supper today (with a bit of help from the book of common prayer). We still need to work out what to do with the white table cloths. But I thought this worked pretty well yesterday. Any thoughts or comments appreciated.

The death of Jesus is the KEY MOMENT in the history of the world. And today we have this special opportunity to focus on the cross. And to reflect on it’s significance for. The Lord’s supper is different from the things we normally do at church. Most of what we do at church involves just speaking and singing or listening. But with the Lords Supper we get to ACT OUT our faith in Jesus death in a very tangible way as we eat the bread and drink the grape juice.

We celebrate the Lords Supper because Jesus himself gave it to us as a way of remembering him. In Mark chapter 14 when Jesus is sharing the passover meal with his disciples just before he dies on the cross we read
22While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
23Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
24“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25“I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”

The bread represents Jesus body, which he sacrificed for us. The wine represents his blood being poured out to wash away our sin and to mark a new covenant…a new kind of relationship with God where we could be forgiven and be his friends. And eating the bread and drinking the wine is a symbolic way of saying ‘Yes, I need your sacrifice Jesus. I need to be washed clean of sin. I need you to open the way for a new relationship with God.’ Eating and drinking this meal is a symbolic way of expressing your faith in Jesus.

And so I want to invite you today to join in this supper with humility and gratitude. I want to invite you to be HUMBLE in admitting that you are’nt worthy to be God’s friend. And I want to invite you to be GRATEFUL that Jesus’ death means unworthy people can be God’s friends.

Sometimes people can get a bit confused about the Lord’s supper. And they think they haven’t been good enough to take part. As they look back over the last week they realise their tongues been out of control. Or they know they’ve done things God wouldn’t like. And they feel guilty. If you’re in this situation, PLEASE PARTICIPATE in the Lords Supper. The Lords supper is not about coming to God in your Sunday Best. It’s not a best and fairest awards ceremony for people who think they’ve behaved particularly well recently. The Lord’s supper is about admitting your need. And trusting Jesus’ death to forgive you and wash away your guilt.

And that means there’s just one sort of person who SHOULD NOT take part in the Lord’s Supper. Anyone who thinks they don’t personally need Jesus death should not take part in the Lord’s supper. If you don’t think you’re unworthy of a relationship with God. If you don’t feel you need Jesus sacrifice to wash you clean and give you a new friendship with God. Don’t eat the bread and drink the wine. It would just be a hollow Religious Ritual. If you don’t think that you personally need Jesus’ death, the honest thing to do is to let the plate go past and come and have a chat to me afterwards. And I’d love to have a chat about why the Bible says WE DO Need Jesus to die for us. Because it’s the absolutely central massage God wants us to understand.

And so to prepare to eat the Lords supper together we’re going admit our sin and look to Jesus by saying a prayer of confession together. The prayer will be up on the screen and you can all join me in praying.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

For the sake of you Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name.

Amen.

Having confessed our sin, let’s now express our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus by eating the bread and the grape juice together. We’ll begin by passing around the bread, and if you’d like to wait until everyone has been served we’ll eat it together

The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for You. Let’s eat this remembering that Christ died for us, and let’s feed on him in our hearts by faith and with thanksgiving.

We’ll now pass out the grape juice. And again we’ll drink together after everyone has been served.

The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for You. We drink this remembering that Jesus’s Blood was shed for us. Let’s be thankful.

I trust that sharing in this meal has said to you in a very clear way that God loves you, that he has done everything needed to forgive your sins. And that you can fully rely on him. Let me lead us in prayer.

Almighty and everliving God, We thank you with all our hearts for feeding us with the spiritual food of the precious Body and Blood of Jesus; Thankyou for the reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Thankyou for the chance to express our faith in him. And thankyou for the reassurance of your love and kindness towards us.
We pray that as we make our way into a new week that you’ll help us to continue to be confident in the death of Jesus, and that we’ll be able to do the all the good works which you have prepared for us to walk in;
And we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

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