Thursday, September 25, 2003
Why Sacraments are not Signs by Peter Leithart
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
My thoughts, as anyone who reads my postings will soon find out, have been very much influenced by such authors and speakers as Peter Leithart (Blessed are the Hungry numerous Biblical Horizons articles, some conference talks and articles for the WTJ), James Jordan (numerous talks and Biblical Horizons articles), N.T. Wright (The Meal Jesus Gave Us and other works that touch on the subject), Tim Gallant (paedocommunion site and a conference talk — I am waiting for a copy of his book I have ordered), Keith Mathison (Given For You), John Williamson Nevin (The Mystical Presence) and Joachim Jeremias (The Eucharistic Words of Jesus). I am also beginning to read I. Howard Marshall and Geoffrey Wainwright on the same subject. I have to acknowledge the debt I owe to each of these authors, Leithart, Jordan, Wright and Nevin, in particular have exerted a formative influence upon my position. Needless to say, I owe a great debt to John Calvin on this subject also.
As I am preaching in the Baptist church that I am a member of, some of the conclusions I would like to make cannot be drawn. I would like to draw out a few of them in these posts. I am hoping to examine the multifaceted nature of the Lord’s Supper to the best of my (limited) ability and demonstrate that it is one of the two or three most important things that the church can ever do. Peter Leithart’s book is perhaps my favourite treatment of the subject. However, his approach is more suggestive than anything else; he does not explore any one aspect to a great depth. I hope to give more attention to the implications of particular aspects of the Supper than he is able to do. Whilst only a little of the content of what I say is original to myself, I hope that I might bring together in a more systematic form things that might otherwise have remained separate.
At present I envisage that this series will run to at least ten or more sermons, each identifying and applying particular aspects of the Supper. One of the reasons that I am posting these is so that I can receive criticism, positive or otherwise, that might help me in the development of my own thinking. I doubt if I will say anything groundbreaking, but hopefully this exercise will serve to sort some things out in my own head! I would appreciate any feedback people can give.
Do This As My MemorialWhere does the Bible teach about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper? Most of us would instinctively answer, ‘In the Gospels, Acts or in 1 Corinthians.’ Tonight I hope to challenge this perspective. There is a particular way of looking at Scripture that only sees a doctrine when it is explicitly stated. Coming to such a subject as the Lord’s Supper, this would severely narrow our data. Only the Synoptic Gospels, Acts and 1 Corinthians deal with the subject on the surface of the text. Other passages, such as John 6, have been seen to have bearing on the subject in some circles historically, but are very much disputed.
In my study of the Lord’s Supper I hope to draw your attention to the meaning of the Lord’s Supper when understood against the background of the Old Testament. Without a knowledge of the Old Testament any attempt to understand the Lord’s Supper will be like trying to understand a puzzle by examining only a small collection of pieces. Only if we place the New Testament data within the pattern of the Old Testament will the meaning begin to strike us.
Much of medieval and modern thought on the subject of the Lord’s Supper has been akin to seeking to interpret a symphony by looking at each note individually. The Supper has been carved into tiny pieces and the theologians puzzle about how to put all these discrete elements into any form of meaningful whole. However, the meal is a signifying act, like a marriage. Just as the ring is not to be meditated upon, the elements are not to be meditated upon. Of course this does not mean that they are not deeply significant (like the ring). Many people, if they were asked to give the reasons why we celebrate the Supper, would be unable to provide much of a coherent reason beyond: ‘Because Jesus told us to.’ I do not intend to dissect the Lord’s Supper like some doctrinal corpse. I would like, rather, to present you with some perspectives on how we should view the action in its ‘fullness’.
Why study this subject in the first place? We must not approach this issue out of some glorified curiosity. We must approach God’s Word humbly and penitently, seeking His light and endeavouring to transform our worship as we learn more about that which pleases Him. It is my conviction that our practice has been impoverished by a narrow and blinkered understanding of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. We have been asking the wrong questions and we have received the wrong answers. One of the questions that we have focused on to the exclusion of far more important questions is: What does the Lord’s Supper mean for me. I trust that you will receive a full answer to this question during the course of these studies. However, you will find that, important though this aspect is, it is but a small part of a far larger whole. It is my hope that as we study this subject, it might provide a stimulus for us to re-examine the way we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, both corporately and individually.
In the course of these studies we will deal with a host of different aspects of the Lord’s Supper. God-willing, we will deal with the Lord’s Supper as a sign of participation and as a sign of separation, as a sign of justification and as a sign of sanctification, as a place of blessing and as a place of judgment, as a place of giving and as a place of receiving, as a place of remembrace and as a place of anticipation, as a place of adoption and as a place of election, as the king’s table and as the bridegroom’s table, as a place of life and as a place of death, as a place of mourning and as a place of rejoicing and as the sign of the end of exile and as the sign of the building of a new kingdom. Many more aspects could be listed. However, this evening we are going to focus upon one aspect in particular. The Lord’s Supper is a meal of remembrance. What does this mean?
Tonight I would like to begin by drawing your attention to our ‘remembering’ God. We can often feel uncomfortable with the language that the Bible uses about God. The Bible talks about God as someone who has a strong right arm. Many theologians feel that such language is more appropriate to a fast bowler than the Absolute Being. However, this is the language that the Spirit of God chooses to use. In the Bible God is a God who laughs, who weeps, who mocks, who sings, who is jealous, who repents and who is churned up inside. We may not like to use such language, but God describes Himself using such words. Of course, you may say, God never changes, He is omnipotent, omniscient, unmoved by passions and other such things. The Bible certainly agrees with you. However, don’t ignore the other language in favour of this ‘theologically correct’ language. The Bible uses the more graphic and colourful language far, far more. We should not be embarrassed by it. In the course of these studies we will be exploring this language in considerable depth and so it is important that we accept it from the outset.
The Bible uses this language because it is appropriate to the God that we worship. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God who makes and keeps promises, He is the God who protects and guides, the God who loves and cares, the God who avenges and punishes, the God who forgives and is merciful and the God who is good to all. The god of the philsophers is not the God that we worship this evening. Our God is not far off. Our God is the Creator God who is always in some form of relationship, positive or negative, with all of creation. We preach the Incarnate God, not abstract metaphysics.
The Bible teaches us that we worship a God who ‘remembers’. In Genesis 9:12-17, we see God making a covenant with Noah. God places His rainbow in the sky and promises that whenever He looks upon the rainbow He will ‘remember’ His promise not to destroy the earth by a flood again. The rainbow is not there principally to remind us, it is there to remind God. God has made promises and the rainbow reminds Him of those promises. We see the same in Exodus 28. Aaron the High Priest has memorial stones on his shoulders and a memorial breastplate on whenever he comes before the Lord. God is to see them and ‘remember’ His people.
God’s remembering is not an empty purposeless remembering. God’s remembering is always an effective and creative event. We see this at the beginning of Genesis 8: God ‘remembers’ Noah and sends His wind to pass over the earth. Again in Exodus 2:23-25, God ‘remembers’ His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when His people are in bondage. The next thing we read, He appears to Moses in the burning bush. This principle is again seen in Exodus 20:24 — we memorialize the name of God so that He would come and bless us. Once again in Acts 10:4 we see the same thing, this time in the NT. When God ‘remembers’, He acts and things change. God’s remembering is not always positive. We can see this in Revelation 18:5 — God can ‘remember’ for judgment as well as for salvation.
Jesus commanded us regarding the Supper to ‘do this in remembrance of Me’. We generally tend to focus upon the Supper as there to cause us to remember God’s work in Christ. However, the Supper is principally there to remind God of His work in Christ. If we understand the words ‘this do in remembrance of Me’ correctly we will read them: ‘this do as my memorial’ or ‘this do, that God may remember me’.
We can learn a lot from the grain and drink offerings of the Old Testament. These were memorial sacrifices and they would generally follow the offering of a blood sacrifice. In places such as Leviticus 2 we see the instructions for the grain offering. We see the instructions given for the drink offering in Numbers 15. We can see from Numbers 28:15 that the drinking offering accompanied all types of sacrifices, including the ones for sin. The grain or bread sacrifice probably points to the flesh of the sacrifice and the wine to its blood. This pattern can also be seen in our Lord’s words of institution of the Lord’s Supper.
In the Old Covenant system, a memorial portion of the grain offering was given to God and the remainder was eaten by the priests. No one except a priest could eat of it. The drink offering was only to be offered in the land of Canaan. This makes sense. Throughout Scripture wine is a sign of rest and Sabbath. The priests were not permitted to drink wine in the presence of the Lord because they were not permitted to rest in His presence. Whilst wandering in the wilderness, we read in Deuteronomy 29:6, the Israelites did not drink wine or eat bread. During this time God did not ‘drink wine’ either. When they entered the land and the drink offerings were offered, however, the people were not permitted to partake. The drink offering was offered wholly to the Lord. This was a sign that the people had not fully entered the Sabbath rest that they were awaiting.
In the New Covenant both God and the people can partake of this wine of rejoicing (Philippians 2:17-18). This, again, can be seen in our Lord’s words of institution. The New Covenant is an age in which the future is brought into the present. We are the firstfruits of a new creation and taste the powers of the age to come. All of this is seen in our participation in the memorial sacrifice of the wine.
The memorial sacrifice, therefore, has a twofold purpose: firstly to ‘remind’ God of the sacrifice offered previously and secondly to ‘remind’ God of the worshipper. More particularly, the purpose is always that God would ‘remember’ the worshippers in the light of the previously offered sacrifice. In the memorial offerings God ‘shares a meal’ with His people and shares in the fullness of His blessings with them. The prophet Joel laments the fact that famine has cut off the drink and grain offerings (Joel 1:9, 13). God’s ‘food’ has been cut off with the people’s. Joel draws hope from the fact that God may relent and reestablish the drink and grain offerings which act as a memorial (Joel 2:14). God would once again remember His people and reestablish the memorials.
There is an old passover prayer, which may well go back to the time of Jesus Himself. It runs: ‘Our God and God of our fathers, may there arise, and come, and come unto, be seen, accepted, heard, recollected and remembered, the remembrance of us and the recollection of us, and the remembrance of our fathers, and the remembrance of the Messiah, son of David, thy servant, and the remembrance of Jerusalem thy holy city, and the remembrance of all thy people, the house of Israel. May their remembrance come before thee, for rescue, goodness ....’ In the Lord’s Supper we are enacting just such a prayer. ‘This do, that God may remember me’. We are calling God to remember the work that He accomplished in His Son. We are calling God to remember that we are His people.
What are some of the aspects of this memorial meal? What are we calling upon God to remember? For one, we memorialize the fact that sin is done away with. We don’t have the same sacrificial system as existed in the Old Testament. We do not offer bulls, lambs or goats. The reason for this is seen in Hebrews 10:1-18. The Old Testament sacrifices were offered as a ‘reminder of sins’. Who was being reminded? As we study the chapter the answer is clear. God was the one being reminded. The offerings acted as a memorial of sin to God and meant that true fellowship could never be secured whilst they were ongoing. The passage teaches us that Jesus sacrificed Himself once for all and that consequently there remains no more offering for sin. Why not? Because of the promise of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood: Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we celebrate a memorial sacrifice of this once-for-all sacrifice. We call God to remember this sacrifice and forgive, cleanse and sanctify us as a result.
In the Old Testament the altar is often considered to be a table. The altar is the table from which God eats. We see this in such verses as Leviticus 21:6-8. These verses speak of the sacrifices as the ‘bread of God’. The priests were the holy ones who gave God His ‘food’. This is the imagery that the Bible gives to us. The imagery is that of satisfaction. God ‘consumes’ or ‘eats’ that which is put on the altar. The priests were permitted to share portions of many of these sacrifices. For example, we can see that a memorial portion of the showbread was presented to God and the priests partake of the rest. This was a sign of fellowship and communion, peace with God once the barrier of sin was removed. In John’s gospel this language reappears again.
In John 6:33 Jesus teaches that He is the ‘bread of God’. If our ears are open we will recognize that He is purposely echoing the language of the Old Testament. Jesus teaches that the bread He is and gives is His flesh and that we must partake of this bread if we are to have life. The Lord’s Supper presents us with tokens of Christ’s body and blood for us to partake of. What is taught here is as follows:— God is satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ and all who become partakers in this sacrifice enjoy true communion with God. We share a table with God, He is satisfied and we are satisfied. We are priests, the sons of the High Priest, and so we are permitted to share in the communion meal. By celebrating the Lord’s Supper we ‘remind’ God of His satisfaction with the sacrifice of Jesus and call upon Him to bless us as a result.
In the Lord’s Supper we are called to proclaim the Lord’s death. This is not primarily, I believe, an act of evangelism or an act that helps us to remember Calvary. It is an action that draws God’s attention to the death of His Son on our behalf. We might think it to be a negative thing to ‘proclaim’ the death of someone. However, I believe that we have an Old Testament precedent for seeing this as a positive thing.
In the Old Testament system of justice, if a man committed manslaughter he was to flee to the nearest cities of refuge. These cities of refuge were places where he could shelter from the ‘avenger of blood’, the one who would exact the punishment of death. Only after the High Priest died could this man return to his land. The death of the High Priest was seen to cleanse the land of innocent blood. The blood of Abel called out for Cain’s exile. The blood of Christ calls out that the exiles can return. Usually the death of a leader is seen to be a time of crisis. However, for many, the death of the High Priest was a time of exodus, a time of deliverance. Whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we ‘remind’ God that we are no longer aliens and strangers but are now fellow citizens, we ‘remind’ God that we are now no longer banished from his presence. We ‘remind’ God that the death sentence that once hung over our heads has been removed and we are permitted to fellowship with God once again. We ‘remind’ God about all of these things by celebrating the Lord’s Supper. By ‘reminding’ Him we call on Him to act.
As I mentioned earlier, memorials are not always positive. In Numbers 5, we see an example of this. The woman in Numbers 5 is a woman accused of harlotry. In her hand she must carry a grain offering of jealousy for a memorial. If she had committed the sin, God would remember it and would exact the punishment. Throughout the Bible we see God testing His people by means of food (Garden of Eden, Wilderness wanderings, Jesus’ temptations).
When we partake of the bread and the wine we are calling God to remember us. God will remember for either blessing or for cursing, but God will remember. There is no ‘mere eating’ of the bread and the wine. The person who eats and drinks unworthily is guilty of the body and blood of Christ Himself. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul talks about the Israelites who all ate the same spiritual food and drink but were punished by God for their unfaithfulness. In chapter 11 of the same epistle he goes on to speak of people who are dying as a result of participating in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. God is remembering these people in judgment.
Just as the woman of Numbers 5, at the Lord’s Supper we undergo a jealousy trial. We are being tested for harlotry. We must enter fearfully into God’s presence. If we are harbouring sin or unfaithfulness we can only expect judgment. This is why we confess our sins before coming to the Supper. At the Supper God inspects His bride for unfaithfulness. If she is faithful she will be richly blessed. If she is unfaithful to Him she will receive a curse. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked.
How should we remember? Firstly, we must remember that the Lord’s Supper is primarily directed towards God, not towards ourselves. It is not principally there to help us remember Calvary, it is an action of faith towards God. For this reason it is not helpful to focus all the time upon trying to think about the death of Jesus. As it is God who remembers, the efficacy of the sacrament is not between our ears. We do it rather than meditating upon it. [Consequently, infants can partake just as meaningfully as adults — God can ‘remember’ infant members of His church just as meaningfully as He can ‘remember’ adult members.] Our attention should be focused upon calling God to act as a result of what He did in Jesus’ death. It helps to view the Supper as a dramatized prayer. We must remember that like the Jewish Passover we are re-enacting the meal of our deliverance. Just as each Passover was a call for a new deliverance, so each Lord’s Supper should be the same. Each Lord’s Supper displays the tokens of Christ’s sacrifice to cause God to ‘remember’ Christ’s once for all act on our behalf. In this respect we can see that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice — a memorial sacrifice pointing to the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ.
Secondly, we must remember that this is a corporate action of the people of God and not a private event. The way that we view the Lord’s Supper will colour the way that we celebrate it. If the Lord’s Supper is all about ‘me and Jesus’ then we will take the bread and the wine and concentrate on thinking about our own personal salvation. We will close our eyes in private prayer afterwards, almost oblivious to all who partake around us. We can forget that we are celebrating a meal. In a meal, who you share it with is always very important. The Lord’s Supper is the act of the church, the bride of Christ. Both corporately and individually we call God to act towards us in blessing. Both corporately and individually we call God to try us for unfaithfulness to Him. As we come before the thrice holy God in this manner we should be aware of those sitting next to us. Are we faithful as a church? Are our relationships pure? Are we harbouring grudges? Are there secret sins in our lives that we are unwilling to get rid of?
Thirdly, I would like to say a brief word about self-examination. The Bible commands us to do this. However, most people misunderstand the purpose of this. In examining ourselves we are not looking for perfection before we approach God’s table. What we are looking for is harboured sin, sin that we refuse to deal with, areas of our lives we are holding back from God, areas of disobedience and unfaithfulness. As we approach God’s table we must repent of such sins. We must repent of sins towards fellow Christians. Ideally we should have sorted these out before attending church. Self-examination is to be carried out so that we may come to the table, not so that we may be held back. We judge ourselves for unfaithfulness and repent, so that God may not judge us Himself. None of us are worthy in ourselves to approach this table. We approach only because of the worthiness of another. Place all your hope upon this One and you can be assured that you will not partake in an unworthy manner. We must partake with pentient and faithful hearts.
Fourthly, we must not empty the Supper of significance by saying that it is only bread and wine. In one sense this is perfectly true. The elements are bread and wine now. They will be bread and wine after we have prayed. They will be bread and wine when they are eaten and drunk. However, focusing on this tends to cause us to miss the point. We can fail to see the significance of the act in which the bread and the wine find their place. Let me give you some examples of what I mean: When two statesmen sign a peace treaty it is not just two guys making marks on a sheet of paper; in that very act peace is formed between two great nations. The pen they write with is not magic, nor is the paper somehow made efficacious. It is just the nature of the act. Likewise when two people get married. The ring is not some magical ‘ring of power’ (in a Lord of the Rings sense!) — it is just a ring. However, the act of putting on that ring is life-transforming.
In the action of the Lord’s Supper we truly partake of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ and all that it signifies. The one who partakes by faith is greatly blessed and grows in union with the Saviour. The one who partakes in unbelief and unfaithfulness eats and drinks judgment to himself and is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Participating in the Lord’s Supper is not merely eating bread and wine. It is an action done in God’s presence and in the presence of His blessing and curse. We call upon God to remember us.
When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we certainly do think about the work of Jesus in the past. However, our eyes are fixed upon the future. The death is not proclaimed as a mere past event, but as the dawning of the New Covenant. In each Lord’s Supper we are groaning for the consummation of this covenant. We are waiting for the final climax. This is our way of seeking both the spreading of God’s kingdom here and now and the fullness of its manifestation in the future. We present God with the work which He has started and pray for its completion. We proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes… In this memorial we are looking to God to act.
We live in a society that has turned its back on God. We live in a society that despises God. We live in a country where God’s Son is not accepted as the King. Do we really want God to come? What does God’s coming mean? It means blessing but it will also mean judgment. We will be tried and tested by Him. Will we be found faithful? It is a fearful thing to have God come. In this memorial we call God to act. However, we must remember that the God that we approach is not a tame God at our beck and call. Our God is a consuming fire. We must cultivate the fear of the Lord as we approach His Supper. The Lord’s Supper is the place where God examines us to see if we are faithful. Do not take it lightly. God’s coming is a very fearful thing.
Although we must approach fearfully, we should also approach confidently. We should not cower in dread of imminent destruction. No. The God we approach is gracious. We certainly call God to remember us and to try us. However, this is not the principal thing that is remembered in the Supper. The Supper is there to remind God of the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. You see, we approach confidently because this is the memorial of Jesus Christ. God’s remembering of us is always done in the light of His remembering of His Son, the One in whom He is well pleased. What great hope of blessing can we gain from this truth! ‘Do this’, Jesus said, ‘as my memorial’.
I have just finished reading The Meal Jesus Gave Us: Understanding Holy Communion by Tom (N.T.) Wright. It is a brilliantly written book. How I wish that I had the ability to convey Biblical truth in such compelling language! His illustrations are scintillating and engaging. The book is hard to put down; I didn't — I read it in one sitting! This is the sort of book to be recommended to the new Christian and to the seminary student alike. It is also a book to recommend to the hoary theology professor: this is how to make theology relevant and readable.
Wright begins by establishing the power of symbolic action (though you would only notice if you were looking out for it!) using the example of a Martian at a birthday party. After this, we are invited to a Passover, 200BC, in which we learn the significance of that meal. Having already experienced one Passover meal we think we know what to expect when we are invited to another. But no! All of our expectations are overturned as we sit among the disciples as Jesus says and does the totally unexpected. We suddenly realize that we have been present at an epoch-making event and a shiver runs down our spine. After this we find ourselves in Colosse AD56, where we are invited into a new family, a new story and a new life, all embodied in a special meal, in which we discover a new identity. This is part 1 of the book.
In part 2, Wright begins to unpack the story of the first part of the book. He discusses why Holy Communion has become so controversial and gives a very cursory account of its history. Wright then offers us a particular way of understanding the sacraments — and Holy Communion in particular. We are like on a train on tracks, having come from the past and heading to the future.
Wright then uses this to explain his position on the 'sacrifice of the Mass' question, concluding that we don't offer Christ afresh but that every celebration of Holy Communion is a feast on the one, single sacrifice. Wright combines the illustration of the railway station with the illustration of the grapes of Eschol (Numbers 13). The Lord's Supper is a foretaste of the fruits of the promised land (the renewed earth, not some Gnostic heaven).
As we are travelling the line that leads from the Upper Room to the great feast in God's new world, from the victory of Calvary and Easter to the final victory over death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26), we find at every station — in other words, at every celebration of the Jesus meal — that God's past catches up with us again, and God's future comes to meet us once more.
All of this is summed up in a brilliant little sentence in 1 Corinthians 11:26. "Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup," says Paul, "you announce the Lord's death until he comes." This present moment ('whenever') somehow holds together the one-off past event ('the Lord's death') and the great future when God's world will be remade under Jesus' loving rule ('until he comes'). Past and future come rushing together into the present, pouring an ocean of meaning into the little bottle of 'now'.
Wright's attention then turns to the question of the presence of Jesus in the Supper. He says that he finds Calvin's view (that Christ is not brought down to the table, but we are taken up to heaven) to be helpful, but that he prefers to think of it "in terms of time rather than space".
...we may conclude that within the whole action of the Holy Communion, the Eucharist — the story, the drama, the actions, and above all the prayer and the love — this food, through the Spirit's mysterious work, is a true anticipation in the present of the food that will sustain us in the age to come. And the name of that food is: Jesus.The next chapters describe the actual celebration of the Supper. Wright invites us to look at it in terms of a drama, rather than a visible sermon (to be accompanied by an explicating audible sermon!). He emphasizes the manner in which we are sent out from the Supper as "rejuvenated, nourished Christians, 'to live and work to God's praise and glory'."
In the final chapter Wright seeks to address some of the practical questions surrounding the celebration of Holy Communion: Why do we celebrate? When do we celebrate? What do we celebrate? Where do we celebrate? How do we celebrate? Who celebrates? Wright concludes by pleading for two things. Firstly, that all baptized individuals, including children should be admitted to the Supper. Secondly, Communion should be shared between Christians of different denominations (Wright is clearly thinking principally of Protestants and Catholics), as a means by which a unity can be achieved (not merely the goal of 'unity negotiations'). The Lord's Supper provides the context in which we can come to understand and respect each other more.
All things considered, I think that Wright has painted an appealing picture of how to view the Lord's Supper. In the process of his treatment he breaks a number of well-established evangelical paradigms. Firstly, he presents a doctrine of the Supper that emphasizes doing over meditating. The elements are not there to be stared at, but to be eaten and drunk. Secondly, Wright is no 'Zwinglian'. The Supper is characterized by the Messiah's presence not His absence. Consequently, there is no need to conjure up His presence by intellectual meditation. Thirdly, Wright describes the Supper in such a manner that the individualistic emphasis on the 'what does it mean for me' question is avoided. The Supper is all about 'us' and we as individuals finding our significance within the context of this 'us'. Finally, the Supper for Wright is a feast, not a funeral. We are not remembering a dead Saviour; we are proclaiming the event in which He defeated the prince of this world. This is triumph, not tragedy! He has given us the privilege of partaking in that which He risked and gave His life to obtain (John 6:53-58; cf. 1 Chronicles 11:18-19).
What does all of this mean in practice? Firstly, we should concentrate less on the mechanics of our Saviour's presence and more on the meaning of his presence.
Secondly, we should take a wide angle lens view of the Supper (as Peter Leithart argues). We must focus, not just upon the elements, but upon the meal. As Leithart points out, if a Martian were to read the medieval scholastics' theologies of the Supper he wouldn't have the slightest idea that he was reading about a meal! This can often apply to our theologies also. My 13 year-old brother made the perceptive remark today that, in our treatment of subjects such as the Lord's Supper, we have the tendency to focus so much upon taking them apart to analyze each element that we seldom get around to putting them back together again. Wright, however, does not take such an approach to his study of Communion.
Thirdly, an individualistic approach is out. It is to be questioned whether we should all close our eyes and silently pray individually after receiving the elements if the Supper really is what Wright says it is.
Fourthly, the Supper is not the place for some long discourse about what it means (or does not mean as so often is the case).
Fifthly, Christ is present, we receive Him by faith. We do not have to bring Him near by fevered mental activity (if we were consistent with such a view of the sacraments we would be Pelagians).
Sixthly, it is high time we recognize that the Christian faith is a life, not merely a collection of doctrines! Wright's view of the Supper shields us from such a Gnostic tendency.
Seventhly, we must seek to have broader table fellowship. I do not feel easy about Wright's ecumenism. However, he has got some very important points to make in this area. It is imperative that we work towards a principled ecumenism.
Finally, we must be willing to carefully examine the question of paedocommunion. If Wright is right in the basic contours of his Eucharistic theology, paedocommunion is quite natural. The burden of proof is clearly upon those who would deny the Supper to children.
I would recommend Peter Leithart's book Blessed Are The Hungry as a good place to start for anyone who wishes to read further on this issue.