I love mind-bending time travel stories. Some of my favorite episodes of Star Trek use the time travel plot device. I’m fascinated by how messages were sent through time in the movie Interstellar. And I’m just a sucker for the Back to the Future trilogy.
You can only imagine how excited I was to realize that there’s a point in a worship service where it feels like I do some time traveling.
Each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper (a.k.a. Communion or the Eucharist), I feel I’m being brought back to the past. As we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we re-enact the last supper that Jesus shared with His disciples before His death. The words and actions resonate through history: “This is my body… This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins…” Through our eating and drinking, we symbolically proclaim “the Lord’s death.”
I need to add, however, that we proclaim the Lord’s death “until He comes,” to finish the apostle Paul’s quote. There is a future aspect to celebrating the Lord’s Supper in that it helps us look forward to gathering around the table of the feast of the Lamb in the new heaven and the new earth. Speaking symbolically, Jesus Himself said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” The Lord’s Supper takes us not only to the past, but also creates anticipation within us for the future as it gives us a foretaste of it.
Finally, the Lord’s Supper helps us recognize God’s work in us and the church in the present. It unites us to fellow Christians throughout the world who hold to the faith. What’s more, through it the Holy Spirit does something within each believer personally. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that “as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely He nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life with His crucified body and poured-out blood” (Lord’s Day 28 Q&A 75). Notice the present tense: Through the Lord’s Supper, Jesus “nourishes and refreshes my soul.” It is a means of grace that not only connects us with the past and creates anticipation for future but also blesses us in the present.
The past, present, and future come together when I gather with my church family around the Lord’s table. It’s a moment in eternity (and perhaps eternity in a moment) filled with richness and grace.