Monday, January 5, 2015

Communion & The Kingdom Of God (part 1)

The communion table can be and has been looked upon in a variety of ways, many of which have value, and are practical and helpful as those who participate at the table seek to live out their faith.  The communion should not be primarily looked upon as a personal experience with the Creator God or as a place where individual needs are met, but rather, as a proclamation of His kingdom, recognizing its inauguration through Jesus.  This can be achieved by keeping it within the context of the practice of Jesus, the messianic feast, and the Passover, along with what is signaled by said practice, the messianic feast and the Passover---upon which the communion as given to believers by Jesus has been founded. 

The communion table that Jesus instituted looked back to the grand vision of Isaiah’s all inclusive end-time feast.  This looking back also involved a looking forward, but the fact that it looked back, and the fact that it had a context within Israel’s history and its feasts, means that any and all interpretations of the communion that do not involve historical and eschatological considerations in relation to conceptions regarding the kingdom of Israel’s God and the expectations of that God’s people (past, present, and future) are going to be dangerously flawed.  Thoughts concerning the communion must take into consideration the fact that the God of Israel had made a promise to Abraham, and the final fulfillment of that promise was intended to be celebrated by all nations within this God’s new world. 

The new world is that which was brought into existence at the Resurrection of Jesus---the world in which Jesus is king.  At the same time, that new world is something for which believers still wait and for which the whole of the creation groans.  Jesus was and is the primary agent of that kingdom.  Jesus inaugurated and is inaugurating Isaiah’s vision in the past and in the present through miniature kingdom banquets.  This is what can be seen at His meals and in His parables, this is what can be seen taking place at the “last supper,” and this is what is taking place whenever those that claim Him as Lord take up the elements of bread and wine. 

The tables observed in the life of Jesus are enactments of the kingdom of heaven, in which all are invited to participate, and so too is the communion.  In addition, those who participate in the communion are promising to embody the kingdom principles as demonstrated by Jesus and as seen at His meals, while acknowledging that there is to be a future, earthly consummation of the kingdom of heaven to be expected. 

The communion table is an ambassadorial function, designed to prepare the world for the arrival of the King.  Just as the Caesar would place statues and busts of himself while also encouraging honorific ceremonies within far-flung communities that were under his dominion, as a reminder of his lordship, so too has Jesus.  By the power of the Resurrection and through the mysterious operation of the Spirit, He has placed new creations within this old creation, along with ceremonies such as communion and baptism, to serve as vessels for the remembrance of His Lordship. 

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