Thesis: The ritual of the Lord's Supper proclaims Jesus' death without words.
1. Illust. "Take her?" "Yes." "Take him?" "Yes." "Took." You have just heard the transcript from the world's shortest wedding ceremony. It took place in a bar on a Friday PM at 8:00. The couple had met there the previous Friday PM. On Monday they decided to get married. Arranged for a JOP to meet them at the exact place and time and requested "the shortest ceremony legally possible." The JOP came up with these seven words ...
2. This story illustrates how little our culture values ceremony.
a. "Ritual" = bad word (don't like formality/ceremony).
b. We want our ceremonies to be short, sweet, and to the point!
I. THE DEVALUATION OF RITUAL.
A. That attitude explains why the two central ceremonies of Christianity-- baptism and the Lord's Supper--have been devalued.
1. Baptism: Cornerstone event in the individual Christian's life.
a. But it is a ceremony. A ritual.
b. It's been replaced with something less formal, more emotional--a feeling in the heart or a special prayer.
2. Lord's Supper: Cornerstone event in the Christian assembly.
a. But it is a ceremony. A ritual.
b. It's done infrequently in many churches--on special days--to allow more time for something more "relevant."
B. Rituals and ceremonies have great value.
1. Actions that proclaim important truths without words.
2. Illust. Think about a wedding ceremony. Important truths are communicated non-verbally: 1) Giving away the bride. (Comes down aisle, hand placed in his, gets out of the way.); 2) Unity candle. (Two lives become a shared life.) 3) Throwing rice/birdseed. (The community wishes prosperity on new couple.) In a ceremony actions speak louder than words!
3. Illust. Think about a baptism. Re-enactment of the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus. Individual is passive, accepting salvation.
II. THE LORD'S SUPPER.
A. Have you ever heard anyone say, "The Lord's Supper is the most important thing we do on Sunday. It's the reason we come together."
1. Ever give any thought as to why that is true?
2. Not very much said in the NT about the Lord's Supper:
a. Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7.
b. Abundant 2nd Century evidence for weekly observance. (Didache, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus)
B. What makes the Lord's Supper so important, so central, is the way it focuses on the gospel.
1. The gospel--something very specific in the NT.
a. Col. 1:21-23. c. Rom. 5:6-8.
b. 1 Cor. 15:1-5. d. 1 Pet. 3:18.
2. How does Lord's Supper focus on the gospel? (1 Cor. 11:23-26)
a. "Received ... passed on"--Paul is not an innovator!
b. "Body, which is for you."
c. "New covenant in my blood."
3. The Lord's Supper does two things:
a. It recalls the saving event of the past ("remembrance").
b. It proclaims the event in the present ("proclaim death").
C. How can we keep the Lord's Supper from becoming an empty ritual?
1. Take the Lord's Supper each and every week.
a. This was the practice of the early Christians.
b. Illust. But someone says: "If we do it every week it will become too common and lose its significance." Alexander Campbell answers: "Well, then, the seldomer the better. If we observe it only once in twenty years, it will be the more uncommon and solemn. And, on the same principle, the seldomer we pray the better. We shall pray with more solemnity if we pray once in twenty years." ("On the Breaking of Bread" [No. III], The Christian Baptist 3, No.3 [Oct. 3, 1825])
2. Take enough time for the Lord's Supper. (Meal: don't "eat & run")
3. Stress the meaning of the Lord's Supper. (Sacrificial death)
4. Give thought to the prayers at the Lord's Supper.
5. Sing appropriate songs for the Lord's Supper.
a. Can we sing during the Lord's Supper? Of course!
b. Songs, however, must focus on the meaning of the LS.
Conclusion: The LS proclaims the gospel without words! Ritual, but not empty!