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Week 15

Liturgical Note: As we come to celebrate the Eucharist, it is vital to remember that a Sacrament is not just a divinely sanctioned worship service. Rather, it is a sign and seal of the covenant itself. As such, it rests at the very heart of God’s relationship to His people. Now, it would be silly to suppose that at the very meal celebrating our unending fellowship with God, that God would be absent. Instead, Christ is spiritually present at the Table in a unique and covenantal way.

 

Notice then Scripture gives us two concrete pictures of how Christ is presence at the Table: the first is the Old Testament Holy of Holies. God was truly and actually present in the Holy of holies. However, His presence was not contained in or under the Ark nor was it fused with the material of the Ark. Rather, God made His name to dwell there. That is, God disclosed Himself to His people in the most comprehensive manner in the Holy of holies (thus the name, the Holiest of all the holies). The second picture is that of the Last Supper itself. At the Last Supper (at the very institution of the Sacrament), Jesus was not in the meal but at the meal. In other words, the bread and wine do not become Christ. Christ is not on the table. Rather, Christ meets with His people in fellowship at the table. Christ is the host. The elements (the bread and wine) are the meal that Christ gives His people to nourish them.

 

Liturgical Location: with the Sursum Corda, Preface, and Sanctus the Eucharist proper has begun. We have entered the Holy of holies of God presence, joining our voices with those of the heavenly court in praise and thanksgiving to our God.

 

As we come before our Lord and Father, we are reminded that we have been invited to a family meal. Therefore, the liturgy prompts us to seek that meal. That is, at this point in the service we turn to God to consecrate (or set apart) the bread and wine for their holy and sacramental use. This turning to God for consecration involves three primary parts: Institution, Oblation, and Invocation.

 

Institution

ALL glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world;

 

A] Notice at once that the praise and thanksgiving begun by the Sanctus carries over to the Institution. As such, the Institution establishes the framework of the entire consecration. That is, the Institution, reminds us that the meal we have come to share is a celebration of our deliverance. Thus, the somberness of examination and repentance has given way to the joy of God’s merciful response to our sins.

 

Next, notice that the Institution not only continues the praise begun by the Sanctus, it focuses it. Thus while the Sanctus proclaims “glory be to thee O Lord most high”, the Institution makes that glory specific (ALL glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that). Importance: one of the primary functions of the opening portion of the Institution is to establish the focus of the meal and thus the focus all who partake of the meal. Notice then the Institution begins by recalling the very essence of the Gospel. That is, the Institution begins by directing our faith to Christ’s one time sacrifice and its vital significance. Why? Christ’s life and death, His body and blood are the single source of the whole of our salvation and thus they are the central focus of the meal. As such, we come to the Table turning our faith to Christ and renewing our dependence on His all sufficient sacrifice.

 

and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again:

 

B] The second portion of the Institution directly associates the meal we are about to partake with Christ’s one time sacrifice. As such, it makes our celebration explicit. There is no guess work or ambiguity here. The meal we are coming to enjoy is a perpetual memory of that precious death and sacrifice just recalled. At the same time, the second portion of the Institution articulates the authority by which we celebrate the Sacrament together with the grounds on which we expect its spiritual benefits. Simply put our celebration of the Sacrament is not based on man’s will or human tradition. Rather, Christ has commanded us to celebrate the Sacrament and has instituted the very manner of its performance in His Gospel. Thus, our basis for celebrating the Sacrament as well as our confidence in its real spiritual value rest on God and God’s Word.

 

For in the night in which he was betrayed, he took Bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you; Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise, after supper, he took the Cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this; for this is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins; Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.

 

C] During the third part of the Institution we both recite and perform the commands that Christ gave at the Last Supper. Importance: notice at once, it is vital that we both recite and perform the commands. Why? First, we aren’t just performing any old ceremony. Instead, Christ instituted the meal and told us how to do it. By reciting the words of institution we are insuring that our doing is in keeping with what Christ commanded. 

 

Second, it is equally vital that we perform the commands that Jesus gave us. Why? Jesus did not say “read this” He said “do this”. By doing what Christ commanded us we are reminded that the sacrament is not just a symbolic memorial meal. Rather, the Table is a real meal that provides real fellowship and real (spiritual) nourishment. Therefore, God calls us to the Table to truly and actually partake. Notice then, in the same way, Jesus tells us to take, eat, and drink. Why? That which He calls us to remember is truly and actually given.

 

Bottom line: by reciting and performing the commands that Christ gave, we are intentionally and self-consciously celebrating the meal that Christ instituted.

 

Notice the result: it is during this portion of the service that consecration occurs. By the end of the Institution the meal is a Sacrament. Therefore, from this point on in the Eucharist, when you see the bread and wine what your mind is to think about and what your faith is to respond to is not the mere bread and wine but rather the spiritual reality that they represent. What spiritual reality? Christ died for you to forgive your sins and to restore you to fellowship with God. And now, Christ is spiritually present at His Table to fellowship with you and to nourish you on the full merits of His onetime sacrifice.

 

One final point remains: remember it is not the priest who consecrates the elements. Rather, the Holy Spirit consecrates the elements in response to the prayers of the whole people. As such, consecration requires the ministry of both priest and laity together. The priest serves as a shepherd of prayers. He focuses, collects, and guards the propriety of the congregation’s prayers. In turn, the congregation seeks from God the very gift He has instructed them to seek. Importance: at once you are reminded that you are not just listening to someone recite the words of the Institution. Rather, you are praying them, joining your faith to the faith of God’s people.

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