Happy Moltmann Monday! As promised, I’m sharing a few other thoughts about communion from our German friend. It comes from Church in the Power of the Spirit, as did the sections I highlighted two weeks ago.
Although the Lord’s supper has its historical origin in Jesus’ feasts, it itself none the less makes present the crucified and risen Lord. It is not the historical remembrance as such which provides the foundation for the Lord’s supper, but the presence of the crucified one in the Spirit of the resurrection…’The Lord’s supper is the feast of the community of the saved, who wait but wait with assurance; the community which is grounded on the dying of Jesus and lives from his living presence.’ This is proved on the one hand by the injunction to repeat the rite ‘in remembrance’ (1 Cor. 11:24f; Luke 22:19); and on the other hand by the Pauline phrase about the ‘new covenant’ of Christ’s body and blood (1 Cor. 11:23ff). Both statements are eschatologically motivated; the first is linked with Jesus’ renunciatory vow (Luke 22:18) and the second with the perspective ‘until he comes’ (1 Cor. 11:26). The Lord’s supper must not be understood solely in the light of the passion, but in the light of Easter as well. It mediates communion with the crucified one in the presence of the risen one.
Although at the communion table we do remember an historical event of Jesus feasting with his disciples, the table is not simply an act of remembrance. It is also a declaration of his presence. We not only remember he was present, then, in that place, but we also remember that he is present now, in this place, through the Spirit of the resurrection. And not only that, but as we remember Christ in the present, we also anticipate the coming kingdom. I love how Moltmann describes this through the pairing of two communion Scriptures. “Do this in remembrance of me” tells us to remember that supper and to share it with each other so that we remember Jesus, too. “Until he comes” reminds us that communion is an eschatological act- which simply means it anticipates God’s good future. In that moment at the table, we are feasting toward the kingdom (if not fully IN the kingdom) with the risen Christ.
Please note Moltmann’s admonition to remember that communion is equal parts Good Friday and Easter. For the love of all things, let’s not separate them, especially not at the Table that declares that the life that comes through death and resurrection is the same life that brings us together as one, and sends us toward God’s future. The Eucharist is communion with the crucified one as well as the risen one.
Moltmann continues (and I put in bold the money sentence):
The Lord’s supper is not simply the continuation of the fellowship at table of the earthly Jesus, as this is to be seen in the daily ‘breaking of bread’ of the primitive churches, although it cannot be separated from that. Nor is the Lord’s supper a sacred meal in remembrance of the dead; or a sacrificial meal; or a Christian passover meal. As the joyful feast of the Christ given for us and raised before us, it gives a foretaste of the coming kingdom, because the coming kingdom has become history in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Because Christ’s cross and resurre tion stand in the sign of the eschatological eucharist, the Christian eucharist stands in the sign of cross and resurrection.
So. It does not do well for us to think too little about communion and treat it like it’s just some random everyday meal, although we should always remember God’s presence with us when we share meals. And we shouldn’t get confused about what it really IS, which is this: it’s a foretaste of the kingdom which has become present to us and to the world because of the risen Christ.