Scripture: Luke 22:14-23
Key verse: (19) “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Reflection: Today’s reading from Luke relates the story of the Last Supper. It contains the Words of Institution we use at communion. “Do this in remembrance of me,” says Jesus to his disciples sitting around the table in the upper room. Every time we take communion we hear these words again, “Do this in remembrance of me.” What is the “this” we are called to do in remembering Jesus?
Through the centuries, “this” was taken to refer to the sacrament of communion. So Christians debated, even went to war over what “this” meant. Roman Catholics discern the body in the bread and in the wine — transubstantiation. Lutherans discern the body all around the elements, but not in them — consubstantiation. Anglicans cover all their bases by saying, “it’s a mystery.” Baptists discern the body in their memory, understanding the feast as a memorial of what Christ did for us. Presbyterians discern the body in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup — in the actions of communion, not in the elements alone. Some serve in trays in the pews; others by intinction; some use grape juice, most use wine; some only the clergy serve, others only ordained officers; some welcome any baptized believer to serve. Some invite only their particular tradition to the table, others invite all Christians, and some invite anybody who wants to come.
All this evolved from Jesus’ words passed, “Do this remembering me.” Is this what Jesus had in mind? Is all this — transubstantiation, consubstantiation, cups and trays, intinction — is all this the “this” our Lord commands us to do? Did Jesus imagine debates arising over “this?” Did he imagine people fighting wars over the theology of “this?” Did he imagine schism in the church over “this?” Was this what he meant when he said, “Do this remembering me?” Was he referring simply to the celebration of communion, and therefore the ensuing debate about all the varied ways we do this? If we did not know all this about “this,” if we looked to Jesus’ words for their basic meaning, I believe the “this” would be something very different.
“This is my body, which is given for you,” says Jesus, “Do this remembering me.” In its simplest understanding, the “this” does not refer to the sacrament of communion, but to offering ourselves for one another in the same way Christ offered himself for us. “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Offer yourselves for one another, remembering me.
Among the prayers of the Iona Community in Scotland is a closing prayer following communion. We use a version of it in our prayer after communion. Its words are simple, yet profound. After giving thanks for the feast, these words are offered, “As by the miracle of creation, this bread and wine are changed within our bodies into us, may we be changed into you; to be the body of Christ in and for this broken and hurting world.” I’m not sure if that’s transubstantiation or consubstantiation or something all-together different, but I do believe it is the “this” we are called to do in remembrance of Jesus Christ. Together let us do this, remembering him.
Prayer: By the power of your Holy Spirit, may we join your transforming work in the world today, O God, offering ourselves in love to one another, as Christ calls us to do. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].