What is the "Real Presence" in Communion?

What is happening at the Lord's Table? Is there a "real presence" in Communion? My message before commemorating the body and blood of Christ as the Body of Christ among the brethren at Mt. Hope on The Lord's Day yesterday."

“New Life,” II Corinthians 5:17

Faith brings us into mystic union with Christ where Christ becomes all in all; everything; the center of all aspects of our life. Christ is not an addendum. His story is not an appendix to our story. Our story becomes His story.

That’s what we’re doing here today in communion. In the strictest sense, we’re taking Him in. They say you are what you eat. Well, there is a sense in which we are ingesting the life of Christ. Here is an observation more than a sermon. Here are a few thoughts to stir our hearts and thoughts before we come to the Lord’s Table and celebrate together what Christ has done.

Here are a few Scriptures along with a few observations on this topic: Is the Real Presence of Christ present at the Lord’s Supper – in the sacrament?What does it mean that Christ is really present in the Lord’s Supper? I’ve been wrestling with this a lot. Here are some thoughts…

1. On one end, is essentially the Catholic and Orthodox view that the communion elements – in their highest state of existence – metaphysically change into the body and blood of Christ. Transubstantiation: trans (change) substance (essence) – accidents (visible characteristics).

John 6:53-56: “Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

Fago – eat / Trogan – gnaw: In this passage there are two words used for “eat.” Jesus Jewish audience is repulsed by the notion of eating His flesh and drinking His blood so He makes them further repulsed to make His point. (Instituted later – Matthew 26 – Luke 22) Jesus is almost certainly not talking about communion elements here… though He is talking about something closely related! He’s talking about trading our life for His.
2. On the other end of the spectrum is the commemorative view, which is probably what most of us have been taught or sort of tacitly assumed, because frankly we (The Church) don’t really teach on this subject very often. It’s largely taken for granted and yet this is at the center of faith.

The Sacramental life is at the heart of the with-God life! The Sacraments or ordinances as some traditions prefer, are the core of faith and practice as followers of Jesus. Baptism ushers us into new life and communion sustains us in the life of faith. The commemorative view is discussed clearly among Baptists for example. It is just juice and bread. That’s it. Nothing more.

3. Well, here’s another way to think about it. I want to draw out from Catholics and Orthodox Christians the notion that Christ really is present and that there really is a change happening at the time of communion. In fact, the real deepest essence of something is changed by God, but I don’t think it’s in the elements distributed among the congregation. I’m convinced on the basis of Scripture and a sense of intuition from the collective insight of study of the Church and all her beauty and the living out of the Christian life that the change is happening inside of each one of us.

I don’t think communion is strictly commemorative and I don’t think communion elements need to be given such reverence as though it’s about the “host,” the bread and wine. No. That seems to me to miss the point entirely. We are the Body of Christ! The sacrament of communion is 100% about Christ and it is 100% about Christ at work in and through us.

The real mystery here is not how bread and wine can become body and blood. The real mystery here is how we can be made holy and set apart to be the living breathing incarnation of Christ in the world now today…

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV84) There is a real presence of Christ here in this meeting house today. It is inside of us as we covenant together to be the people of God on the basis of the covenant of grace through faith alone.
That makes me tremble far more than does a red candle lit in the tabernacle behind a Catholic alter to show the host is present. No. What makes me tremble in awe and reverence and genuine fear is not that Christ would take up residence in a communion wafer and some juice. Heaven forbid! No, I am at once filled with wonder and awe and struck with a sense of responsibility and fear at the insistent notion that because Christ has taken up residence in me, I must not cover that light in me with a bushel. I am the salt of the earth. God the Son is now incarnate in the world through His Church, of which the Gates of Hell are said not to have any dominion over!

“Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (I Corinthians 10:14-17 NIV84)

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (I Corinthians 11:26-29 NIV84)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV84) Amen.


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