Saturday 7 January 2006

A Holy Meal The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church by: Gordon T. Smith

A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church
By: Gordon T. Smith
Baker Academic
November 2005
124 pages

This academic treatise on the concept of communion is both exciting and enthralling. If you are a person of faith, the book will grab you and help draw you into a deeper understanding of your own approach to this table, and those who come to it beside you. It begins with a tour through the Old Testament. “The first human parents were invited to eat, with the proviso that their eating was to be an expression of thankfulness, obedience, and dependence on God. Alas, it was in their eating that they chose to disobey.” (p.11) From this example in the beginning, to the meal with Abraham, through the manna in the desert, Gordon shows us the importance of eating, and the importance of the fellowship meal through the whole history of God and God’s peoples.

From there, Smith proceeds to examine the different interpretations of signs, sacraments and symbols. Through such, a reader will grow in understanding of others who draw near to God through this event. Then he goes on to examine the holy meal in light of seven words: remembrance, communion, forgiveness, covenant, nourishment, anticipation and Eucharist. “The biblical perspective, however; allows the past to shape, inform and transform our present and give significance to our lives, our relationships and our work.” (p.38) Then from that perspective, he takes us on a tour of force through the seven terms and their meaning, through scriptures and community and breaking of bread and how the three become one in sustaining our faith, our hope and our life.

Smith draws this conclusion “The Lord’s Supper is the meal of the church and together with the Word and prayer, the event that enables the community of faith to be a dynamic living body, drawing energy and grace from the fountainhead of life, Jesus Christ.” (p.121) Yet throughout all of his examinations he maintains a respect and reverence for traditions other than his own, and through this book we may come to appreciate others’ approaches to this holy meal. Smith makes it clear that we each have different lingo and understanding of this event. “There is, though, a certain irony when it comes to the nomenclature used for this meal. Roman Catholics speak of the Eucharist, Anglicans often call it Holy Communion, and most Protestants call it the Lord’s Supper. Yet it is interesting that most evangelical Protestants are a bit uncomfortable with the idea that this is actually a meal. The idea that we ‘feed on Christ in our hearts’ is overlooked in most evangelical contexts.” (p.83) Each tradition brings something from which the others can learn, and with Smith as our guide, that will happen.

(First Published in Imprint 2005-01-06 as: ‘Father's Fare: A deeper understanding of communion’.)

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