“Meals can transcend time. Taste, and particularly smell, can evoke intense memories and take us immediately back to the last time we experienced the same flavor and aroma. Ritual meals celebrated the same way with the same food, drink, format every year can connect the decades together in ways that nothing else does — so an American family celebrating Thanksgiving in 2017 is closer, in many ways, to Thanksgiving 1917 than it is to the previous Tuesday.”
A Secular Age
If we are looking to see how families are connected to the generations who have gone before as we live our lives in everyday reality, we have only to look to the times shared around the dining room table during celebratory mealtimes. These kinds of meals were not merely about stuffing one’s face but they brought families together across generational lines. All of us still remember the family reunions characterized by shared meals. All of us still remember those family holiday meals we shared with our Grandparents and maybe even great-Grandparents. And now some of us are at the age they were when we remember those family meals and we are providing the echoes of the generations we remember to the generations who will someday remember us. And so the generations are connected by taste and smell.
The same is true of the Lord’s Table. Here we are connected to God’s people who have gone before by a shared meal with its tastes and smells, as well as a shared faith. As I come to the Table celebrated the same way with the same food, drink, format every time we break t bread and present the cup we can connect the decades together in ways that nothing else does. As I partake again of the table, I am not only eating for myself the bread of forgiveness and the drink of eternal life, I am mindful that I remain connected with those who have gone before. Here at the table Gary & Marge Douma, Buster McFadden, Carol Boffing, Ethel Smith, Cunningham Jones, Gert Kappinga Ralph and Jean Evans live still. We do this in remembrance of our Elder Brother, the Lord Christ, but the table — this shared meal — also reminds me … reminds us that we are not atomized individuals but we are part of a family … the family of God. In belonging to our Father who art in Heaven and as secured by our Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, we remain covenantally connected to the sainted dead and to one another. We are the family of God and as God’s family, we are covenantally connected to the generations now gone because we all, both dead and alive, remain covenantally connected to our Elder Brother who is our covenantal connection and who gives Himself in the faith-filled eating of the Bread and the drinking of the Wine at God’s mealtime gathering.
God ties us here and generationally via a shared meal that proclaims a common faith. Shared meals have always been part of the Gospel faith. On the night when God delivered His nation from Egypt, He formed the identity of his people via a ritual meal with very precise instructions about what to eat, the order of the eating and how to catechize the children in the context of the meal.
It is that Passover meal that formed the identity of God’s people that was transcended by the Lord’s Christ in the new and better covenant. The Lord Christ takes the unleavened bread breaks and divides it among the Israel of God saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Christ redirects the meaning of the bread in the Passover which communicated God’s deliverance from Egypt of His people to Himself as the only one in whom can be found deliverance from the wrath of God.
The focus of identity in this meal is Christ and not the OT Liberation shadow which proclaimed Christ.
Then Christ takes the cup and connected the contents to His blood.
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
And with this, the Passover is completely transcended and we see why it is called “a new and better” covenant. We say the Passover covenant is transcended and not replaced because we find in the Eucharistic meal all that was promised in the Passover meal come to full bloom. The Lord’s table is thus to the Passover meal what the full bloom of the Tulip is to the bud. The bloom doesn’t replace the bud. The bloom transcends the bud. It is all that the bud was promissory of.
But note something else here… and with this, we go on a brief rabbit trail. Note that Christ has connected the meal to the Passover. And connects both the Passover meal as through the Lord’s Table to another meal… “I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” What we see here is the necessity of reading Scripture like listening to symphonies. Scripture, like Beethoven’s fifth (insert first four notes) is a movement that continues to return to familiar themes. Like symphonies Scripture develops themes, enlarging and expanding those themes as Scripture unfolds. Like symphonies, Scripture takes a theme and by way of dissonance introduces distinct developments that are later fit into the overall theme. By the means of a meal man falls. (Beethoven sound effect). By the means of a meal God gives a clear identity to His people and inaugurates a new religious civilization (sound effect). By the means of a meal, God transcends the previous meal, anchoring His people’s faith identity in Christ and so inaugurates again a new and improved religious civilization with organic links to the previous one (sound effect). Follow the meals as a theme. Abraham’s three visitor’s share a meal. The covenant is confirmed on Sinai via a meal. Jesus’ first miracle of Cana was in the context of feasting. The symphony rises and falls. New nuances are developed but the theme is constantly returned to.
And now we are looking forward to that promised meal that will be the glorious consummation meal where all God’s peoples of all time and all places will sit with our Lord Christ at the head of the table passing the best of the wine around (sound effect). And every time we sit down at this meal, we sit down with the family of God — past, present, and future.
Beethoven said the first four notes of his fifth symphony was “the sound of Fate knocking at the door.” For us, as God’s people, the Lord’s table is the sound of God’s promise to deliver us beating the door down.
Because of all this, we can see that the Lord’s table is not merely the extension of the Passover but rather better said the Passover was a proleptic adumbration which anticipated the Lord’s table. It was merely the bud of the coming bloom. I can’t help but wonder when we arrive on the other side if we will think that the Lord’s table was a proleptic adumbration to the consummation meal.
Now … what do I mean that the Passover was a proleptic adumbration to the Lord’s table?
Well, proleptic is the assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished.
And adumbration means, to outline or to sketch.
What I’m seeking to communicate with that phrase is while the Passover is not equal to the Lord’s Table it is an outline of the Lord’s Table that has in it the assumption of the future act of the Lord’s table as presently existing. Which is a fancy way of saying that the Passover is the bud. The bud is not the bloom but it has the accomplished bloom in it.
This is why the Passover meal is NOTHING to us as Christians. Why go back to the bud when you have the bloom? This idea that the reality is present in Christ is why the writer to the Hebrews could warn his readers not to go back to the shadows…. to the proleptic adumbrations. The reality of Christ was present. No going back. No partaking in Passover meals. All that Passover Promised is present in Christ and the Lord’s Table. As we eat in faith here is our deliverance.
And so we come to the table again. Covenantally gathered with the Saints who have gone before. In coming together to the Table we are reminded that we are the spiritual family of God. We come as belonging to particular families and so we come as a family of families all spiritually bonded together in Christ so that we can refer to each other as Brothers and Sisters. We come to this table understanding how it fits in a wee bit with God’s Scripture symphony of meals and looking forward to the final climax of that meal in the day to come. But until that day, and on this day, we do this in Remembrance of Him.”