“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The first Lord’s Supper was observed in a relatively obscure room in Jerusalem. It was a private gathering. Very few people were there. Those who were there did not understand its full significance. Jesus was making clear the meaning of his death.
In the early church, Jesus’ followers each Lord’s Day reenacted what happened in that room. Even though the events were fairly recent, they did not want a week to go by without remembering.
As the church spread throughout the world, so did the observance of Communion. The Lord’s Supper has been observed in all kinds of places. It has been observed in cathedrals and open fields. It has been observed in stadiums and huts. The table has been spread in homes and prisons. It has been observed openly in freedom and in hiding because of persecution.
The Lord’s Supper was even observed on the moon. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, says, “The very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the Communion elements.” The minister of a church near Houston gave Aldrin a kit that included a wafer, vial of wine, and small chalice. Aldrin administered Communion to himself shortly after landing. This congregation still uses a replica of the cup that went to the moon.
So wherever the table is spread, it takes us from where we are to the upper room in Jerusalem—that place where Jesus declared to his disciples that he was going to die for them. The words spoken in that room transformed the disciples and transform people in all times and all places. Wherever the table is spread, it exercises its transforming power, a power that can change our world.
Pondering the sacrifice of Christ can bring inspiration, motivation, and reflection. It can lead us to a greater love for Christ. It can even foster unity. Wherever the table is spread we think of Christ, not just because he was there then, but because he is here now.
J. Michael Shannon is professor of preaching at Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University.