Have you ever found yourself worshipping in a congregation in a country where you did not know the language? Perhaps occasionally you recognized a melody of a hymn and tried to sing the words that you associated with that tune. Or saw Scripture was being read, but could only guess what it might be by looking to see how the Bible was opened. Was it about halfway? Then maybe it was a Psalm. Was it near the back? Probably a New Testament reading. But what?
It becomes even worse during the sermon. Why is the preacher getting so excited at this point in the sermon? Or what did he say that caused everyone to laugh? Or why are there tears in his eyes and in the eyes of many of the listeners? And suddenly everyone is praying, and you missed the cue. When did he say, “Let us pray”?
But then attention is drawn to the Lord’s table. The cloth that covers the bread and the cup is removed. A passage of Scripture is read. You do not know whether it is 1 Corinthians 11 or Matthew 26 or some other appropriate passage that brings us to the table. But you know what is happening. The elder presiding takes the bread, and this may be done in many different ways, but when he prays you know the bread is being blessed. Then the cup is lifted up, or the tray is simply passed to one we would call a deacon.
But with whatever may strike us as novel in the way the Lord’s Supper is administered, we know fully what it is. And when we eat the bread and drink from the cup we know that we are one with the body of Christ that meets in this place, that we are one with the whole body of Christ wherever it may be meeting this day, that we are one with the body of Christ that lived before us and will come after us when we have joined the cloud of witnesses.
The Lord’s Supper is the international language of the church. And hence it is all the more important that we observe it regularly and in a manner that is faithful to the way our Lord instituted it.
C. Robert Wetzel is retired chancellor of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, Johnson City, Tennessee.