By C. Robert Wetzel
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16, King James Version).
There are so many rich meanings and experiences in the Lord’s Supper! When the apostle Paul spoke of the “cup of blessing” he used a term that had a special meaning for those who understood Jewish dinner tradition. At the end of a Jewish meal the most honored guest at the table took the cup, lifted it up, and said the benediction. Today when we talk of the benediction we probably think of the “closing prayer” to an occasion of worship. But, of course, the English word benediction is simply derived from the Latin word meaning “blessing.”
It is a powerful picture. When we come to the Lord’s table a prayer of blessing is prayed for the cup that we are about to drink. But at the same time we know we are going to be blessed in our drinking of the cup—that somehow we are communing with or participating in the blood of Christ.
I am reminded once again that his blood was shed for me, and that somehow I must be willing to participate in his ongoing sacrifice. It may be as simple as being reminded that some of the difficulties I am experiencing are not occasions of self-pity or resentment. Rather, they are a part of what it means to serve Christ. His blood not only saves me from my past sins, it sustains me in the service I give him. And therefore, rather than being drained by the service I give, I am blessed.
The notion of blessing also carries with it an act of thanksgiving. Hence some translations of 1 Corinthians 10:16 speak of “the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks.” It is from this understanding that some Christian traditions refer to the Lord’s Supper as the Eucharist, an English word that is derived from the Greek word for “thanksgiving.” We give thanks for the cup because it is a constant reminder of what Christ has done for us.
We have often been reminded at Easter that for Christians every Lord’s Day is an occasion to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We could also say that every Lord’s Day is Thanksgiving. It is an occasion to give thanks and be thankful. It is an occasion to bless and be blessed. And this is why it is a benediction, a blessing that sends us back to our daily responsibilities with a renewed sense of being a part of the body of Christ.
C. Robert Wetzel is chancellor at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, Johnson City, Tennessee.