Thursday, October 21, 2010

A great book on communion!

I thoroughly enjoyed Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord’s Supper by Ben Witherington III. This was one of about four books I read this summer.

The book, which is somewhat small in page numbers, is a pretty heavy read. In it, Ben explores the history of what many of us call communion. He begins with a study on the Passover. Why? Well, it seems it was on the night of Passover (very early, maybe even pre-mature to when Jews celebrated Passover) that Jesus introduced the Lord’s Supper.

Bonus Thoughts
Each of the sections in this book could be crafted into sermons. You could do a whole series of sermons based off of this book. Great sermon fodder here!

He sets off exploring what Passover meant to the Israelites in Egypt. Why did God give them this meal? What was its purpose? Some might suggest Passover dealt with Israel’s sins and their need for forgiveness. Ben challenges that thinking by asking us to look at the texts on Passover and the context. When this meal was given the priesthood was not established. Atonement for sins came through the sacrifices and shedding of blood made by priests. How can you have that if you do not have the priests? As for context, the different texts on Passover (e.g., Ex 12, Lev 23:4-8, Nu 28:16-25, Deut 16:1-8) do not mention anything about forgiveness or sin. So, if Passover is not about forgiveness or sin, what is it about?

Passover was a reminder meal with a bit more. It was the meal that reminded Israel of how God stepped into their world and rescued them. It was the meal that reminded them of how quickly they exited Egypt as free men and women. It was the meal that reminded Jews several hundred years later that this was their story too. Jews continued this meal up to, and maybe even after, the time of Christ to pass this great story on to the next generation. This meal helped the Jewish people grow closer together. This meal stood as a bit more than just a reminder meal in that it took Jews back, in a figurative way, to that first Passover in Egypt and allowed them to see that it was their story and that they were a part of the exodus of Egypt. This meal celebrated freedom from oppression and deliverance from God. A whole new way of life (the Jewish calendar) emerges in the context of the first Passover.

Well, I’m going to keep it short and cut things off here. I’m only touching the tip of the iceberg here, so much more to this book. However, this was probably more than most of you cared to read. This is a really good book. You will walk away feeling like you have a greater understanding of communion and its purposes if you commit to reading this.

No comments: