Moltmann on the Lord’s Supper

I recently read and reviewed The Open Church by Jurgen Moltmann primarily because I was interested in what he might have to say about the Lord’s Supper. I also happened to love the book and tweeted a whole bunch of great quotes.

So, to business. Moltmann challenges the church to rediscover in its gatherings the joy of the friendship of God and to rediscover the idea of our gatherings as ‘feasts’. Feasts are not just eating meals but rich, sumptuous, eagerly anticipated and deeply enjoyed occasions. This isn’t a function (I must eat) but a celebration (I love to eat). As a foundation for this Moltmann says,

In essence Christian worship was and is the feast of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. For this reason it was celebrated on the first day of the Jewish week, on Sunday at sunrise. It was always celebrated eucharistically with bread and wine. Easter begins with a feast, for Easter is a feast and makes the life that is derived from it a festive life.

I appreciate this emphasis because for me participating in the Lords Supper has always been a rememberance of the cross. A solemn, Good Friday experience. I must be serious and seriously contemplate my sin which is why Christ died which is why you’re using symbols of a broken body and spilt blood. This isn’t wrong but it neglects the fact that we don’t live stuck in Good Friday but we are children of the resurrection and so communion must also be shared in the light, not just of the cross but of the empty tomb.

So Moltmann continues,

Easter is the feast of freedom in which the resurrected Christ sits at the table with his disciples…It is the eating and drinking in the kingdom of God which the Resurrected One anticipates with everyone whom he has made a friend. One cannot only proclaim and hear this freedom; it must be tasted. If Christian worship is essentially the feast of the resurrection, it must also be eucharistic. … Through the Eucharist the death of Jesus is proclaimed until He comes, says Paul. It is at the same time the sacrament of memory and hope…

Again, for me this is a powerful reminder that when we share at the table, Christ through His Spirit, is actually present with us. Too often, it’s been like standing at the graveside of a dead friend but Christ is not dead. I don’t forget that He did die but I also mustn’t forget that He is alive! Or as Moltmann puts it,

Without hope in the kingdom the Supper becomes merely a memorial; without memory and hope it loses itself in the mystical presence of eternity.

Moltmann goes on to argue that participation at the Table along with the proclamation of the Gospel is what makes a church a church and not a club, he also calls for the Lord’s Supper to become the centre point of the public worship service but not as a memorial but as a feast, the feast of freedom, of resurrection, of life.

2 thoughts on “Moltmann on the Lord’s Supper”

  1. alshaw says:

    Does Moltmann’s emphasis on the festive nature of the Lord’s supper suggest that it should most naturally be enjoyed as a full meal, not just a bread-and-wine meal? What do you think?

    1. Phil Whittall says:

      Good question Al, he doesn’t exactly say. He does call for more gatherings of the church for meals but doesn’t explicitly link that to the Lord’s Supper. My guess is, is that he’s pointing in that direction but at the time of writing isn’t actually there yet but still seeing the Table fellowship in the context of a more structured but joyful worship service

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