[taken from: my work, “The Cross: Why Jesus Had to Die“]
It is believed that the Love Feasts, Christian fellowship around a celebratory meal, were originally associated with our Lord’s Supper as a proclamation of His death on the Cross “until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). These were designed as a practical expression of Christian community, ”a joyous declaration of faith”1 from a thankful fellowship for Calvary while looking, with great anticipation, for their Lord’s soon return. If I may borrow a Catholic idea: there is nothing more sacramental than this. When Christians began to celebrate the Eucharist or participate in Communion, it was a “holy” communion, a true thanksgiving. We must take care not to marginalize the Spirit’s role in the Church in the name of orthodox purity. Whether we view the communion elements as symbolic or literal, they must always be significant.
With time, these feasts ceased, for some, to inspire a sense of spiritual awe, a sense that Jesus was indeed in their midst, as He promised (Matthew 18:20). In our day, is it possible that, the old hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross,” that used to bring tears of gratitude, are never sung …or if they are, they merely embellish the phylacteries of a now meaningless ritual? Even during the early centuries of the Church, for some, love feasts were less love and more feast, a splintered assembly, eating apart from the poor, cliques of the more wealthy (“who feed only themselves.”2 Jude 12)—a fellowship in name only. They began to eat apart, ignoring others who came from poverty and need. Jude called it now “…dangerous blemishes at your love feasts as they eat with you without reverence.” (Jude 12) The message of the Cross was now—if I may imagine—lost in a haze of discussions over the dinner and good times without true thanksgiving. Paul described such a person as one who “eats and drinks without recognizing the body.” “(He) eats and drinks judgment on himself” because this is a sacred gathering that has degenerated into something horribly disrespectful of what the Spirit of God is doing there! (1 Corinthians 11:29). Lest we think this overstates the seriousness of the occasion, Paul explained, “This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep (a euphemism for “dead”).” (1 Corinthians 11:30)
I might think myself correct in calling the elements “symbols” of Jesus’s passion (and I do. Sorry to all my friends of faith who disagree), but I would be wrong to see them as only an object lesson in something that happened 2,000 years ago. Jesus’s crucifixion, for a believer, should be the only thing that really matters and upon which hinges every hope, every promise, and every blessing from God.
2 The Greek: to entertain sumptuously in company with