Thursday 3 March 2016

A prayer on the Lord's Supper

In the previous post I was talking about how the Passover background for the Lord’s Supper helps us understand the point of the Supper. Just as Passover reconnected Israel with the story of her rescue, so the Lord’s Supper reminds us of the new covenant inaugurated at Jesus’ death and calls us to live lives shaped by that story.

Expressing that in a church service is hard to do though, in the absence of liturgies that capture that well, or in the absence of any enthusiasm for liturgy at all. For that reason I was glad to discover one example of how it might be done well in The Worship Sourcebook. It’s a 4th century prayer which takes the words of institution (“at supper he took bread and broke it…”) which are the staple of many independent Lord’s Supper services, and places them in the context of the story of redemption. It might be something you can use or be a template to use for writing your own…

            Almighty God, you loved the world so much
              that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Saviour.
Incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary,
he lived as one of us, yet was without sin.
To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation;
to prisoners, freedom; to the sorrowful, joy.
To fulfil your purpose, he gave himself up to death
and, rising from the grave, destroyed death
and made the whole creation new.

And that we might live no longer for ourselves
but for him who died and rose for us,
God sent the Holy Spirit,
God’s first gift for all who believe,
to complete God’s work in the world,
and to bring to fulfilment the sanctification of all.

When the hour had come for him to be glorified
by you, his heavenly Father,
having loved his own who were in the world,
he loved them to the end:
at supper with them he took bread,
and after giving thanks to you,
he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying,
“Take, eat. This is my body, which is given for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper he took the cup, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood,
shed for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins.
Whenever you drink it,
do it for the remembrance of me.”

Holy God, we now celebrate this memorial of our redemption.
Recalling Christ’s death and his descent among the dead,
proclaiming his resurrection and ascension to your right hand,
and awaiting his coming in glory.

From a 4th century liturgy used in Alexandria.
Text from The Worship Sourcebook (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 326-27.