Saturday, July 06, 2013

breaking bread

It is good, though not always possible, to witness visibly the minister actually break the bread at the Lord's table. There is some historical and doctrinal significance to this - since it not only functioned as an obedience to the example of Christ but affirmed that Christ's presence was spiritual and not locally as a physical substance with, around, under or even within the bread. It seems that for this reason Lutherans, historically did not break the bread i.e. in order to signify that the substance of Christ was joined to the bread. As a side point it is worth noting that breaking of bread of bread in Scripture does not always or necessarily refer to the Lord's Supper (Acts 27:35 - it is debatable to what extent other uses of the term "breaking of bread" in the book of Acts refer to the Lord's Supper, Acts 2:46 is clearly common meals as per Luke 9:16; 24:30&35; Matt. 14:19; 15:36; Mark 6:41; 8:6,19; and Jeremiah 16:7). 

The apostle Paul asks: "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" (1 Cor 10:16). In other words, there is a greater spiritual significance to the bread and its being broken that we must enter into. If we would consider the bread that is set before us at the Lord's Table, John Willison reminds us that "Bread, ere it be fit to nourish us, must be first sown, and die in the earth; then it must be threshed, grinded in the mill, baken in the oven, broken and eaten: So Christ, that he might be a fit Saviour to us, was content to die, and be bruised for our sins, and scorched in the oven of his Father's wrath. Bread is the most necessary thing in the world; it strengthens man s heart, it is the staff that upholds his life; so Christ is the mercy of mercies, the most useful and necessary blessing to our starving souls".

He goes on: "When we see the minister take the bread, think how God did choose and take Christ from among men to be our Mediator, and a sacrifice for our sins. When the minister sets apart, blesses, and consecrates the bread, think how God set apart and sent his Son, sanctified and furnished with all gifts and graces needful to his mediatory office".

When you see the bread broken, think on the breaking and tormenting of Christ s body, and the bruising of his soul for our sins. He suffered a double death, one in his soul, and another in his body; he suffered from men and devils: But all was nothing to what he suffered from his Father; for, when men were wounding his body, the Father s hand bruised his soul, made a thousand wounds therein, and poured in a whole ocean of wrath upon him: he brake him with breach upon breach, and overwhelmed him with one wave of vengeance upon the back of another, till all his billows went over him. This was a sad time to our Saviour: yet all these floods could not drown his love to us, nor make him quit the grip he had taken of us, but, come of him what will, his poor people must not perish; his love to them flamed highest when his sufferings were greatest. 
Again, when you see the bread broken, look to Christ's wounds as an open city of refuge for thy soul, that is pursued by justice, to take sanctuary in: His wounds are laid open, that you may see into his bleeding heart, and see his yearning bowels of mercy, and hear them sounding towards you, an object of pity and spectacle of misery. Poor shelterless soul, quit all other shelters, and flee to the clefts of the rock here opened, saying, "This is my rest, and here I will stay." 
Pray at this time, "Lord, may my hard heart be broken and melted, that I may in some measure be conformed to my broken Saviour" Or, "Lord, break the united forces of my sins, and scatter them by thy mighty arm."
When you see the minister offering the bread to the communicants, and hear him saying, "Take ye, eat ye," think how freely God offers his Son, and Christ offers himself to be ours: Think how you see him at the head of the table, making offer of himself to you, saying, "Take me, and the whole purchase of my blood; take my sealed testament, and all the legacies in it; take a sealed pardon of all your sins, and a sealed right to eternal life."