Today we continue our series of reflections on Rowan Williams’s book, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer, continuing with the third big theme of the practice of being Christian — the sacrament celebrating how God welcomes us to his table: the Eucharist.
The resurrected Jesus is doing what he always did. And that is why it is very significant that in the Acts of the Apostles, when the risen Christ is proclaimed, the apostles identify themselves as the witnesses who ‘ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead’ (Acts 10.41). (p. 45)
Isn’t that verse striking? I like it as a description of what it means to be a Christian today as well. We are the people who eat and drink with the risen Christ! This is the essential meaning of the Eucharist. Whatever theological differences believers may have had about the details, this is the heart of it all. At the Lord’s Table, we meet with him and share a meal together.
Rowan Williams puts it like this:
We can see, then, that when the risen Christ eats with the disciples it is not just a way of proving he is ‘really’ there; it is a way of saying that what Jesus did in creating a new community during his earthly life, he is doing now with the apostles in his risen life. We who are brought into the company of the apostles in our baptism – which, remember, brings us to where Jesus is to be found – share that ‘apostolic’ moment when we gather to eat and drink in Jesus’ presence. And that is why, throughout the centuries since, Christians have been able to say exactly what the apostles say: they are the people with whom Jesus ate and drank after he was raised from the dead.
Holy Communion makes no sense at all if you do not believe in the resurrection. Without the resurrection, the Eucharist becomes simply a memorial meal, recalling a rather sad and overpowering occasion in the upper room.
…There is indeed a certain sombreness about some ways of celebrating the Eucharist (and a bit later on, I’ll suggest why that is not always inappropriate). But the starting point must be where the apostles themselves began, eating and drinking with him after he was raised from the dead, experiencing once again his call into a new level of life together, a new fellowship and solidarity, and a new willingness and capacity to be welcomers themselves. (pp. 45-46)
This is why it only makes sense to me that Christians should celebrate the Lord’s Table every Sunday in worship. The reason we meet on the first day of the week is to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and gather in the presence of our risen Lord. The apostolic way of doing that is to break bread together and share the cup of salvation with him at his Table.
They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. (Acts 2:42, MSG)