The Lord’s Supper

The text of the homily, based on 1 Corinthians 11.23-26 with reference to John 13.1-17, 31b-35, preached with the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on the Thursday in Holy Week or Maundy Thursday, April 6, 2023.


Maundy. From the Latin mandare, to command.

On Maundy Thursday, we commemorate, remember and celebrate, rejoice in Jesus’ establishment of the Eucharist. His giving to us the spiritual food of his body and blood; the bread and wine, the outward signs and symbols of his life.

And we, repeatedly, observe, do the Eucharist, so, to fulfill his command: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

As importantly, we partake of his body and blood, his life for our inward, spiritual strengthening. So, to fulfill his command “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” – of self-sacrificial, “foot-level,” that is, lowly, simple service to, with, and for others.

Guided by the Apostle Paul’s words, I bid that we reflect on what the Eucharist is. However, before contemplating what Paul said, let us consider why. For the situation he sought to address is as significant as the substance of what he wrote.

The Christian community in the city of Corinth, which Paul had founded, was in crisis. Riven by dispute and division that spilled over into every aspect of communal life. The weekly gathering of the church included an agapé or love feast; a potluck supper in which all shared. Some withheld their food, overindulging themselves and worse denying a decent meal to the poor, who, being servants in other households, often arrived late to the gathering.[1] Paul condemned their selfishness as a violation of the Christian ethic of all-inclusive hospitality.

Then, regarding the Eucharist, Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians and us of one thing expressed three ways.

First, the Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper. Not the Corinthians. Not ours. Jesus is the host. We are guests invited by Jesus to dine. So, the words of the hymn: Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest. Nay, let us be thy guests, the feast is thine.[2]

Secondly, the Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper. We come to the altar in response to his invitation: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Remembrance, from the Greek, ‘anamnesis; meaning more than mere recollection, but also commemoration through which we join Jesus in the past and bring the past into our present. Again, the hymn: We meet, as in that upper room they met.

Thirdly, the Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,” Paul declares, “you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Jesus, committed to his mission of unconditional love and justice for all, willingly faced death at the hands of worldly powers and principalities that sought and – continually throughout history unto this day – still seek and succeed in maintaining rights and privileges for the few. Every time we eat the bread and drink the cup, we express our intention to follow Jesus. To be as he is. To do as he does. To live in willingness to die – willingly forsaking ourselves, doing something for the sake of love and justice for all.

The Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper. We feast on the life of Jesus that we will become what, nay who we eat. In that spirit, let us pray:

One with each other, Lord, for one in thee,

who art one Savior and one living Head;

then open thou our eyes, that we may see;

be known to us in breaking of the Bread.

© 2023 PRA


The Last Supper (1886-1894), James Tissot (1836-1902)

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet (1852-1856), Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893)

[1] See 1 Corinthians 11.17-22

[2] Words: George Wallace Briggs (1875-1959); my emphases

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