Eucharist and the Missional Church

I’ve  been thinking about the Eucharist a lot lately. Part of the vision of the Upper Room is that we’ll be a sacramental community, and so we celebrate the Eucharist weekly. This is the first time I’ve ever been in a community that does this every Sunday. It’s taken awhile, but after several months of breaking bread and sharing the cup each week, God’s given me the eyes of faith to see Christ’s presence in the supper more clearly. I’ve found that celebrating the Lord’s Supper every week has become integral to my spiritual formation. I remember a few weeks back, it was a Wednesday or Thursday night and I found myself thinking, “I really want to be at the Lord’s table right now.” I wanted to be breaking bread and sharing the cup with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I was desiring Christ’s presence. Yet, it was still only Wednesday or Thursday, so (I thought) I had to wait.What brought me some sense of closure in this was a week or two later in the Lesslie Newbigin class I’m taking at PTS. In one article (or possibly a speech), Newbigin lists seven paradoxes about Christ and his relationship with the Church and world. The seventh paradox is that Christ is the final judge of the world who will come again, and yet also Christ remains hidden in the world, to the point that even the Church often doesn’t see him. And so, Newbigin explains, we need to seek Christ out in the world. Jesus said in the gospels that whatever you do to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do also to me.

I heard this, and I immediately thought to myself, “And that is why the Lord’s Supper is so important.” Celebrating the Eucharist trains us in knowing what it feels like to be in the presence of Christ. So, when we leave the church building after we’ve been in Christ’s presence at the Lord’s table, we can go out seeking Christ’s presence elsewhere. The same Christ who is present in the Eucharist is the same Christ who is present in the hungry beggar asking for food, or the thirsty person asking for a drink, or the lonely prisoner waiting for a visitor, or the lonely elderly person “imprisoned” in a nursing home, or in the homeless person looking for shelter. When I found myself desiring to be at the Lord’s Table midweek, God was calling me to seek Christ’s presence in those places.

As “missional” continues to become more and more of a buzzword in the church, and as (hopefully) more and more churches begin to think about what it means to be a community that exists for the redemption of the whole world, I’m convinced that the Eucharist needs to be a central theme of the missional church’s worship. Being missional isn’t merely about doing charitable acts or making converts. It’s about recognizing that Christ is out in the world, hidden among the lost, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the outcast. It ought to be the church’s desire, and joy, to seek out Christ’s presence in those places, and the Eucharist prepares us for just that.