...in The Lord's Supper
---by Kemper Crabb
"Do this in remembrance of me."
The word “remembrance” is the Greek, “anamnesis”
Anamnesis is a re-presentation, ritually, or a remembrance, or a memorial, to invoke God to action. But it's also a memorial and a remembrance to move us, the worshipers, to act in conformity to the covenant, to what God has asked us to do in light of Christ's saving actions towards us as a community and as individuals.
More than bringing something to mind
Anamnesis doesn't really have a true English equivalent. It is not, as Zwingli and his followers would say, simply a passive bringing of something to mind. That's not what it means in the context of the Covenant. It's not that alone. It's meant to be connected to resultant action, both by God and by the worshiper.
Effected & Affected on Every Level
The Enlightenment attempted to reduce all true meaning and value to only the things we can comprehend with our minds. This has made it extremely easy for us to accept the false notion that all that the anamnesis is meant to do is to bring what God has done in Christ to our mind. We are the children of the Enlightenment. Rationalism has infected our institutions and the way we think about reality, therefore it is very difficult for us to see that there would be anything higher than any kind of mental activity, or that there would be anything that goes beyond that. However, the remembrance, the anamnesis, is meant to affect the worshiper on every level, not just the mental level, although the mind is also involved. And effect in him the work of Christ.
An Action, A Reality, A Mystery
Anamnesis denotes not just calling to mind, not simply going back and remembering now something that was done in the past. It's not just a repetition of a past act in the present, doing it over and over again. Anamnesis is a ritual act celebrated now, in the present time, that makes an act an action, a reality, a mystery present in God's time, now. It's an invocation.
In anamnesis, the past, the present, and the future are all involved at the same time. The past, because it is remembered, becomes a present reality. The remembrance is a small picture of the future, and indeed, it realizes that future vision of what we will inherit in Christ in worship. When we go into worship, we see Christ. When we do a remembrance of what he has done, it brings to mind where he is directing reality. That's the future.
One of the functions of a symbol is to bring the past and the future into the present through remembrance. There's a prayer in the liturgy called the epiclesis, the invocation of the Spirit. That prayer, in a ritual symbol, is that the transcendent God will come to enable anamnesis to be more than just something that happens in our mind. That God will come and act and his action will invoke in us a resultant action as we experience God's presence.
So we are being shaped by the Supper. Which is also a shape for covenant renewal worship. In worship, in the anamnesis, we "live it again" through Him as we enter heaven to the center of all events.
Jesus does a five-fold action in the Supper
Jesus does a five-fold action in the sacrament. He takes bread, he gives thanks, he breaks it, he says, "This is my body," connecting it the symbolic value, and he shares it to effect change. The same thing with the wine, essentially.
1. He Takes the Bread…
You need to see that five-fold action as a "microcosm" of the world as it relates to our call and vocation. First thing Jesus does, is he takes the bread. He grabs hold of something in reality, not something super-spiritualized that doesn't have anything to do with reality. Something that's common, it's central to our existence, that's material.
2. He Gives Thanks…
He takes this material thing and he gives thanks for it. He recognizes that all good things come down from the Father of Lights, as James says. [James 1:17] He recognizes the world for what is in it, for its potential. He thanks God for it. He recognizes that the world is what it is in God's estimation. That it exists and defines its meaning in God's creative purpose. God made it, he sees the value in it, "Thank you."
3. He Breaks It…
Then, he broke it. He changed it by deconstructing it and by subjecting it by reshaping according to his will and purpose. Takes the bread, thanks God for it, he breaks it and changes it. It's not the same. It's different.
4. He Renames It…
Then he says, "This is my body." He renames it and shapes it, changing its reality to shape its accomplishment of its highest destiny. The highest destiny of a piece of bread is that it symbolizes Christ. The highest destiny of everything that is created is that it symbolizes Christ. As Genesis 1 and Psalm 19 and Romans 1 and many other places tell us. So he deconstructs it and subjects it to the interpretation of God and he names it what it is, what it has the potential for.
5. He Shares It…
Then he says, "Take it and eat it," and he shares it to help reveal Himself and to show the possibility of its transformation into what he proposes. And he effects change in the people that he shares it with.
So again we have a Five-fold pattern, within a larger Five-fold pattern:
What happens between coming in and going out (both of which are part of the pattern too)
He Takes the Bread…Calling\Convening…Apostolic—gathering together...apostolic assemblage
He Gives Thanks…Cleansing\Confession…Prophetic—see 1 Tim 4:4,5...prophetic potential
He Breaks It…Consecration\Conditions…Evangelistic—ministry of Word...the evangel effect
He Renames It…Communion\Covenant…Pastoral—re-member-ing...members become one body…pastoring pasture
He Shares It…Commission\Continuity…Teaching—He shares with us, we share with world...teaching all tribes...Teaching them to observe, demonstrative discipleship
The building blocks of Sunday corporate worship.