The Lord’s Supper is a wonderful way to celebrate our salvation in Jesus together as a church family. It’s a meal given to the church by Jesus himself as a special way to remember his death on the cross – that he broke his body and shed his blood to bring us forgiveness of our sins.
The Lord’s Supper is a FULFILMENT meal
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:29
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed… When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” – Luke 22:7, 14-19
Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper as a fulfilment of the meal which Israelite families celebrated annually, ever since the great Old Testament event of the Passover (see Exodus 12). Jesus is the lamb of God for the whole world, dealing with sin once and for all through his death on the cross. More wonderful than the blood of lambs shed in Egypt is the blood of Jesus shed outside Jerusalem.
The Lord’s Supper is a SYMBOLIC meal
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Jesus took the Passover symbols of the bread and the cup, transforming them to symbolise his own body and blood. Just as the Israelites celebrated the Passover because they were instructed to remember when God saved them out of Egypt, Jesus gave us this meal to remember his amazing sacrifice that saves us. So the key to our Lord’s Supper celebration is remembering the very real event of Jesus death on a cross for our forgiveness. The symbols of the bread and the drink are only that – symbols – but wonderfully powerful symbols engaging all our senses in remembering Jesus together.
The Lord’s Supper can be a REAL meal
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47
This passage from Acts talks about the very first church ‘breaking bread’ as they remembered Jesus together through the apostle’s teaching and prayer. Similarly, the context of the 1 Corinthians passage above shows that the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the context of a real meal. Once again, the key is remembering Jesus’ death together rather than focusing on the particular nature of the meal. We have freedom with the symbols. It’s what is symbolised that really matters – the great truth that Jesus is always really present with us — the church — by the Spirit.
The Lord’s Supper is a PROCLAMATION meal
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:47
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. – 1 Corinthians 11:26
Notice that both the Acts and 1 Corinthians passages above describe the Lord’s Supper as a meal not only of past remembrance but also of present proclamation. We remember Jesus’ death in the past, we proclaim it in the present, as we also look forward to his return. It’s a past, present and future meal! Alongside the proclamation of the gospel in words, this meal proclaims the gospel with the symbols of bread and drink, inviting hearers to look back to the cross, to receive forgiveness now and to look forward to salvation on the day of judgment. This meal is part of the proclamation that the Lord uses to add to the church ‘those who were being saved’ (Acts 2:47). It’s part of the ‘meeting’ of God’s people (1 Corinthians 11:17) where Paul expects unbelievers to be present (1 Corinthians 14:24). We proclaim the gospel every time we gather, inviting people to repentance and faith in Jesus – this meal is a special way to extend that invitation, proclaiming the gospel in word and symbol.
The Lord’s Supper is for the WHOLE CHURCH FAMILY
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. – Matthew 18:1-5
Jesus says children have something to teach us. They teach us total reliance. They teach us how we should come before God. They teach us that greatness in God’s kingdom comes from adopting the lowly position of a child before God and come to him with empty hands. Empty hands open to receive the blessing of Jesus. Let’s learn from our children as we celebrate the Lord’s supper together.
We believe that children are full members of God’s kingdom. We baptise children as we welcome them as full members of our church family. With that in mind we really shouldn’t be withholding this other sacrament from them. Children, indeed, played a special role in the Old Testament Passover (see Exodus 12:26) so it would be unusual for us not to include then in the greater meal of the Lord’s Supper in some way, nurturing their growing faith in Jesus. We want to provide regular opportunities to involve our children so that we can join as families – and as a whole church family – to participate in the Lord’s Supper together. Celebrating this meal together is a great picture of God’s family. Young, old. Married, single. Adults, kids. All together celebrating what Jesus has done and how he brings us together as family.
The Bible is also clear that parents have the primary responsibility for discipling their children. As a church family we don’t want to deprive parents of this great gospel opportunity to chat to their kids about why we do the Lord’s supper, and what it reminds us all of. The decision concerning which children might participate in the Lord’s Supper is one for parents/carers of the children to consider. The invitation from the front will be conveyed in words such as these: “Many of us can remember trusting in Jesus from a young age. If you believe your child can participate in the Lord’s Supper as an expression of our faith in Jesus, then you are welcome to invite your child to eat the Lord’s Supper with us.”
How will this work?
We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper twice a term across our Creek Road campuses – once a term in the traditional format and once a term involving our children – either through bringing them back into the service or through a share meal as an extension of the service. We will always give at least a week’s notice concerning these occasions, so families have the opportunity to talk this through together.
How do we explain this to our kids?
Consider how children, just as they grow up into understanding “love” or “forgiveness,” might also grow up into their faith in Jesus and with that an understanding of the Lord’s Supper.
The points below are adapted from some helpful publications from the Christian Reformed Church in North America. These points may help you explain the Lord’s Supper in a helpful way depending on their age and development. As children’s faith develops…
- Pre-schoolers: experience the Lord’s Supper as part of their worship experience, mimicking their parent’s faith— just as they do when they fold their hands in prayer, raise their hands in praise, or turn the pages of a Bible storybook.
- 5-6 year olds: understand that the bread and the juice remind us of Jesus’ body and blood and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper reminds us that Jesus died on a cross and forgives our sins.
- 7-8 year olds: experience the Lord’s Supper as a reminder of Jesus’ death and resurrection and understand that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is something that God’s family does together as a
way of remembering Jesus’ gift of forgiveness.
- 9-10 year olds: continue to deepen their understanding that the bread and the juice are reminders of Jesus’ body and blood given through his death on the cross. They’re beginning to understand metaphors and symbols and can be more thoughtful in their experience of the sacrament.
- Young Teens: are able to use metaphors and understand symbolism. Cognitively, many young teens have most of the same tools adults do to understand the richness of the sacrament.
How might we pray?
Dear Heavenly Father
We all come before you as your precious, loved children, thanking you for salvation through the broken body and shed blood of Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Thank you that he gathers us up in his arms as empty-handed children, filling our hearts with his love. Thank you that he gave us this special symbolic meal of the Lord’s Supper as a way to celebrate your grace together. We pray that as we all taste the bread and the drink we would be feeding our souls with the gospel of Jesus and be nourished and satisfied by the Spirit of Jesus, growing in our faith. We pray this for our whole church family regardless of age – that together, as children of yours, we will all be strengthened in our faith through this celebration. In Jesus’ name and the power of your Spirit we pray. Amen.