The Sacrament of the Holy Supper

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, June 8, 2008

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” LUK 22:19

  1. Sacraments vs. Rites
    1. In the New Church we have many rites (rituals) but only two sacraments
      1. The “traditional” (included in the Liturgy) rites are:
        1. Confirmation
        2. Betrothal
        3. Marriage
        4. Inauguration and Ordination
        5. Memorial Service
      2. The Liturgy produced in 1995 added several new rituals that had come into common usage in the church.
        1. Blessing on a marriage
        2. Home dedication
        3. Interment
      3. This illustrates the point that rituals change from time to time and from place to place because we make them up to fulfil a perceived need in the church. We are also free to drop them from our usage if we find that they no longer serve a use.
    2. Sacraments, on the other hand, are those things that the Lord Himself commanded and for which scripture provides the forms.
      1. Scripture tells us that the ritual of marriage was performed, but nowhere does scripture tell us how the ceremony itself was conducted. All we know is that there was some kind of feast to which guests were invited and wine was served.
      2. On the other hand, the Sacraments are both described (in a general way) – and commanded. For example, in regard to the Holy Supper, the Lord Himself said, “do this in remembrance of Me.” (text)
      3. The actual details of the procedure we are to follow in the Sacraments are not described because the power is not in the outward form, but in the things those forms represent. Also, it leaves us in freedom to accommodate our forms to changing needs
  2. Sacraments have real power.
    1. In seeking an understanding of the sacraments the most useful line of thought is to understand that they contain a spiritual sense even as the Word Itself does, and so may be seen to be an extension of the Word and to operate in the same way as the Word.
      1. The literal command of the Word “Do this in remembrance of Me” is actually fulfilled in act as the bread and wine are eaten by the communicant. Thus the sacrament is an enacted Word in which the five senses are used. The letter of the Word is reproduced in actuality.
      2. Its power and effectiveness lie in these correspondential ultimate forms. Just as the Word is a means of association and conjunction with the heavens and the Lord, so is the Holy Supper.
      3. Essentially the bread and wine of the Holy Supper present to view (and so corresponds to) the Divine Human of the Lord.
  3. Holy Supper
    1. An important question to consider is how closely do we have to duplicate what is described in scripture to have the real power of the sacrament exist in the external form? Which things described in the Word are essential, which can left out without harm?
    2. Consider the following passage:
      1. (John 13:1-5) Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. {2} And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, {3} Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, {4} rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. {5} After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
        1. Celebrate the Passover?
        2. Have the priest wash the feet of the communicants beforehand?
        3. Have only 13 men present in an “upper room” (MAR 14:15)?
          1. (Bishop W.F. Pendleton wanted an “upper room” in the Bryn Athyn Cathedral for the sole purpose of celebrating the Holy Supper. It didn’t make it into the final design.)
    3. The general consensus today is that we have to extract the essential principles.
      1. Over the years there have been a number of studies by committees of the clergy and individual efforts to understand the essentials of the sacraments so that the forms and practices adopted for the use of the church will support and contain those uses as intended.
        1. One of the most important things is that the communicant much approach worthily – which means:
          1. Self-examination
          2. Prayer for forgiveness
          3. The determination to shun evil as sin against the Lord
        2. There should be unleavened bread as the representative of the Lord.
          1. The bread represents the Divine Love
        3. The fermented wine
          1. Represents the Divine Truth
            1. The type is not specified
  • We presume it to be fermented and red.
  • The process of fermentation – of changing grape juice into wine – represents the process of regeneration.
    1. These studies have resulted in our current customs – for the most part.
      1. Scripture indicates one cup only – and no one knows what that cup looked like, or what it was made of.
        1. The Lord passed His own cup around to the twelve, and it was most likely a simple pottery cup in keeping with the simple lifestyle adopted by the disciples as they travelled through the countryside depending on the generosity of strangers for their food and shelter.
          1. On the other hand, it might have been a special cup loaned to them by the family that loaned them the room and the rest of the things on the table for that special use. We don’t know.
        2. Since the beginning of the New Church, there has been some discussion about how many cups to use.
          1. In many of our congregations, we have introduced the custom of using two cups so that husbands and wives can drink at the same time.
            1. Which is a very good reason, based on sound doctrine, but not specified in scripture.
          2. Here in Toronto we have preserved the idea of a single chalice that is shared between husband and wife
          3. While there is no scientific evidence of danger in sharing a common cup, there are those who find it disturbing or unpleasant.
          4. We have come to the conclusion, and thus the general practice, that it’s not the type of cup or number of cups that is the essential aspect. Rather, it’s the act of drinking wine, which corresponds to appropriating Divine truth that is important.
          5. That’s why, in this congregation, communicants are offered a choice of the traditional “common cup” or small individual glasses.
    1. Conclusion
      1. Let us not allow our considerations of the form of our ritual detract from the wonder and the power of this most holy form of worship, but let us lift up our minds to consider these teaching about what is essential about the sacrament of the Holy Supper.
      2. TCR 700. Now, because real Christianity is beginning to dawn, and a New Church meant by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse, is now being established by the Lord, wherein God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are acknowledged as one, because in one Person, it has pleased the Lord to reveal the spiritual sense of the Word, to enable this church to enter into the real use and benefit of these sacraments, baptism and the holy supper; and this is done when men, with the eyes of the spirit, that is, with the understanding see the holiness that is concealed within them, and apply it to themselves by the means which the Lord has taught in His Word.
      3. TCR 709. Every one in Christendom imbued with religion may know, and if he does not know may learn, that there is natural nourishment and spiritual nourishment, and that natural nourishment is for the body, and spiritual nourishment is for the soul; for Jehovah the Lord says in Moses: Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of Jehovah doth man live (Deut. 8:3).
      4. And as the body dies and the soul lives after death, it follows that spiritual nourishment is for eternal salvation. Who cannot see from this that these two kinds of nourishment ought by no means to be confounded, and that if anyone does confound them, he must needs adopt natural and sensual ideas, which are material, corporeal, and carnal, respecting the Lord’s flesh and blood, and the bread and wine, which ideas suffocate spiritual ideas respecting this most holy sacrament?
      5. But if anyone is so simple as to be unable to think from his understanding of anything except what he sees with the eye, I advise him, when he takes the bread and wine and hears them called the Lord’s flesh and blood, to think within himself of the holy supper as the holiest thing of worship, and to call to mind Christ’s passion, and His love for man’s salvation; for He says: This do in remembrance of Me (Luke 22:19).
      6. Let us look to the eternal truths that are represented in the bread and the wine, and let us remember that as we approach the Lord in humility, we are at the same time inviting Him to approach more closely into our own lives. This can only lead to a greater sense of peace, and hope for eternal usefulness in heaven. Let us remember what the angels themselves taught the newcomers from earth about the sacrament of the holy supper:
      7. The angels replied, “It is a mystery, and yet such as may be understood. The bread and wine do not effect this; from these there is nothing holy; but material bread and spiritual bread, as also material wine and spiritual wine correspond to each other mutually, spiritual bread being the holy principle of love, and spiritual wine the holy principle of faith, both from the Lord, and both being the Lord. From this comes the conjunction of the Lord with man and of man with the Lord, not with the bread and wine, but with the love and faith of the man who has repented; and conjunction with the Lord is also introduction into heaven.” (TCR 621:13). AMEN.


    First Lesson: (John 6:27-56)

    “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

    {28} Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

    {29} Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

    {30} Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? {31} “Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

    {32} Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. {33} “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

    {34} Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

    {35} And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. {36} “But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. {37} “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. {38} “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. {39} “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. {40} “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    {41} The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” {42} And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

    {43} Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. {44} “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. {45} “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. {46} “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. {47} “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. {48} “I am the bread of life. {49} “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. {50} “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. {51} “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

    {52} The Jews therefore quarrelled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”

    {53} Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. {54} “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. {55} “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. {56} “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. Amen.

    Second Lesson: TCR 621:1,7,11,13

    …I saw an assembly of spirits, all on their knees praying to God to send angels to them, with whom they might speak face to face, and to whom they might open the thoughts of their hearts. And when they rose up, there appeared three angels in white standing in their presence. And the angels said “The Lord Jesus Christ has heard your prayers, and has therefore sent us to you; open to us the thoughts of your hearts.” They replied … “We are English, and we have heard many things from our sacred ministry which we believed; and we have conversed with some who called themselves Reformed, and with others who called themselves Roman Catholics. … They all seemed learned, and although on many points they did not agree, yet they all said: ‘Believe us;’ and some added, ‘We are ministers of God and we know.’

    [7] They entreated the angels to give them some … instruction, especially concerning god, the immortality of the soul, regeneration and baptism….

    [11] Respecting baptism {the angels} said, that baptism is spiritual washing, which is reformation and regeneration; that a child is reformed and regenerated when, having become an adult, be does the things that his sponsors promised for him, namely, these two, repents, and believes in God. For they promise first that he will renounce the devil and all his works, and secondly, that he will believe in God. All infants in heaven are initiated into these two duties; but to them the devil is hell and God is the Lord. Moreover, baptism is a sign to the angels that a man belongs to the church.”

    Hearing this, those of the assembly said, “We understand that.”

    [13] After this the assembly of the English, inflamed with a desire to be wise, said to the angels, “They say so many different things about the holy supper, tell us what the truth is about it.”

    The angels replied, “The truth is, that the man who looks to the Lord and repents, is by that most holy ordinance conjoined with the Lord and introduced into heaven.”

    Those of the assembly said, “That is a mystery.”

    The angels replied, “It is a mystery, and yet such as may be understood. The bread and wine do not effect this; from these there is nothing holy; but material bread and spiritual bread, as also material wine and spiritual wine correspond to each other mutually, spiritual bread being the holy principle of love, and spiritual wine the holy principle of faith, both from the Lord, and both being the Lord. From this comes the conjunction of the Lord with man and of man with the Lord, not with the bread and wine, but with the love and faith of the man who has repented; and conjunction with the Lord is also introduction into heaven.”

    And after the angels had taught them something about correspondence, those of the assembly said, “Now for the first time we can understand this also.” And when they had said this, behold, a flame with light descended from heaven and affiliated them with the angels, and they loved each other mutually. Amen.

    Copyright © 1982 – 2008 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
    Page constructed by James P. Cooper
    Page last modified September 27, 2009

3 thoughts on “The Sacrament of the Holy Supper

  1. The scriptural truth is that no angel catechizes an assemblage of believers. The angels, as a matter of fact, come to the Church services to learn the Bible from the born again preacher as Apostle Peter taught in 1Pet 1:12 “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” The word ‘look’, parakupto (par-ak-oop’-to) means:.’to bend beside, i.e. lean over (so as to peer within).’ Remember also that the angel could not preach John 3:3 or take Cornelius through the Romans 10:10 ritual. He told him to send for Peter, a born again teacher of the Word in Acts chapter 10. I do thank you for following my blog, dear havau22. I appreciate you stopping by. May you go from strength to greater strength, to the glory of the One with whom we all have to do (Hebrews 4:13). Amen.


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