What’s Supposed To Change in the Lord’s Supper? A Communion Meditation

I was baptized when I was ten years old, and began taking the Lord’s Supper the very next Sunday. Shortly thereafter, one Sunday I noticed that the juice in my communion cup tasted – very different! It was not good and not sweet, like normal grape juice. Rather, it was much more bitter, and quite sharp to the taste.
Being an inquisitive child, I began to wonder: what does this mean? Why does this taste different? I was just a kid, but I knew that the Lord’s Supper involved some very sacred realities. I thought to myself, maybe we are dealing with some deep spiritual mysteries here!
At first I thought it might have to do with the fact that when I became a Christian, something changed. What could it be? I thought maybe something in me had changed, i.e., that just being a Christian made the juice to taste different somehow. Maybe I was rising to a higher spiritual plane, one that affected my taste buds somehow. Or, I thought that perhaps when I as a Christian drank the juice, the juice itself mysteriously changed in its substance. Maybe it’s not really grape juice anymore, but has been transformed into something more “sublime.”
I couldn’t wait until the next Sunday, to see what the juice would be like then. I have to admit I was rather disappointed when it was back to just plain old grape juice again. It continued to stay that way. I had to conclude that I had not had a special religious experience after all. The explanation obviously was that someone had simply filled the cups that Sunday with grape juice that was spoiled (fermented?).
This raises the question, however: does ANYTHING really change when we are taking the Lord’s Supper? This is a most serious theological issue. One of the biggest differences between the Roman Catholic Church and most Protestants is centered here. Roman Catholic doctrine says that every time the Lord’s Supper (the eucharist, the mass) is celebrated, at a certain point in the ceremony the emblems of bread and wine literally, physically change into the body and blood of Jesus. This change is not detectable by our senses, but Catholics accept it by faith. Thus Catholics who participate in the Supper believe they are eating the literal flesh of Jesus and drinking his literal blood.
This doctrine is known as transubstantiation. This word means that the substance or essence of the emblems changes, even if the appearance does not. Most non-Catholics (including me) reject this whole idea.
But this still leaves us with the question: what does change in the Lord’s Supper? Or maybe a better way to ask it is this: what is supposed to change in the Lord’s Supper? The answer is simple: WE ARE. We who take the emblems are supposed to change, or be changed, by the experience.
The question is this: Is anything changing in my life when I am participating in the communion service? There should be some changes taking place. They will not be automatic, nor miraculous, nor even mysterious. Rather, if you are taking the Lord’s Supper correctly, you should be inviting it and allowing it to CHANGE YOUR HEART.
First Corinthians 11:28 says, “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Examine yourself! Examine your heart! What’s happening there during the communion song, the meditation and prayers, the eating and drinking? What kind of changes are taking place?
Without going into detail, I will name four ways we all can and should be changing as a result of the Supper. As we are thinking about what Christ’s death on the cross means to us, as we are examining ourselves, we should be seeking and finding the following:
(1) More sorrow for our sins.
(2) Deeper love for our Savior.
(3) Stronger faith in his sacrifice.
(4) Brighter hope for eternity.
These changes do not add anything qualitatively new to our spiritual experience; they simply increase the graces that are already present within us. Our repentance becomes more serious; our love becomes more focused; our faith develops deeper roots; our assurance becomes more certain. These are most welcome changes indeed!

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