Holistic Communication Through the Sacraments

A few weeks ago, I was people-watching at church. I observed a father place his arm around his daughter. After this, he leaned over and kissed her on her head. A father’s deep affections materialized to communicate to his daughter how he felt for her in his immaterial soul. I asked myself, is the body merely a megaphone for one’s innards? No, this was not a reductionistic sender-channel-receiver transaction.

Receiving the materialization of her father’s affection in the body, the daughter will process the act further immaterially. Perhaps she records a memory, or simply basks in the moment. Perhaps her insecurities are assuaged as she nestles safely under his arm, or maybe she experiences again what she has known all her life: my daddy loves me. The communicative act goes soul through body to body into soul.

God loved the world. He communicated this love bodily through the incarnation of his Son, Jesus (John 3:16). Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). He died in the flesh and rose in the flesh (Luke 24:38–39). We know this. But what I am afraid we have missed is that he implemented a way to recommunicate this to us through the sacraments.

“And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’" (Mark 14:22–25)

A sacrament is a material symbol, perceived sensorily, which–when joined with faith–communicates God's covenant promises. In the enactment of the Lord's Supper, we see the bread, representative of Christ’s body, broken. We see the cup, representative of his blood, poured out. We are not sidelined to observe only; instead we are invited to partake freely. For what purpose? The Lord’s Supper is mnemonic[1], catechetical[2], ecclesiological[3], and eschatological[4]. The Lord’s Supper is God’s love for his children communicated materially through the elements to be received materially and internalized immaterially. God created us as holistic beings: material and immaterial in psychosomatic union. We need not bifurcate what God has joined together.

  1. The sacrament is the Word of God enacted. Partaking in the bread and cup assists us in remembering the Son’s salvific act on our behalf.  ↩

  2. The table teaches us about atonement, propitiation, our union with Christ, and God’s omnipresence, i.e., extra Calvinisticum.  ↩

  3. God’s table is reserved for God’s people, the church. Therefore, only baptized believers may enjoy the fellowship and nourishment of the sacrament.  ↩

  4. In Ephesians 2:6, Paul writes that by the Spirit’s power we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (experientially). So, too, the invitation for God’s sons and daughters, heirs to the throne, to come and dine with their sovereign King. But we do so with the anticipation of the final feast on the last day, when his kingdom is finally and fully realized (Revelation 19:6–9), and all things are reconciled and brought into subjection of the Son.  ↩