This is the fifth post in my series about the LDS ordinance of the sacrament. All the previous posts can be found here. So far, I’ve talked about how the sacrament table serves as an altar for us today here, and the many wonderful symbolisms the white cloth covering the sacrament represents here and here.
When Christ introduced the sacrament, Matthew tells us that, “Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples…. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them…” (Matthew 26:26-27)
I’ll be discussing the bread and wine/water in later posts. Here I want to focus on those who represent Jesus in this ordinance – the Priests (or Melchizedek Priesthood holders).
It was a couple of years ago now that I was pondering the sacrament and suddenly realised the beautiful irony in its blessing. That the Priests represent Christ is generally well understood. Indeed, in any instance where the Priesthood is being used, the one doing so represents our Saviour.
But there is something special about it in the sacrament. You see, in this ordinance the Priests don’t only bless the emblems of Christ’s atonement: they are also the ones who break the bread. Think about that.
Of course, Christ broke the bread when he first introduced this ordinance – he, “blessed it, and brake it….” That itself offers us the sobering reminder that He willingly allowed His body to be broken. None could take His life from Him. He had to give it willingly. Every time a Priest stands and begins to break the bread, this reminds me of His sacrifice. He chose to give it. He stood before the Father and said, “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27), “thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2)
The love He had and continues to have for His Father – our Father – and for us is mind-blowing that He would make this sacrifice by choice. But He did, and there is no better example of this than the breaking of the bread in the sacrament.
There is a second reminder here, though. You see, it is imperfect people who are representing Him. While that is true in all ordinances, of course, in the Sacrament it is the imperfect Priest who symbolically breaks Christ’s body in an ordinance that represents Christ’s complete victory over death and hell. In other ordinances, an arm may be raised or hands placed on heads, but it is only in the sacrament where the violent act of His death is re-enacted in this way.
Thus, the Priests also represent all of us, for we are the ones who caused the blood to fall from the pores in His body. It was for us that He hung upon the cross and surrendered His mortal life. We are the ones who broke His body. When I have the wonderful opportunity to act in the role of the Priest and bless the sacrament, I am thus reminded of this even as I stand and, representing Him, break the bread. It is because of my sins, my foolishness, my pains that His body was broken. I am breaking his body. Thus, the beautiful irony.
And then I, the one who just battered His body, have the audacity to kneel and bless those very emblems of His sacrifice! What a wonderful example of the principle of Justification in action. Yes, the Priests who break and bless the bread are woefully imperfect, as are we all. And yet, because we try to keep His commandments and honour our covenants, by His blood He smiles upon those same Priests as they stand and then kneel in His place.
This principle is reinforced further as the Priests kneel to offer the prayer, one of the very few times in the LDS Church where it must be word perfect. Just as the Perfect One introduced this beautiful ordinance, it must be performed perfectly. Any errors in wording must be corrected.
Perfection every time – even when reading the words from a card in front of you – isn’t always possible. Mistakes happen. But no matter, the words of the prayer can be spoken afresh. The Priest can make a mistake once, twice, five times, ten times or more. But he’ll always get another chance to get it right.
That, too, is a wonderful lesson for us all, and the reason why I am actually pleased when there is the occasional mistake in a sacrament prayer and the Priest has to repeat it. It reminds me that no matter how many times I fail, because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, I can always try again. No matter how often I fall, there will always be a hand there to help me up again – His hand.
I have felt His grace so often in my life. Times when I had no power to stand on my own. My health means that I can no longer stand for very long (i.e. more than about 30 seconds) before I have to sit again. But spiritually, I can always get up again. Because of Him.
And so can you.
© Copyright 2017, Jeffrey Collyer