The Bread & Wine

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Each Sunday morning at Collier Row Gospel Hall, we meet together as a church to “break bread”. This is something Jesus of Nazareth requested of His followers, saying,

“This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22.19-20)

The mood of the “breaking of bread” is generally quiet and reflective, the bread and the wine being eaten and drunk as symbols of Jesus’s body and blood. In a sense, this act of remembrance is a New Testament (NT) counterpart to an Old Testament practice, to the way the Jews remember their deliverance from Egypt. In the days of the Old Testament, a believer would sacrifice a lamb from his flock; he and his family would then ‘partake’ of the sacrifice (by eating it) to remember the night when the angel of death ‘passed them over’ and they were delivered from Egypt. In the New Testament, things are in some ways different and in some ways similar. New sacrifices are not made: instead, the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God, is remembered by “eating his body” (taking bread) and “drinking his blood” (taking wine).

why did he need to die?…

For the Christian, Christ’s death on the cross is the focal-point of all history. It speaks of the time, place and manner in which God, having been born a man (Isaiah 7.14; Luke 1.35), paid the price for the sin of His creation. But what was this price, and why couldn’t we pay it ourselves? The answer is as follows.

Man has a habit of biting off more than he can chew. As a flight instructor at a well known training school once said to his pilot: “Son, your ego’s writing cheques your body can’t cash”. The situation is the same with mankind and his sin against his maker.

The Bible defines sin as the transgression of God’s Law (1 John 3:4). And, just as there is a penalty for breaking civil law, there is a penalty for breaking God’s Law. The penalty for breaking God’s Law, however, is death, since sin has the effect of separating us from the One who gave us life. This is not a matter of policy; it is part of the very nature of righteousness to separate itself from (and ultimately judge) sin. As the scriptures say:

“God’s work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of truth and without injustice.” (Dt 32.4)
“…of purer eyes than to behold evil.” (Hab 1.13)

This catches God in something of a dilemma (though of course ‘dilemma’ is not quite the right word). For while his love desires to take us to Heaven, his justice demands that we be sent to Hell.

the price is paid…

Man’s moral worth is finite. Offending human justice therefore carries a finite penalty. As such, a man guilty of, say, murder can spend several years in prison after which time he can be considered to have ‘paid his debt to society’. God’s moral worth, however, is infinite. It therefore demands infinite payment for even the slightest transgression. Which, for finite beings like us, means an eternity in Hell, in that place where “the fire shall never be quenched” (Mark 9.45).

The breaking of God’s law and dishonouring of his person therefore demands a penalty which he alone can fully pay. This is why, 2,000 years ago, God came to Earth in the form of a man named Jesus of Nazareth and paid the penalty for our sin. To understand this, suppose a criminal is guilty of a number of crimes; and suppose the judge turns to him and says: “It’s £500,000 or life imprisonment”. The criminal has nowhere near that amount of money, so the bailiff begins to walk him out of the courtroom. Suddenly, however, the judge intervenes, stepping down from his platform, saying, “Release this man: I’ll pay his fine myself!”. An unlikely scenario admittedly. Yet this is exactly what God did in Christ on the night of the Passover in 30AD. Christ’s death satisfied the demands of a holy God in order that we might be freed from the consequences of having broken His Law. As the scriptures say:

“Christ suffered once for sin, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3.18)
the service…

We welcome any and all born-again Christians to break bread with us on a Sunday morning. Of course, non-Christians are welcome too. But if you’re not a Christian, we’d prefer you not to take part in the sharing of bread and wine, for to do so doesn’t really make sense—it is to do the kinds of things Christians do without first becoming a Christian. We also ask that, during the service, women wear a head-covering and men don’t,

“For every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonours his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head.” (1 Cor 11.4-5)

The format of the service itself is fairly free, with members of the congregation leading each other in a mixture of hymns, prayers, and thoughts from the Bible.