It’s worth noting that there are two different things in Christian theology are referred to as being the body of Christ: (a) The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, Communion, or however your particular church tradition refers to it, and (b) the church, which is instructed to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world.
I’d never really thought about the significance that both of these things are referred to by the same metaphor, 1 but it was mentioned in a sermon this last Easter, and is worth pondering.
I don’t think that regarding both of these as the body of Christ is accidental: both of these institutions were established by our Lord to minister: the Eucharist is physical food that provides spiritual nourishment, and the church is – or at least should be – providing physical actions to the surrounding communities that result in spiritual benefits. The Eucharist is the body of Christ for the church, and the church is the body of Christ to the world. What the Eucharist is to the church, the church should be for the world.
Those that wish to denigrate the church have have a strong case that there are swaths of it within which Jesus would probably not be welcome: stories abound of evangelicals endorsing Trump to the existence of Joel Osteen to the numerous moral failings of members of the clergy. For me, it’s easy to become cynical and forget that the church was Jesus’s answer to suffering in the world. If we are willing to take the Eucharist seriously, and not the church, perhaps we’ve missed Jesus’s point in using similar language.
- I’m aware that some faith traditions – Catholics, most notably – don’t think that the Eucharist as the body of Christ is a metaphor at all, but I don’t really have a better way of referring to this, considering that most traditions see it as a metaphor, and all faith traditions seems to this, when referring to the church, as a metaphor. ↩