The sign aspect of the Lord’s Supper is often obscured in contemporary churches — and not only in those who hold to the Zwinglian/Baptist view of the Supper as a memorial meal. Often this has as much to do with the ethos of the Supper as with any teaching regarding it. Often Lord’s Supper services are characterized by a funereal atmosphere, complete with somber, droning organ music as the ministers or deacons distribute the elements to the congregation. The congregation is sometimes led to believe (if for no other reason than the omission of pastoral teaching) that the point of the meal is to screw up one’s face and try to feel sorry for Jesus. This is often accompanied by a psychological attempt to meditate on the physical pain of Jesus’ sufferings — an emphasis that is markedly understated in the biblical text itself. In order to recover a biblical model of the Lord’s Supper, churches need not tacitly accept a sacramental understanding of the “real presence of Christ” in the elements of bread and wine.
Instead, they must recapture the vision of the eschatological messianic banquet — and seek to recover the joyfulness and triumph of this event within their own churches. This would mean that the Lord’s Supper would be characterized by even more celebrative singing, and even laughter, than the rest of the service. The congregation would be taught to understand that the Supper is a victory lap — announcing the triumph of Christ over the powers of sin, death, and Satan. At the same time, the Supper would maintain the gravity of the moment, as the congregation recognizes that it is performing a sign of God’s freeing us from slavery through Christ — a sign of a new covenant that addresses not only other believers but God himself, the unseen demonic rulers, and even unbelievers who might marvel from outside at the meaning we find in this ancient rite. (33)