Joe Haslag: Seeing The Lord’s Supper Differently Now

Dr. Joseph Haslag, Economics professor at the University of Missouri, is a somewhat-new member of The Crossing. He and I were talking recently about how his views have changed regarding Communion (the Lord’s Supper) since gaining a better understanding and belief in the gospel. I thought his insightful comments were worth sharing with others, so I asked him to write them down.

With his permission, the following are Joe’s comments:

One of the most transforming things in my life is my evolving understanding of how big God is. One of the important aspects of this understanding is transubstantiation.

By now, you can probably deduce that I was brought up in the Roman Catholic tradition. For Roman Catholics, transubstantiation is the doctrine that, although appearing in the form of bread and wine, communion is actually the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. I thought deeply about this and held onto this belief as central to my faith. Until recently, this belief kept me from participating in the Lord’s Supper anywhere but in a Roman Catholic Mass.

Why did I think that transubstantiation was so important? The answer is tied to a distant God; a small God existing in a place far away. I accepted this view because I understood that my salvation was earned by my actions. God had done everything He could by sending his Son to die for my sins, but I had to behave well enough to enter into His Kingdom. Consistent with a self-salvation premise, transubstantiation was really valuable. It meant that Christ was coming closer and that I could take Him in at the Lord’s Supper. What a wondrous feeling. My need for a close relationship was at least temporarily satisfied at Mass. Hence, I clung to this view of the Lord’s Supper because it satisfied my deepest need.

Little did I realize that the God of the Bible was not so small. I had to spend time reading Scripture and unpacking it to see just how big He is. With each bit of knowledge that I gained about Him, my relationship was growing. The critical understanding was realizing that I had a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. The One who could speak such a big universe into existence ex nihilo was clearly big enough to be with me at every instant. I no longer needed transubstantiation to cover this longing for relationship. Indeed, He loved me so much that He wanted that closeness all the time. His Grace was offered freely to me at infinite cost to Himself on the Cross. Once I understood this Big God and His Grace, the notion of transubstantiation was obviously too small; He is there constantly.

Know that this does not diminish the value of the Lord’s Supper to me in any way. How could such a remembrance of Christ’s Pascal sacrifice and His restoration of the earth ever be a little thing? Rather, the Lord’s Supper is a special part of a relationship that grows deeper every day because it is close, because He loves me so much, and because I long for a deeper knowledge of God. He is infinitely big and I want to spend my days knowing Him better.

Leave a Reply