A Gathering Voices Post by Don McKim
When I was in seminary, my theology professor was Dr. Arthur Cochrane. Dr. Cochrane was a Presbyterian from Canada who served our Presbyterian denominations for decades as a theology professor at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He was a world authority on the theology of Karl Barth and helped interpret Barth’s theology in North America. One of his major books was The Church’s Confession under Hitler, a study of the Confessing Church in Germany during the Nazi regime. He also edited an important collection of confessional documents, Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century.
Dr. Cochrane was finishing his Eating and Drinking with Jesus: An Ethical and Biblical Inquiry when I became his student at Pittsburgh Seminary. He asked me to prepare the indices for this book, which I gladly did. The book was very interesting for Cochrane’s examination of the Lord’s Supper, highly influenced by the theology of Karl Barth. Barth had moved away from the traditional church understanding of the Lord’s Supper as a church sacrament to a view that owed much to the views of the Protestant Reformer, Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531).
Without exploring the intricacies here, Cochrane’s book opened up theologically what we already know: that whenever we share a meal or “table fellowship” together, Jesus Christ is in our midst. Often, we give thanks for our food with a table grace and then never give another thought to the God who has given us our food and drink, or the Christ who is present with us in these occasions by the Holy Spirit. So meals become simply one more “event” in life, like most of the other activities in which we engage.
The title of Dr. Cochrane’s book captured this: Eating and Drinking with Jesus. Cochrane maintained that eating and drinking are good human activities, commanded and permitted to us by God “as a sign that Jesus is the Bread of eternal life and Giver of the water of life” whereby we “may know and proclaim Christ’s death,” and in order that we “may come to faith” (59). In eating and drinking we are proclaiming Christ’s work of reconciliation: We are reconciled with God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:16-21) and dividing walls of hostility between peoples are broken down (Ephesians 2:11-22). In short, “a table fellowship has been made possible among all peoples.”
Think of that! Each time we eat and drink, we do so with Jesus. We are celebrating Jesus’ work of salvation and reconciliation. This is how we, as Christians, must eat and drink. Cochrane said, quoting the apostle Paul: “‘Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Cor. 10:31). All eating and drinking is to the glory of God!” (59). We eat and drink, always, in the presence of the Christ who died and was raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). Every meal is a “witness” to Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. This makes all our table fellowship and the food and drink we share an important—shall we say, “sacred” event?!
The contemporary theologian, Wolfhart Pannenberg, also points us in this direction. He notes that Jesus as the Son of Man was accused of being “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:34). Jesus granted table fellowship with those who were outcasts of the community—“sinners” (Mark 2:16; Luke 15:2). This was scandalous when by Jesus’ participation “the table fellowship that he granted or accepted became a sign of the presence of God’s kingdom that he proclaimed and a sign of the acceptance of the other participants into the future community of salvation.” Mark 2:17, when Jesus said, “‘I have come to call not the righteous but sinners,’” shows says Pannenberg, “that the granting of acceptance of table fellowship by Jesus removed everything that separated people from God and his salvation. It meant the forgiveness of sins, so that table fellowship was a real symbol of fellowship with God himself and of participation in the future of his kingdom.”
Eating and drinking with Jesus draws us into the work of Christ, witnesses to the reconciliation of people to God and each other, and witnesses to our fellowship and future participation in God’s ultimate reign. Wow!
Dr. Cochrane’s book spelled out ethical implications of our eating and drinking with Jesus. It also gave the Lord’s Supper its own significance. As Cochrane wrote: “Since the Word and Spirit have been promised to the church, it may know that the Lord’s Supper is to serve God’s glory and is to be an exhibition and demonstration” of how we “may and should eat to the honor of God the Creator, Preserver, Reconciler, and Redeemer” of all people (59-60). The Lord’s Supper is an act of faith (Eucharist); love (the Agape); and an act of hope (the Marriage Supper).
Imagine how our common, ordinary meals would be energized if we saw them more clearly as times of eating and drinking with Jesus—and all that means. All our table fellowship is blessed. Imagine the new dimensions to our celebrations of the Lord’s Supper when we see it as opening our way as “a springboard for the church’s mission and service in the world.” Our participation in Communion is our commitment to serving our host at the Supper, Jesus Christ, as we minister in his name.
In a summary of his book, Cochrane wrote: “Because Jesus Christ is present with all people as the Giver of food and drink and as the Bread of life, and because his presence is revealed to his congregation by the Holy Spirit, and because he permits and commands us to eat and drink, therefore we may and must eat and drink all things with Jesus in faith, love and hope.” We eat and drink together with Jesus and with each other, to the glory of God!
 Arthur C. Cochrane, The Church’s Confession Under Hitler, 2nd ed. (Pittsburgh: Pickwick Publications, 1976); Reformed Confessions of the Sixteenth Century, 2nd ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003).
 Arthur C. Cochrane, Eating and Drinking with Jesus: An Ethical and Biblical Inquiry (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1974). All page references in the text above are to this book.
 Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 3:285. Pannenberg also writes: “It is not without a deeper meaning that the reacceptance of the prodigal in Jesus’ parable came to expression in the feast that the father prepared for him [Luke 15:22-23].”
 Cochrane points out that if the Lord’s Supper is to be an act of love, fellowship, sharing and serving even the “least of these” then all social and cultural distinctions of race, color, and nationality are broken down. Thus “the social and political implications of the Lord’s Supper are incalculable. The Lord’s Supper is, in fact, the ecclesiological basis of social ethics” (100). So the Lord’s Supper has everything to do with life outside the walls of the church building.
 Cochrane wrote: “The church is to serve all people with its words and deeds of love. The Lord’s Supper would not be an act of faith or of love if it did not have this outreach..” See Arthur C. Cochrane, “Eating and Drinking with Jesus,” The Christian Century (April 10, 174), 392-396. Available at http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1584
Cochrane, “Eating and Drinking,” The Christian Century, 396.