One of the most most cutting conflicts among the Reformers concerned the nature of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. 500 years later it seems strange that they had such contention over communion. Didn’t they have an obvious and shared and bigger enemy in the Catholic Church—which taught that Jesus was being re-crucified every time the priest prayed over the elements? The Reformers all knew that was blasphemy. How come they had such a difficult time coming together at the Table of fellowship?
Some of it was ego. We can see that and say it now, at least because it’s always easier to criticize someone who can’t fight back. But it’s true. They had their own ministries and desires to be The Man, some men more than others.
Some of it was conviction. Maybe we should have more trouble to work through than we do. They cared about truth in Scripture. There were and definitely are dumb doctrinal disagreements and divisions, but disagreements do demonstrate the desire to do what God says.
We have the historical benefit of knowing their positions and watching them fight it out, and kill each other, without fearing the same. And while we still stay clear of the idea that the bread and wine turn into Jesus’ actual and physical body and blood, we also think that more is happening than just symbolism. We are not merely going through the motions on behalf of mental images, as if the mental part was the part that mattered. The Spirit works in the preaching of the Word and the partaking of the Word.
Through faith in Christ our faith is fed. By grace we are being knit together in Christ. In Christ we have wisdom to appraise how yeast causes the loaf to rise and grapes to ferment. And in Christ we have wisdom to praise the Spirit who causes our hope to rise and our joy to ferment. The Spirit reforms our lives, individually and corporately, and that is something we all celebrate in common.