NT Wright is not only an incredibly prolific writer, he also seems to be continually updating his earlier books. The Meal Jesus Gave Us was originally published in 2002 and was revised this summer.
Wright is known for his academic publishing, but this is one of his books that is oriented toward the non-professional. If anything this might have been over simplified. This new version is slightly edited and has added discussion questions. It would make a good study for an adult confirmation class or a small group.
The book opens with an introduction imagining what a birthday party might look like to a martian unfamiliar with human rituals. After a brief discussion of how human rituals conveying meaning, Wright spends a couple of chapters imagining what a disciple at the Last Supper and then an early Christian would think about communion.
The second section (the last short 9 chapters) attempts to put some theological meat on the previous imaginings. Because it is Wright, communion is placed in context of early Jewish thought, the kingdom of God, the eschatological vision of Christianity (end times), how communion reflects Jesus death and resurrection and more.
Along the way Wright briefly explores the ways that different streams of Christianity view communion, he explores the different names that it is given, and some of the church history and theological issues.
The final chapter explores some of the practical theology that goes along with communion. How often should it be taken, who should take it, who should officiate, etc.
NT Wright, when this was first written, was an Anglican Bishop (he is now retired) and this book follows Anglican theology, although non-Anglicans should not be afraid to read it.
It is very brief, only about 95 pages of main content and I read it without any problem in an evening. It raises lots of good questions and does a good job presenting the importance of communion to the church theologically, practically and ritually.
I do think that in the end, I expected a bit more meat to the book. It is definitely an introduction and I think it makes a very good introduction. He does a good job presenting some of the controversial issues in a non-controversial way. It is clear that he believes that communion is very important and along with the Word (preaching and scripture reading) is central to Christian worship.
For less than 100 pages of content I am not sure what else needed to be added as central. But I am again amazed at Wright’s ability to write to a wide variety of audiences well.