If you are not interested in Communion, the Lord's Supper, you are probably not going to be interested in this post.
Recently, I told my sermon advisory group, I would be preaching a sermon on “Why The Lord's Supper” in a couple of months. I asked if they had any suggestions.
One said to me, “Would it be possible to offer the people more than one little piece of cracker and one little cup full of grape juice? It always sounded strange to me to hear people talk about a supper, when what we experience is not even a good snack.
Someone else, one who has been a Christian for a long time, said, “I agree. It just seems like what we do has very little in common with how they partook of the Lord's Supper and experienced communion in the New Testament.”
I found our dialogue fascinating; it really gave me food for thought. (Wink. Wink.)
Since then, I have thought much about that conversation. I agree that what we do finds little connection with the way they did it in the New Testament. There is no implication from Scripture, and no implication from early church history, churches passed around portions of unleavened bread, from which each Christian took a tiny morsel.
Now, since some churches passed around one cup, I can see each individual’s swallow being smaller, similar to the size of our little communion cups. However, these were experienced in the context of a complete meal. So people, by God's design, left feeling satisfied. (Indeed, one of the reasons there was a problem in I Corinthians 11 was because the more affluent Christians were sinning by not sharing their bountiful blessings of food with the poor Christians. Consequently, the poor left hungry.)
Where did this disconnect between our experience of communion today and the early church's experiences come from? I suspect Constantine's influence on the church is partially to blame. That's the subject of another post for another day.
Within my own fellowship, I'm wondering if there is another reason as well. In my fellowship, we practice open communion. That means, anyone who desires to partake of the bread and the cup may do so. We leave it up to each individual's conscience. Each individual is subject to God's judgment (I Corinthians 11:17ff), but each is allowed to make his or her own choice.
Now, in a conservative and doctrinally careful Fellowship, you've got a problem. How do you share communion with someone who may not be a Christian? Especially, if it is someone you really believe is not a Christian? The solution is simple; you virtually eliminate the communion aspect of the service, and emphasize the Lord's Supper facet.
In the Lord's Supper, it is every man for himself. You're not showing a desire to fellowship someone, who is outside of Christ. That's his problem. Consequently, your conscience can remain untroubled.
Unfortunately, in our congregation's case, all too often we do not experience communion; rather, what is happening is 500 people are individually, and simultaneously, taking the Lord's Supper.
This explains how we can say with a straight face on Sunday nights, “If you were unable to partake of the Lord's Supper this morning, it has been left prepared for you and you may leave the auditorium to partake during the singing of our next song.”
Voila! A handful of people go to a back room, away from the rest of the Body. Or, everybody in the auditorium sits and watches three people, who are taking the Lord's Supper on a Sunday night.
Whatever that is, it clearly violates the meaning of the word–communion. Not much is being held in common by the assembly.
What's the solution? I have some ideas. But I would enjoy first hearing from you. What do you think?
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. When I left for Argentina in 1989, I assumed I would spend the next five years practically isolated from American news and sports. I will never forget our first night in Argentina, in the home of the Reece Mitchell family, in Buenos Aires. I mentioned to one of Reece’s sons, I cannot remember which one, that I expected to be cut off from American culture, as I had been in Papua New Guinea.
He replied, “Oh, well we get cable here.”
That was the first I heard of the Argentine cable service. God bless the individual, who brought cable to Argentina.
Because of the cable service, we received a direct feed of CNN. (Later, we received ESPN as well.)
After we settled in our house in Cordoba, I subscribed to the local cable service. Now, we had been in Cordoba for a little more than a month, so I already felt a little bit out of the loop. One night, about 10:30 our time, I turned on the TV to CNN.
It was 7:30 PM in Atlanta—time for CNN SPORTS TONIGHT. The program’s anthem blared out, and I emotionally tasted a little bit of home.
Virtually every night thereafter, I watched the news on CNN and SPORTS TONIGHT. Anchors Fred Hickman and Nick Charles grew to be my friends, even though I never met them.
Nick Charles is dying. He is suffering from bladder cancer and will be taken from us soon. Patrick Leech sent me a link that offers a marvelous testimony to Charles’ faith:
I feel sadness because of the connection of my past. Yet, I can say gratefully, that Nick Charles is dying well.
2. I got to experience LEADERSHIP TRAINING FOR CHRIST for the first time on a Sunday morning. I know of no better ministry for equipping young people, children, and adults (!) than LTC. What a blessing it is.
3. The Mavericks blowing a 23-point lead to Portland on Saturday doesn’t scare me. Of course, I may be whistling in the cemetery.
4. My heart goes out to the people, who have lost property, especially homes, to the wild fires. Yet, another reminder of how little humanity really controls.
5. I took my family to the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination yesterday afternoon. The Texas School Book Depository has been turned into a museum. We did not go inside, but we walked around the site of the murder. Sad.
I was impressed by how many people were there—more than I saw at Ford’s Theater last year. I heard the German language spoken; it looked like others from different countries were present as well.
One strange moment: at the grassy knoll the investigator and author, Robert Groden, was present with his books and DVDs on the Kennedy assassination.
He believes Kennedy was a victim of a conspiracy. Part of his proof is photos taken from Kennedy’s autopsy. (How he got them, I don’t know.)
The reason I know he had photos is, Groden had a point man, who held up some of the photos. Fortunately, he told Timothy and Annie to turn around before he did.
I have to admit; I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, the photos were morbid. (I decided to turn away; I couldn’t escape the sensation I was violating something sacred.) On the other hand, we are a democracy. We must hold the government accountable. Clearly, if someone in the government was conspiring to hide evidence, it would take the people seeing the evidence to move an investigation along. And, if you run for president, there are certain rights to privacy you surrender for the sake of the democracy.