Tag: lord’s supper

Reinterpreting the Lord’s Supper

I was brought up to see the Lord’s Supper as a solemn time.  Incredibly solemn.

And painfully introspective.

Were you brought up in this tradition?

I almost came to dread taking the Lord’s Supper (communion).  Because I knew that, for the following 10-15 minutes, somebody was going to be reminding me, “You need to get your heart right with God.”  And then they were going to read something terrifying like this

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.  For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. (1 Corinthians 11:27-31, emphasis mine…and whoever was reading the text for that Sunday morning we took communion)

I was going to have to beat myself up, cry my heart out to God for sins that I’d committed, and make sure there wasn’t anything that I had done (or not done) that was even remotely sinful.  I definitely didn’t want to “eat and drink judgment” on myself.  Who wants to do that?

I wonder if “fear” is what Jesus intended when he encouraged his disciples to eat the bread and drink the cup? (Luke 22:19-20)  Somehow, I doubt it.

At first glance, though, the above text (1 Corinthians 11:27-30) seems to be a terror-inducing statement.  If you’re not careful, and if your heart’s not in the right place, you may die when you take communion.  Some in the early church surely did.

But at second glance, this text isn’t encouraging morbid introspection.  It’s speaking to an entirely different matter that was going on.

What was happening in the Corinthian church was that some people were arriving for communion, and making a meal out of the bread and wine.  They would eat the bread (and the rest of the meal) before those who were hungry arrived.  Not only would they top off all of the wine, but they would drink so much that they would get drunk…right there in the middle of the church gathering! (verses 20-21)  And I don’t know about your church, but at mine, you’d have to eat a lot of wafers to make a meal out of that bread.

What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.  When you come together to eat, wait for one another – if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home. (1 Corinthians 11:22; 33)

So drinking the cup and eating the bread in an “unworthy” manner has much less to do with fear, and much more to do with selfishness.  Paul was condemning the Corinthians because they neglected the communal aspect of the Lord’s Supper,

  1. …eating and drinking before others arrived.
  2. …eating and drinking so much that others didn’t have any.
  3. …drinking so much they became drunk.
  4. …humiliating those who had nothing.

So the next time your church administers the Lord’s Supper, don’t sweat it so much, like I used to.  And if you’re a pastor, try not to strike panic in the hearts of your people.  Let it be a time of celebration and worship, of remembering what Christ has done for you (both individually and corporately).

And don’t make a meal out of the stale wafers.

 

Small Groups & Communion

Eating the equivalent of a savory version of Listerine Breath Strip and drinking half of an espresso shot of wine (or grape juice, for us Baptists) is a huge deal in the Church today.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

The weight a local church places on communion (a.k.a., the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist), the frequency it’s practiced, who administers it, how it is administered, whether it’s fresh bread or stale, the effect (or affect…I never know which to use) it has on a person’s life (the removal of sin, a dispensation of grace, a memorialization, etc.), what happens in the bread and wine (does it change from its visible form to the actual body and blood of Christ?), among other debates points to the significance of this symbolic post-breakfast, incredibly light and untasty, snack.

One thing I’m working through at Grace is the idea of small groups holding communion with their group.  I know that many people will throw up red flags at the very thought of communion happening outside of the walls of a church building, administered by someone not on a church staff.  But hear me out.

It seems to make sense for a few reasons.

Why it makes sense to encourage communion in small groups:

1. It’s difficult to do on Sunday mornings because of the way our theater is set up.  Holding services in a school has its limitations, and the logistics of pulling off the Lord’s Supper is a difficult one.  We’ve tried many different ways, and to be honest, none has worked exceedingly well.

2. It doesn’t feel intimate.  It loses its relational edge in a Sunday morning gathering environment.

3. Our services are 1 hour long.  In order to do communion “right” (giving it its proper place, explaining its significance, giving people space to process, celebrating, etc.), it takes some time.  And in a 1 hour service, either everything is rushed or various parts are cut out, neither of which is desirable.  Small groups afford much more time.

4. We don’t hold communion with great frequency.  Why not?  See above reasons.

5. We ask our small group leaders to act as shepherd leaders.  It makes great sense for them to administer this with their groups.

6. Life change is happening at the small group level.  One beautiful way of acknowledging and celebrating the change that Christ is making, and has made, in a person’s life, is through celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection (communion) together.

7. Small groups can practice communion as often as they would like.

8. The relational aspect of the Lord’s Supper can really happen in a small group environment.  In a large group setting (Sunday mornings), often the relational side of communing together just can’t happen.

Some concerns that will be brought up:

1. We’ve never done it this way before.  It’s not what we’re used to.

2. In a small group, it’s outside of the direct oversight of the church leadership/elders.

3. It could get really messy really quickly.  If you have small group leaders who don’t know what they’re doing, they could wrongly administer the Lord’s Supper. (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

4. It’s not biblical.

I’ll follow up this post with my thoughts concerning each of the above objections.

What do you think?  Is it right (and good) for small groups to administer the Lord’s Supper?  Or is a dangerous, non-biblical slope you’re not willing to go down?

 

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