Following this past Sunday’s wonderful communion time with our Legacy church family, I’m gaining the courage and confidence needed to jump right into a five or six weeks sermon series on the multi-faceted aspects of our Lord’s Supper. I’m convinced that Christians in the Churches of Christ—this may be true of all Christians in God’s Kingdom, it’s just that the only first-hand experience I really have is in the C of C—know when to take the Lord’s Supper, we’re just not sure why.
The Lord’s Supper, as presented in the New Testament and as celebrated by God’s Church through the centuries, has always been a deeply meaningful ritual representing layers and layers of imagery and ideas. The Lord’s Supper, shared by God’s people on the Lord’s Day in memory of our Savior, stands for the unity of the Church. It recalls the ministry and the teachings of the earthly meals of Jesus, both pre-resurrection and post-resurrection. It looks forward with breathless anticipation to the wedding feast of the Lamb when all of God’s people will be gathered from the four corners of time and space to sit at the heavenly table in eternity. It celebrates the power of the resurrection and the hope we have in that Holy Spirit power that brought Jesus out of the tomb. Communion re-enacts the timeless salvation history of our Father who delivers his people from bondage over and over again. It represents the diversity of the Lord’s body and the universal call to all of creation to be saved: “All things are ready, come to the Feast!” And, yes, it recalls the suffering and death of Jesus in the garden and on the cross and the tremendous sacrifice he made of his life on my behalf.
And for the life of me I can’t figure out why, with all of the joy and the celebration and the sharing and the communion that’s forever been a part of meal-time with God’s people, our Lord’s Supper times on Sundays are somber, sad, introspective funerals. Barely a Sunday morning communion time comes that I don’t want to stand up on my chair right in the middle of it and remind everybody, “Hey! He’s not on the cross anymore! He’s not in the tomb! He’s not dead! He’s alive!”
The suffering and death of Jesus was never a part of the Church’s Lord’s Supper until the middle of the 4th century. The priests and Church officials at that time began to focus solely on Jesus’ death and began to use grave and solemn language in their prayers and communion liturgies in an effort to control the thousands of pagans who found themselves in church on Sundays due to Constantine’s edict making Christianity mandatory. Church leaders used the Lord’s Supper to straighten out these non-Christian Christians. To scare them straight.
Why did the restoration movement restore everything, reform everything, except the Lord’s Supper?
I’m ready to enjoy and celebrate and declare to each other and to the world all the many images and ideas and truths that are found in our communion time together on Sundays.
And I pray you are, too.
For more info on the Church’s distortion of the Lord’s Supper, see a paper I wrote a couple of years ago by clicking on my resources page here. Go to “From Celebratory Feast to Solemn Service,” about halfway down the resource page.
My great friend, Jim Gardner, also recently posted a few blog thoughts on the differences between remembering at communion a suffering and dying Jesus versus remembering the living and reigning Christ. You can check it out here.
Please be in thoughtful prayer regarding this all-important weekly ritual that’s intended by God to remind us of our relationship with him and our countless blessings from him through our Savior.
And I’ll leave you with this poem, also posted by Jim Gardner a couple of days ago:
I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven’s door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
Not the lights or its decor.
But it was all the folks in heaven
who made me sputter and gasp —
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics, the trash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.
Herb, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on Cloud-Nine,
Looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus, “What’s the deal?
I would love to hear your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here?
God must’ve made a mistake!”
“And, why is everyone so quiet?
So somber? Give me a clue.”
“Hush, child,” said He, “they’re all in shock.
No one thought they’d be seeing you.”