For those of you who have been around for any length of time, you know that we have now for nearly six – seven years been celebrating communion on a weekly basis. The sweet words “The body of Christ broken for you” and “The blood of Christ poured out for you” have been heart-warming words. We have been thankful remembrance of Christ’s ongoing work in our life, celebrating God in our midst, enjoying that sweet communion with God and one another; we’ve been feed and nourished by the gospel and all the while looking forward to that day where we will eat and drink with Christ when all things have been made new.
In light of all this, at the February 12 Session (elders) meeting, I presented three motions regarding the Lord’s Supper to the Session for their consideration. The following motions were approved:
That for seven months (starting March – ending September) Missio Dei Church celebrates the Lord’s Supper once a month (fourth Sunday of the month) in two distinct actions as opposed to using intinction, and
That on Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015, the Lord’s Supper be celebrated in two distinct actions as opposed to using intinction, and
That during the month of August 2015, TE Paul Vroom will present a paper to the Session regarding his convictions on how to most faithfully administer the Lord’s Supper to Missio Dei Church.
For some of you this may be coming as a shock where you might be wondering, “Is this all because of our move into the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)? What is wrong with the way we have been doing it? Does it really matter?” Well, let me flesh it out for you.
WHAT IS THIS NOT ABOUT?
This is not primarily about frequency of the Lord’s Supper. I find myself agreeing with John Calvin who agreed with Martin Luther who said that the church should celebrate the Lord's Supper at least once a week. Calvin longed for a return to the manner in which the early Christian church commemorated Christ's death, while at the same time getting rid of all the accumulated, unhealthy baggage of the medieval period. He regarded infrequent celebration of the Lord's Supper to be part of that baggage. For instance, in his Institutes, he observed that soon after the apostolic age, the celebration of the Lord's Supper was "corrupted by rust," and he says:
Now, to get rid of this great pile of ceremonies, the Supper could have been administered most becomingly if it were set before the church very often, and at least once a week. 4.17.43
But while Calvin could be fiery in pressing with his points, he was also capable of assuming an intelligently and genuinely peaceful tone. You can see that when he writes, "the supper should be celebrated as frequently as the circumstances of the congregation may allow it." (Treatise on the Lord's Supper)
The reality is that we too must find a cadence of practice that calls for our regular remembrance, repentance, and reminder of his coming return without a frequency that inclines us toward empty ritualism. We are called to honor the command of Jesus to remember him with bread and wine by a periodic observance tailored to local church realities.
So, should we observe the Lord’s Supper weekly, monthly, or quarterly? If I had my druthers, I would choose weekly, but monthly is equally acceptable, but this is not primarily about frequency.
WHAT IS THIS ABOUT?
This is primarily about the way that we have been administering/serving the Lord’s Supper. Even before we started making the move into the PCA, I have been struggling with whether or not intinction (dipping the bread of the Lord’s Supper into the cup so that worshipers partake of both elements at the same time) is the most biblically faithful way of serving the Lord’s Supper.
Why do I say that? Well, the New Testament passages instituting the Lord's Supper state that Jesus first took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat." Then, Jesus passed the cup, saying "Drink of it" (Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). So we have a worship practice for which Jesus gave us detailed procedural instructions.
In 1 Corinthians 11:26–29, the Apostle Paul gave these instructions to the church in Corinth:
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
It seems from Scripture that there are two distinct actions in administering the Lord’s Supper: eating the bread and drinking the cup separately.
Does it really matter how we go about observe the Lord’s Supper? Does it really matter whether nor not we dip the bread a cup or if we eat and drink in two distinct actions? I believe that things like this do matter. Why? Well, we fully believe that the proclamation of the Word is absolutely essential to salvation. We believe that
“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” (WCF 1.4)
“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” (WCF 1.5)
We are convinced that the Word of God is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. This Word can stand alone, however, the sacraments cannot stand alone because they “lean on” the Word and derive their form and meaning from it. So, yes, it always matters greatly how we observe the Lord’s Supper.
So for the next few months, I am going to take some intentional time to read, study, converse with others about how to properly administer the Lord’s Supper which “leans on” the Word of God. It is my hope that during the month of August that I will present a paper to the Session regarding my convictions on how to most faithfully administer the Lord’s Supper.
In the meantime, don’t be alarmed. Be open. Do some research of your own. Be thankful that you have a pastor and elders who desire to do things biblically and are willing to ask good questions. Enjoy this change in how we do things.
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