We are considering going back to passing trays when we take the Lord’s Supper in the near future. In conjunction with that, I was thinking about our practice more generally this week and ran across this article from Wes McAdams. You have likely heard me say similar things to all 3 of these suggestions on occasion; I not only endorse them, but thought they might be helpful for you, too, because sometimes hearing another voice make the same point drives it home in a different way. I commend it to your attention, and, as always, recommend you check out his blog, Radically Christian. -BP
When the Lord brought His people out of Egyptian bondage, He instituted a meal to remind them annually of what He had done. And when the Lord brought His people out of bondage to sin, He instituted a meal to remind them weekly of what He had done. This memorial meal that we share every week is of great significance. So, here are a few personal thoughts on how we take the Lord’s Supper.
1. Make Togetherness a Priority
When I was a teenager, I used to help pass the communion trays during the assembly. While I was paying attention to who had received the tray and who had not, it was difficult to think deeply about the sacrifice of Jesus. So I used to take my cup and some bread home in order to take the Lord’s Supper by myself later. I thought this was preferable because it gave me the time to really think. However, I was actually neglecting one of the most important elements of the Lord’s Supper – togetherness.
When the apostle Paul talked about the Lord’s Supper, it was in the context of unity and togetherness. He scolded the Corinthians, When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk (1 Corinthians 11:20-21). And then he instructed them, So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another (1 Corinthians 11:33).
This element of the Lord’s Supper is particularly important when we consider the common practice of taking the Lord’s Supper to homebound members. For years I’ve wondered, why do we take communion to someone without taking it with them? It seems to me, if we are going to make sure someone doesn’t miss out on the bread and the cup, we ought to make sure they don’t miss out on eating with fellow Christians. The same is true, I believe, when we offer the Lord’s Supper at our Sunday evening assemblies.
The Lord’s Supper ought always to be shared. After all, the word “communion” means to share something.
2. Make the Resurrection Part of the Conversation
I have heard preachers say things like, “The Lord’s Supper should be about the death of Jesus and not His resurrection.” It actually bothers some people to mention the resurrection in the comments or prayers before the Lord’s Supper. Personally, I think it should bother us if the resurrection is not part of that conversation.
I think the reason it bothers some people to mention the resurrection is the fact that the apostle Paul wrote, For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). They assume that since the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of Jesus’ death it should not be a proclamation of His resurrection.
However, I believe Paul is actually using a figure of speech known as a “synecdoche.” A synecdoche is when we use a part of something to represent the whole. For example, when a person says, “Check out my new set of wheels,” they really mean a whole car, not just four wheels. Paul often did the same thing.
In 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul wrote, For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Did Paul mean that when he was in Corinth, he only preached the crucifixion of Jesus and not Jesus’ resurrection? Of course not. Paul also said that when he was in Corinth, he preached the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Furthermore, He went on to say, If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14).
The whole purpose of a Sunday assembly is the Resurrection of Jesus. We do not take the Lord’s Supper on the Thursday night on which Jesus instituted it, or the Friday He was crucified, but on the Sunday He rose from the dead. We do not proclaim the death of a Savior who is still in a tomb, but the death of a Savior who lives and reigns.
3. It Doesn’t Always Have to be Somber
Early Christians called the Lord’s Supper “eucharist,” which comes from the Greek word which means, “give thanks.” It is the word Paul used in 1 Corinthians 11:24 concerning Jesus, When He had given thanks… The Lord’s Supper is supposed to be the ultimate “thanksgiving” meal.
Another word Paul uses is “proclaim” (1 Corinthians 11:26). This word means to preach or to announce. In a sense, we are preaching the Gospel when take the Lord’s Supper. We are announcing to the world, “Something wonderful has happened! The King has given Himself for our sins and He has set us free from sin and death! Hallelujah! We are saved!”
When we take the Lord’s Supper, we should do so soberly, but that doesn’t mean it has to be somberly. Yes, it is sad Jesus had to suffer and die, but that suffering is over and now He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Yes, it is sad that we have sinned, but we have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).
If taking the Lord’s Supper means proclaiming the death of Jesus until He returns, then it means the Lord’s Supper should be a time of joyfully celebrating the Good News that we have been set free from bondage! No matter what else happened during the week, we can gather together with our brothers and sisters, communing with one another, remembering we are being saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.