Jesus. Real Life.

Communion: More of a Meal or a Ceremony?

First let me admit, I’m fairly ignorant regarding the Lord’s Supper (a.k.a., communion, a.k.a., the eucharist).  I grew up Baptist; what can I say?  In any event, I’ve ‘celebrated’ communion with Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Charismatics, non-denomers, third-wavers, home groups, and even Catholics.  I’ve even led communion a few times.  I get it more than I used to, but to quote U2, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.  But I think this post from Scot, and the book he’s reviewing, is on to something.  What do you think?

Here’s my comment on Scot’s post with a question I honestly think about from time to time, and wonder if what I’m looking for isn’t somewhere close by:

We’re considering starting an Alpha course at my church, and as we’ve been going down this road, I can’t help but think that no small part of the success of the Alpha course is the theological and redemptive power of the shared meal in Jesus’ name (often underestimated in Western evangelicalism). I honestly wonder which is more “Eucharistic”–the shrunken and ritualized wafer and juice of church ceremony, or the full meal of pasta prepared by the saints for sake of outsiders and newcomers to the faith, which we all eat together as we talk about Jesus.

. . . I’m honestly really wondering about the spirit and intent of communion, the size of the meal vs. the specifics of what’s served, the presence or absense of conversation with others, and even the tone and setting. With all of the editorial differences b/n the last supper and current practice, I wonder if Alpha has hit something, or several somethings, significant that the Church has edited out of its modern translation of the practice.

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4 responses

  1. EricW

    Thanks for letting us link to your blog via your comment today at Internet Monk. That led me to Scot McKnight’s column on celebrating the Lord’s Supper, for which I left a comment about my own discovery of Hicks’ book after having concluded many of the same things.

    May 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm

  2. T

    EricW,

    My pleasure. Thanks for the feedback. I really do wonder how we might think and feel and live differently if we, over a long period, experienced and celebrated communion more like a meal over Jesus than a kind-of magical ceremony? I really don’t want to be disrespectful, but is our modern practice too much like we’re creating and handing out a magic potion and cracker, and not enough like the meal Jesus “longed” to eat with his disciples, and longs to share with all of us on that day?

    May 25, 2010 at 1:19 pm

  3. EricW

    I really don’t want to be disrespectful, but is our modern practice too much like we’re creating and handing out a magic potion and cracker, and not enough like the meal Jesus “longed” to eat with his disciples, and longs to share with all of us on that day?

    You’re not being disrespectful, IMO. Our modern practice is, I think, essentially meaningless in its Evangelical cracker + grape juice mode, and overly mystically/magically meaningful in its Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox transubstantiation/priest-offering/re-presenting-Christ’s-sacrifice mode. 🙂

    I suspect a better understanding of the Lord’s Table than that it’s either:

    a) a mere symbolic remembering of Jesus’ death

    or

    b) a magical sacramental rite whereby a properly-ordained priest standing in the place of Christ effects or oversees a change of the bread and wine into Christ’s Real Body and Blood so that the faithful can Really Eat and Drink Christ’s Real Body and Blood and thereby have/maintain/grow in and/or into eternal life

    is to be derived from the feasts of Israel in YHWH’s presence as well as the Passover Seder. I.e., a covenantal community meal whereby the participants’ pledge of allegiance to the Lord and to each other and His promise of allegiance to them are remembered and celebrated and renewed by the participants and the Lord – who is the head of the body as well as the head of the table.

    Or something like that.

    May 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm

  4. T

    Yep. Something like that seems to point in the right, helpful direction. I dig it.

    May 25, 2010 at 4:32 pm

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