Category Archives: Lord’s Supper

Lord’s Supper Stress Disorder

I think one of the most stressful moments for visitors in our assemblies is the Lord’s Supper. I’ve grown up attending congregations of the Church of Christ, and I still feel that to some degree. Exactly how does this congregation carry out this act?

Typically the bread isn’t a problem. I may not know exactly what’s going to be in the tray/basket, but I know that I’m supposed to take a piece and eat it. Sometimes you’ll be expected to hold it until everyone is served, but that’s usually explained.

The cup is more of a concern. Do I take the cup, drink it and put it back? Do I take the cup, pass the tray, then drink the cup and place it in the little hole next to the songbook rack? Do I take the cup, pass the tray, then wait for the tray to be passed a second time to put the cup back?

Many Hispanic congregations stand when taking the Lord’s Supper. I discovered “the hard way” that one is expected to sit after being served the cup. For some visitors, that could be extremely embarrassing, discovering that they are the only ones left standing. (OK, it was embarrassing for me, but I could laugh it off)

For the outsider, the stress is even higher. Are they expected to participate? Will they offend if they don’t? Will they offend someone by taking part when they aren’t expected to? Worse yet, will someone publicly reprimand them if they do something wrong?

In my experience, churches rarely explain the mechanics of the Lord’s Supper, even though our tradition of congregational autonomy leads to varying practices. I think it’s something we need to be sensitive to. It never hurts to explain things, even when they seem obvious to us.

What suggestions do you have?

Lord’s Supper on the moon

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong took communion on the moon. Did you know that? I’d never heard that story. It showed up on Snopes this week.

I don’t know why, but I really found that to be interesting. The last few years I’ve been studying a lot about the Lord’s Supper. I never read, though, about the astronauts’ lunar communion.

The Associated Press reported the incident this way back in 1969:

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. went to the moon today with a piece of Communion bread he will use there to symbolize fellowship with his home church on earth.

When the Rev. M. Dean Woodruff [minister of the Webster Presbyterian church where Aldrin was an elder] brought out the bread for Communion, a portion of the loaf had been broken away. The minister explained that Aldrin took a portion of the loaf with him on the moon trip and at some time during the afternoon, after the moon landing is made, Aldrin would symbolically join the other parishioners in Communion during one of his rest periods.

Go over to Snopes if you’re interested in reading the astronauts’ own accounts.

Communion meditation: Altar and table (rerun)

[Since I haven’t had much Internet access this trip, I’ll rerun an older post.]
In the Old Testament, under the Law given through Moses, there was something called a “peace offering” or “fellowship offering.” These animal sacrifices were offered for a variety of reasons: gratitude to God, the making of a vow or a mere desire to honor God through sacrifice. Until recently, I hadn’t realized that many of the offerings would have been a community event. The meat from the offering had to be eaten within two days, or in the case of an offering of gratitude, the same day. If the animal that was offered was a cow, this meant that hundreds of pounds of meat had to be eaten in a short amount of time. The only way to do this would be to bring together a large group of people. That’s why the book of Deuteronomy speaks of offering peace offerings, eating and rejoicing in the presence of God (Deuteronomy 12:6-7; 27:7) and Psalms talks about offering with “shouts of joy” (Psalm 27:6).
When writing to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of something similar, saying “Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?” (1 Corinthians 10:18) Sharing in the table after the sacrifice meant sharing in the benefits of the sacrifice itself. As we come together around the Lord’s Table, we are participating together in His sacrifice by participating together in the meal. We eat the body, drink the blood and are joined with Him and with one another. In this same passage, Paul says: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
This is a community moment, one in which the family of God shares together the table of the sacrifice. This isn’t the altar. The sacrifice was offered but once, yet the meal is celebrated again and again in an unending chain of fellowship. That is the wonder of the Lord’s Table. It’s not a funeral, but a time of rejoicing in what God has done for us. Let us share together in this meal that binds us to one another and to the Lord.

Communion meditation: Sharing a meal (rerun)

[Since I haven’t had much Internet access on this trip, I’ll rerun an older post.]

In the modern world, with the spread of restaurants, we’ve grown accustomed to eating in the company of strangers. Many of us have eaten in a roomful of people where we knew no one by name. This would have been almost unheard of in the ancient world, particularly in the Middle East. Sharing a meal with someone implied a bond, almost like family, a pledge of mutual aid and mutual protection. Violating that bond was an act of treachery, as seen in Psalm 41: “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” (Psalms 41:9) To share bread with someone and then betray them was a terrible thing.
John emphasizes this aspect of Judas’ betrayal when he tells this scene from the Last Supper: “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” (John 13:21-30) Jesus made sure that Judas realized the full impact of what he was doing.
As we come together to share the Lord’s Supper, we experience a similar moment. By taking the bread and the wine, we not only make a pledge of faithfulness to God, we also proclaim the depth of our fellowship with one another. When we accept the offered bread, we accept our responsibility to one another; as we receive the cup, we receive one another in fellowship. Sharing the bread makes us one. Sharing the cup unites us. This moment is truly a fellowship meal.

Communion meditation: Love your enemies

(I haven’t been in the habit of repeating posts, but I felt moved to repost this communion meditation that I wrote last year—Tim)

These days of September are a time of remembering in the United States, remembering loss, remembering man’s inhumanity toward man. For some it’s a time of anger, for others a renewal of a call for vengeance. For most, it’s a time of wondering how things can come to such a point.
September 11 was, for many, the first real reminder since the end of the Cold War that there are people in this world who consider us as enemies. Not limiting their anger to the U.S. military or the U.S. government, they vowed to strike at the citizenry itself. Enmity became a part of our lives.
So what do we do with Jesus’ call to love our enemies? How can that be lived out? It’s not easy, but at least we had someone show us the way:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11) “While we were enemies,” Paul says. How would Jesus treat his enemies? He’s already shown us, by dying on the cross.
This supper is a reminder of what Jesus did for his enemies, of how God loves his enemies. It is a call to us to live out the same kind of love, to enemy and friend, to alien and brother, to all men. If any would consider us an enemy, may it not be because of anything that we have done. May we be seen as people of the reconciliation, people of peace, people of love. People of God.