Category Archives: Table of the Lord

He took the bread, not the lamb

I don’t know if you read the article “He Didn’t Choose The Lamb that I mentioned the other day. The author made one of those simple observations that end up having great impact.

Basically he discussed why Jesus didn’t use the Passover lamb for the Lord’s Supper, why he chose instead the bread. Jesus had been called “the lamb of God” by John the Baptist. Paul would later refer to him as our Passover lamb. Wouldn’t it have made more sense if he had taken a piece of lamb and said, “This is my body…”?

But he chose the bread. The lamb was a symbol of the sacrifice. The bread was a symbol of liberation, a remembrance of the Exodus.

The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice. As John Mark Hicks eloquently says in his book Come To The Table, it’s not the altar of the Lord; it’s the table of the Lord. We gather not to offer again the blood of the Lamb but to celebrate the results of that offered blood. We remember his death; we do not reenact it.

Because he didn’t choose the lamb.

The Table of the Lord: Were I in charge…

I hope I don’t seem to be dragging this out. It’s just that so many times we criticize yet offer no suggestions for improvement. So let me write one more post on this subject.

Were I in charge of the Lord’s Supper, it would admittedly take a good bit more time. While I think it would ideally be taken while sitting around tables, I think it can still be done in an auditorium.

The first thing I would want is a time for reconciliation. Have a time of prayer where people are urged to move around and pray with one another. One of the main purposes would be to offer a time for people to put the idea of Matthew 5:23-24 into practice. There should be no disputes between brothers that remain unresolved.

I would also encourage a full explanation of what is going to be done, maybe not every time, but frequently. We have visitors among us that don’t know what is expected of them, we have children that need to be learning, we have adults that need to be reminded.

I would have tables around the auditorium. The ideal would be to have one of the deacons at each table, accompanied by their families. Small groups would gather around the table, greet one another, pray together and share the bread and the wine. Families would be encouraged to stay together. Talk should be encouraged, speaking of the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice, the significance of the covenant and the reality of our unity. After a “reasonable” amount of time (this calls for sensitivity), a central song leader could begin a song, the groups would finish their time together, and the whole assembly would continue their time of encouragement and praise.

I would even be satisfied if this were only done once a month, with other ways of taking the supper being used the other weeks. My high school choir director used to say, “A rut is just a grave with both ends knocked out.” I know that C.S. Lewis argued otherwise, but I think that variety is good in our worship. We too easily turn routine into tradition and tradition into law.

Those are my views. I would love to hear the ideas of others.

The Table of the Lord: Final suggestions

So far I’ve had five suggestions on improving our participation at the table of the Lord:

Emphasize the good news of the gospel

Take our time with the Lord’s Supper

Re-establish the table atmosphere of the Lord’s Supper

Think about the way we distribute the Lord’s Supper

Think about using something other than pasteurized grape juice

Let me conclude this section of suggestions with a few final thoughts:

The emphasis on the Lord’s table needs to be communion, fellowship. It’s a bonding time between Christians and between us and our Lord.

We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to make the Supper a more meaningful experience, even if it’s not practical nor popular.

We need to remove all legalistic thinking from the communion experience and see it as an opportunity to draw closer to our Lord. It’s not about punching a time card; it’s a relationship opportunity.

Worship experiences in the Bible are often teaching experiences as well. We need to regularly explain to our visitors, our children and even ourselves just what it is we’re doing. That includes explaining who is and who is not expected to participate, how the elements will be distributed, etc.

I’d like to hear your suggestions. I’ll offer one more post after this where I describe what I would like to see in the Lord’s Supper.

The Table of the Lord: Fifth suggestion

My fifth suggestion is slightly off-topic, but I’ll make it any way: lose the Welch’s. Oh, dear! Now I’ve gone too far. But the more I think about, the more that I don’t care for what’s in our cup.

In case you don’t know the story, ordained Methodist minister Thomas Welch (dentist by trade) was disturbed because the congregation he attended used fermented wine. In 1869, he developed a process of pasteurization which kept grape juice from fermenting. Although the elders at his church said this was “an unacceptable innovation,” the idea eventually caught on across the nation. Though Thomas never accepted money for his invention, his son developed Welch’s into a formidable company. (Read the story here)

From the time of Martin Luther forward, men fought about almost every aspect of the Lord’s Supper. Except whether or not to use wine. Wine was an accepted part of life and an accepted part of worship. Until the 19th century, in the United States.

How can we insist on unleavened bread, yet allow the use of something that didn’t even exist until 1869? Yes, there was grape juice. Yes, there were ways of preserving unfermented wine. But nothing similar to what Mr. Welch came up with was around before that time.

If you can’t get past the cultural hang-ups (and that’s what they are) against alcoholic beverages, use non-alcoholic wine.

Before I finish this series, I’ll get back to some more meaningful suggestions. Still, this one deserves some thought at least. If the thought of Wonder Bread on the Lord’s Table is upsetting to you, ask yourself why you put up with Thomas Welch’s “unacceptable innovation.”

The Table of the Lord: Fourth suggestion

My fourth suggestion: take a long, hard look at how we distribute the Lord’s Supper. As I said before, everything is set up around efficiency. It almost seems to say “How quickly can we be done with this obligatory rite?” I especially get frustrated with the pressure I feel to quickly down my sip of Welch’s to keep the flow. For a while I was keeping the plastic cup and throwing it away later, just so that I wouldn’t have to speed sip it.

[In Cuba, the church in Matanzas has started 14 congregations in the last two years. Their lead evangelist was asking what to do about the problem of trying to get enough communion trays. Since communion trays are neither in the Bible nor available in Cuba, I told him that I thought they should find another solution. A Cuban solution. I later thought about it and thought that I would encourage each person in these house churches to bring their own cup; I’ll be interested to see what their solution is.]

Personally, I’d like to see tables set up around the auditorium where people would go and get the bread and wine. Older members who could not easily get up and get their own would be served by others; that would bring a new meaning to “serving communion.”

Even if we stick to the trays, let’s consider encouraging people to take their time in eating the bread. And let’s pass the trays for the cups twice, once for people to take a cup, another to put back. Or go back to the old system of people leaving their cups in the backs of the pews.

Whatever we do, let’s keep the Lord’s Supper from resembling a competitive eating event. Slow it down!