Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Lord's Supper: Evangelical Blind-Spot?

It seems that, by habit, when we take the Lord's Supper we receive it silently, not looking at anyone else or engaging with anyone else. We then go back to our seats (or stay in them) and pray quietly on our own, neither looking at or engaging with anyone else. To me this seems strange. Why?

First, the Lord's Supper is a communal activity; unlike Bible study or intercession or meditation on and memorisation of Scripture or many many other integral parts of our Christian lives, it cannot be done on our own. So why do we basically do it on our own in a crowd, rather than expressly and excitedly in community?

Secondly, though it is right to be in awe of God's majesty and holiness, and to sit before him in abject acknowledgement of our sin, that time has passed in a service by the time we get to the Lord's Supper (or it should have!) so why do we still maintain those postures and thoughts and styles suited to confession after we have been forgiven and assured that we may approach the throne of grace with confidence.

Thirdly, it is a feast, and an eschatological feat at that; we are proclaiming the Lord's death until he comes; we are celebrating; we are looking forward; we are being fed. Why do we celebrate by sitting quietly with our heads in our hands?

Put all this another way:

A man is stuck out in a horrible, wet, sticky, muddy, smelly jungle. Someone with a huge house in a much more beautiful part of the world sends a messenger to him, to bring him to live in that lovely huge house. The benefactor provides new clothes, washing facilities, boat and taxi to the airport, flights, taxi at the other end and more washing facilities on arrival. He then promises that he can live there for ever, that he will be fed whenever he needs food, clothed whenever he needs clothes, washed whenever he needs washing, and so on...

He then invites the man to his first dinner - the first of many many to come - and the man is pretty silent; seems happy, but is hardly effusive. The benefactor thinks it must just be that he doesn't trust the promise of future provisions , or is just shell-shocked. But this continues for years and years; every amazing feast is received with silence. He looks happy, but hardly shows it; he never expresses excitement, nor looks forward to the next one...

The benefactor has brought the man at great personal cost to live with him, has provided all he needed and will ever need, and the man isn't even excited about it. Isn't that a little strange?

So, OK there's some flaws in the parallels, and I could probably have put that better, but you get the idea. Why are we so silent and minimalist at the Lord's Supper.

What could change? We could be testifying to each other as we sit waiting to receive or having received; we could sing exciting songs like 'When I was Lost' or 'Thine be the Glory' or something; we could do almost anything to represent the fact that we are happy, pleased, delighted, and longing for that great final feast...

But sitting silently with our heads in our hands trying to avoid any contact with anyone else... Surely not!


Anonymous John Barker said...

Mate, I'm right with you on the Lord's supper...bring on some celebration!

6:40 pm, June 06, 2006  
Blogger Ros said...

Song of Songs 5:1 - 'Eat friends, drink and be drunk with love' seems to me to set the standard for the wedding feast we anticipate in the Supper.

9:07 pm, June 06, 2006  
Anonymous Jam C said...

Agreed. Isn't it odd how we can do something together as a church - and yet still make it individual/private moment? How western and non-communal we are. Is there something to be said for celebrating the Lords Supper as a supper? At the start, publicly breaking bread and pouring wine - reminding ourselves of Jesus Body and Blood, and then feasting together, looking forward to the great Feast in heaven. I'm probably way off, but it's just a thought.

11:40 am, June 07, 2006  
Blogger Mandy said...

Part of the problem is that the habit of being silent during communion is just that - habit. Have any of us ever been told to be silent after communion? I know I never was, but yet my behaviour is influenced by watching those around me and what they do. As new people come to Christ and join with us in celebrating the Lord's supper they watch us take the bread and the wine somberly and with reflection and then sit in silence or prayer afterwards. They then copy this behaviour and the cycle continues. If we think that this is unhelpful, maybe it is up to us to break the pattern?

5:16 pm, June 07, 2006  
Blogger Ros said...

Yes, definitely. But some guidance up front helps this enormously. I think of the free church communion services led by David Field at Oak Hill where (over proper amounts of bread and wine) we're encouraged to talk to each other about ways in which we're thankful to the Lord or to encourage each other with thoughts from scripture etc. There's time for this sort of chatting if you're having a proper feast. And to be told to do it from the front helps break down some of the embarrassment factor. As does background music, like at any good party.

9:09 pm, June 10, 2006  
Blogger Stov said...

Absolutely bro. Let's break the silly habits and express what the meal actually expresses!
I linked to you on this.. hope you don't mind.

12:37 am, October 23, 2006  

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