Sunday, February 04, 2007

Lord's Supper

It seems that this has been the theme for the day. We celebrated it this Lord's Day, one of the 5 times per year that we do so. I personally would love to celebrate it more often, at least once a month, but so far this is as often as well celebrate it.
I say it is the theme for the day because two other blogs I read had posts about it.

First, over at Voice of Vison, Even So posted on it in terms of the necessity of it being celebrated in the context of the gathering of believers. I agree whole heartedly with him, and still remember my shock and dismay when Discipleship Journal had an article on celebrating Communion by oneself.

Second, at Biblical Christianity Dan posted a tip on how he explained to unbelievers why they should not partake in the Lord's Supper. I liked his illustration.

What we do to fence the table, that is to keep the unrepentant and the unbelievers from eating and drinking judgment against themselves, is first to put an insert in the bulletin. Being a small congregation our intention is to have one of the Elders approach those who are visting, and go over it with them to make sure they understand. It is as follows:

“Should I take Communion here?”

If you are visiting us you may wonder whether or not you should receive the sacrament of Holy Communion (the Lord's Supper). We don't want anyone who should partake to feel uncomfortable in doing so. However, we also don't want anyone to partake merely as a form or ritual or just to be sociable! In fact, the Bible says that it is dangerous to do so. This isn't our table. It isn't the table of the Reformed Church. This is the Lord's Table. Therefore, we try to follow His instructions as nearly as we can.
In light of His instructions, we invite you to commune if each of the following is true:

1. You have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, have repented of your sin, and trust Jesus Christ - plus nothing - for right standing with God.
2. You have been baptized (either as an infant or as an adult). Baptism (the sign of union) must always come before the Lord's Supper (the sign of communion). If you wish you may speak to one of our elders about making arrangements for baptism.
3. You are not living secretly and unrepentantly in sin but are striving by the help of the Holy Spirit to glorify God with your entire life.
4. You have joined or been confirmed as a communing member of a church that proclaims the gospel. If you have not, then we invite you to consider becoming a member here. If you would like more information about this please speak with one of our elders.
5. You have not been excommunicated or asked by your church to refrain from taking communion. We respect the discipline of other churches, and we do not want to encourage the practice of lowering the standards of Christian living or evading accountability by allowing unrepentant people to do what their own congregation will not allow them to do.
If you can sincerely say "Yes" to each of these things, we invite you to inform one of our elders, so that we can welcome you to the Table in the Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We believe that He wants both you and this church to recognize the obligations of His covenant in this way.
If you cannot say "Yes" to each of these things - or if you are not sure - then we ask you to refrain from partaking at this time. We invite and encourage you to talk to our elders about the steps you need to take to enable you to openly enjoy communion with Christ and His people.

Second, we have what is called a preparatory exhortation. It is part of our liturgy, and it meant to explain to people how they are to come to the table of the Lord. This is not the one we use, but a newer one. Frankly, while I don't mind this one, I prefer the older one once some of the language is updated.


Andrew and Carolyn said...

I find that wording more than helpful. Particularly no.3 on secret sin, and no.5 on discipline applied by other churches and respecting it. Sometimes I wonder are churches more concerned with placating those who shouldn't partake, than protecting and honouring God's Name.

Thanks for posting this statement, and linking it through Dan Phillips' site. I think I might use parts of that as a means of explaining who can and cannot break bread in our own church. It strikes a beautiful balance between sensitivity of expression, and strength of principle.

God bless you.

Rileysowner said...

Your response to this was much like mine the first time I saw it. I wish I could take credit for writing it, but that goes to someone else from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. At least that is who I originally got it from, and was told to use it as I wished.

If it helps, by all means use it.

Shawn Abigail said...

Why 5 times a year? The early church had a regular pattern of a weekly remembrance of the Lord.

Rileysowner said...

I am not sure about why they settled on five times per year. I know the tendency to celebrate less than weekly is at least partly in response to the Roman Catholic practice of frequent celebrations of the Lord's Supper. The thinking that lies behind is, thinking that I disagree with, is that celebrating the Lord's Supper too often would make people take it for granted.

My response to that is: First, we don't say the same thing about the preaching of the word. In fact, we encourage people to read it and study it daily. Second, my experience with those who celebrate the Supper weekly is not that they take it for granted, but that they value it more.

However, the scriptures themselves do not explicitly require the celebration of the Lord's Supper weekly, so I do believe there is discretion allowed for the local congregation in this area.

My personal preference would be to move to weekly, but even going to monthly would be a big step forward.

Shawn Abigail said...

Well, a couple of thoughts. First, don't let the fact that the Roman Catholics do something prevent you from doing it, if in fact it is Biblical. The Roman Catholics believe in the Deity of Christ, etc.

Second thought... we should certainly follow the commands of Scripture, but where commands are absent it is reasonable to follow the practice of the early church. If the early church ended up with a regular pattern of celebrating the Lord's Supper once a week, we would need a very strong reason to follow some different practice.

As you can guess, I attend a church where we celebrate the Lord's Supper every week. 8-)


Rileysowner said...

Shawn, just to be clear, I believe we should be celebrating the Lord's Supper every week. The challenge as a pastor is to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be. That is a slow process unless God works in an unusual manner.

I am glad you are in a congregation that celebrates the Lord's Supper every week. That is what I would eventually like to see happen in the congregation I am currently pastoring, but such change is slow in coming.

Shawn Abigail said...

Thanks for the clarification. Such a move requires patience, lest there be a backlash of traditionalism over the Scriptural teaching. I'll certainly pray for you and for your congregation.


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