Public Domain Photo/Wikimedia
My community celebrates the Lord’s Supper every Sunday in worship. No question. No exceptions.
I grew up in a setting where communion was offered monthly, quarterly, or at special events only. I had no issue with that. If there had been a vote to begin taking communion weekly in worship, I would have voted against it.
Now, I can’t imagine having Sunday worship without celebrating the Lord’s Supper together. I believe our worship truly would not be complete without it.
What has convinced me of our great need for a weekly Eucharist?
Throughout most of the Church’s history, Christian worship centered around Word and Table – Scripture and communion. We see that as the clear pattern of worship as early as the 2nd century.
If you are a Protestant, much of the original protest had to do with restoring worship to these forms. The reformers emphasized access for the people.
They wanted to give people access to Scripture in a language they could understand. This is when we got non-Latin translations of the Bible and the beginning of mass distribution. Johannes Gutenberg helped.
The reformers also wanted to give people full access to communion. Worship practices at the time often had priests mumbling through the Eucharist liturgy so that no one could hear, and then partaking privately, or offering only the bread without the cup.
Unfortunately, most Protestants have forgotten the equal importance of both emphases. So while we have continued to take seriously the role of Scripture, we have forgotten the importance of full access to communion.
Ironically, Roman Catholics now have full access to communion every time they worship, while many Protestants have to wait for monthly, quarterly, or annual opportunities.
Hearing and Responding
Throughout Scripture, we see God initiating dialogue and relationship with people and then requiring a response. Again and again, God reveals himself and then calls people to a response.
We believe that God reveals himself to us in a number of ways in our worship, and most clearly and specifically through the Word. Every week, God encounters us through Scripture, as we hear the good news of God’s great love and grace in Christ Jesus. I believe the Lord’s Supper is our most appropriate worship response to the Word of God.
By celebrating Eucharist together, we respond to the Gospel proclaimed with the Gospel enacted.
Scripture tells us Christ has died. At the Eucharist Table, we remember his sacrificial death and recognize that we are redeemed by the blood of Christ. Furthermore, in union with Christ, who offered himself for us, we offer ourselves as a holy and living sacrifice.
Scripture tells us Christ is risen. He lives! At the Eucharist Table, we celebrate a new birth, as we are consumed into the living body of Christ. When we celebrate communion, we not only commemorate Christ’s death, we participate in his life!
We believe that we truly encounter the risen Lord in the sacrament and are spiritually strengthened to do his will. What could be more appropriate before we are sent back into the world, than to take the body and blood of Christ, asking that we may be strengthened to be the body of Christ for the world?
Scripture tells us Christ will come again. Whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup at the Eucharist Table, Paul reminds us that we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:26). Our weekly participation at the Table is a small reminder and rehearsal for the great heavenly banquet to come!
In all, I believe communion enacts and embodies the Gospel. There are times that we approach the Table silent and somber, an appropriate response to the Gospel when it reminds us of our sinfulness and need to repent. There are other times that we approach in joyful celebration, also an appropriate response when we have heard freedom in Christ proclaimed in the Scriptures.
Though our approaches may be different from week to week or season to season, I believe there is no better response to the proclaimed Word of God every Sunday than to come to the Table.
Some may ask whether this weekly participation might get stale. I don’t think so. My own experience has been the opposite. As we have begun to celebrate Eucharist weekly, it has become more deeply a part of who I am as a worshiper and how I understand my relationship to God. Celebrating at the Table weekly has given me a deeper appreciation for the sacrament, and a deeper longing for it when I miss it.