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Sharing Communion in Person Should Be A Priority -EN

This months Evangelicals Now article...

SHARING COMMUNION IN PERSON SHOULD BE A PRIORITY!

When the governments asked us to shut down our church services – the vast majority of evangelicals acquiesced willingly. After all, was this not love for neighbour?

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We were to shut down in order to save the NHS and not kill our grannies, plus it was only going to be for a few weeks. Several months later, things have changed. It appears as though Covid-19 is to be with us for some time and is unlikely to be eliminated or even suppressed. Government policy appears to be predicated on a vaccine coming soon – but given that we have been looking for a coronavirus vaccine for almost 20 years, it is possible that we may not get an effective and safe vaccine soon. So how should the church respond?

Preparing for the long run

Here in Australia an Anglican pastor, Dominic Steele, has been arguing that we need to prepare for the medium to long term because it is likely the virus was going to remain with us for some time. That will mean many things, but there are several things where the church needs to be prepared to challenge the secular culture. In general, our governing authorities are more concerned about economics and health statistics than they are about the spiritual well-being of the people. But the church’s concern is with the whole well-being – not only of the Lord’s people – but also of the wider populace. That is why there are things that the government may regard as optional, which we regard as essential.One of these is communion. Although in terms of the silence about this subject I wonder if those of us who are evangelicals share that concern. Why is communion (the Eucharist, Lord’s Supper according to your tradition) regarded so lightly?

My view of communion challenged

Many years ago, I took a Pentecostal friend to the Baptist church in Edinburgh I was then a member of. I noticed that as we took communion at the end, he did not partake. On the walk back to our digs I asked him why? ‘Because I was not prepared – I like to take a day to pray and read before communion’. My Pentecostal brother challenged me as to my understanding of communion; a challenge which continued when I went to the Free Church of Scotland with its communion ‘seasons’, ‘fencing’ of the table and a more solemn and serious attitude. I grew to love those communion times – we had a common cup with alcohol, sat together and took bread from a shared loaf. Not every church will agree on all the details, but I think the traditional Reformed understanding of communion is biblical. Communion is not a literal re-sacrificing of Christ. But neither is it simply a sign.

Puritan wisdom

Richard Sibbes expresses it beautifully: ‘How do we come to be acquainted with Christ? To be present where He is present; and He is present where two or three are met together in His name. He is present now in our meetings, He is present when we hear the word. He is present in the sacrament more especially; we have His very body and blood. As verily as we take the outward signs, so verily Christ is present to our hearts; at the same time from heaven He reaches us Himself with all the benefits of His passion. When the minister reaches the bread, he reaches His body. As our outward man is refreshed with the elements, so our souls are refreshed with the spiritual presence of Christ. Now He is excellently present in heaven, He is present to our sense in the sacrament, and by His Spirit in the word.’ (Sermon on 2 Corinthians 1:14 vol 3 p.325).

‘We must not be so profane as to think slightly and irreverently of God’s ordinances. They are of great and high consequence; for when Satan comes to the soul, and shakes the confidence of it, and says, you are not a Christian and God does not love you; why! Says the soul, God has loved me and pardoned my sins; He has given me promises, and particularly sealed them in the sacrament.’ (Sermon on 2 Corinthians 1:22 vol 3 p.462)

It’s not an optional extra

The communion is a sign and a seal. It is not an optional extra. It is not something that can be celebrated online. Cyber communion is no more possible than a cyber meal. The physical is an essential part of the spiritual blessing of the Lord’s Table. I know my weary soul has been refreshed, renewed and restored many times at communions. Perhaps Covid will mean that the common cup will be used less, and the little square dices of ‘bread’ will be the norm? But however we celebrate, the reinstitution of the Lord’s Supper as an essential part of our collective public worship should be a priority. We are called to feed the sheep – why neglect the means that Christ has given us?

Letter From Australia 49 – Missing Communion

We Need More Lived Experience of Christ – EN

 

9 comments

  1. The opening of First John does mark the importance of touch and personal contact. But why not take communion remotely, as an interim short term measure, until more of the mysteries of the virus and our best response to it unravel. There is mention of communion at times using only one element or kind. Both kinds at home should surely be fine.

  2. “To be present where He is present; and He is present where two or three are met together in His name.” Yes, exactly and going back the the Greek ekklesia where we get church from being an assembly of people it follows that church is an assembly, a gathering with the centrality of Christ, which happens whenever two or three (or more) are gathered with him central.

    It’s a tricky one isn’t it with church gatherings? We are to be obedient to human authorities, but also where such authorities have departed from God, our battle is against rulers and authorities in theis world?

    So how are we to engage with government Covid restrictions?

    I hear what you posit David about the communion not being something that can be celebrated online. However if a church does so, isn’t that better than having no communion? Agreed, it is not ideal.

    Alternatively, do you think David that the following with “eating and drinking” excludes the bread and wine of communion? “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.” (Rom 14:17,18).

    It seems righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit is of priority in all circumstances.

  3. Thanks David.
    As a Christian believer I have always regarded The Lord’s Supper as a fundamental physical gathering of God’s people, partaking together round God’s table as one, remembering that it cost Jesus everything to redeem us, prompting us to thank Him for the wonderful hope we have in His death and resurrection, until that day we shall be with him.
    I personally, do not feel comfortable with ‘cyber communion’ but my church is proposing a ‘hybrid communion’. From what I can gather this is a live meeting together physically, adhering to the ongoing restrictions regarding numbers and social distancing, but being given on arrival a sealed little carton (….think peel off creamers for your coffee!) the top part peeled off for bread or wafer, and lower section peeled off for wine. This would be broadcast live for members ‘in good standing with The Lord and with their brothers and sisters to partake in at home.
    Is this making the best in a difficult situation? Am I compromising and giving succour or consent to the state (Scotland, UK), and in the long term making it much, much harder to justify the early return of God’s people meeting together physically to celebrate this? I want to honour God.
    Kind regards. Dave

  4. ‘Because I was not prepared – I like to take a day to pray and read before communion’.

    I’m not so sure this is necessary.

    Communion is an invitation, in which we are to partake, and participate. We don’t contribute!

    To participate in what?

    That which the Lord alone has done for us. To remind us (not him) what was accomplished by his body and blood, because we (not him) are inclined to forget.

    The Passover was about what God did, not the people. And it was only those who partook who were saved. The angel of death had to Passover because of the blood of the lamb, not the nationality of the occupant.

    Any Egyptian who applied the lamb and blood would be saved, any Israeli who did not, would not.

    Thereby God set a clear and continuing ordinance. This was grace indeed.
    God saved the people of Israel with grace, by means of the lamb, not their own bloodline. And they were to remember the fact regularly, lest they forget.

    Jesus emphasis on communion was never ‘remember’ or ‘thanksgiving’, but participation. ‘Take eat. Take drink.’
    This removes all human ability and virtue, and puts us all in the same position.

    Salvation is ours, not by attainment, merit, achievement, or accomplishment as individuals. Rather, everyone of us has to draw on the same source, the same single loaf. We each eat and drink of the same source, which brings the same virtues to each. What his broken body did for you, it does for me. What his blood does for me, it does for you.

    Take eat. Take drink. But we must do so together, because we are inclined to forget what he has done for us, and the basis for which it becomes ours. Grace. Faith.

    1. Thanks…but we do have a part to play. We are to examine ourselves, we are are to discern the Body….we are to take and eat…And Jesus’s emphasis was remember and thanksgiving and take and eat.

  5. It would seem that strict lockdown – I read that Ireland is in ”round 2” – demonstrates the fear some Christians are displaying that the somewhat tenuous grasp the Christian religion has, on Western society in particular, is further diminshed by the restrictions placed on Church worship.

    My elderly mother attends choir practice – with only six other members – all of whom are bound to ”keep their distance”.
    Based on conversations with her this is a lot more about getting out of the house and meeting with others rather than any dire need maintain relations with Yahweh/Jesus, and I suspect this may well be the case with most/many people.

    The Church is an institution. Without it’s members it is nothing but a lot of empty buildings , many of which are beautiful examples of architecture, but of little value otherwise.

    If this pandemic has shown one thing regarding church and worship – it isn’t really as important as all the vicars, priests and mimisters would like us to believe.

    And if this pandemic continues for any length of time into the forseeable future the culture of ”Going to Church” while not likely to fall away entirely will probably be greatly dimished when we return to ”normality”.

    Rekindling this cultural tradition among young people especially is going to be a challenge I suspect many Christian authorities will find insurmountable.

    As much as I loathe religion I wish the reason for Christianity’s demise was not speeded up because of a rampant virus.

    Ark

  6. This is a matter causing me increasing concern, to go from taking the Lord’s supper every week to never being able to take it at all is a great loss. Are any of the churches in Scotland brave enough to reinstitute this in obedience to the Lord? I only know of one and it is far from my home!

  7. “Communion is not a literal re-sacrificing of Christ.” Catholics could not agree more. “But neither is it simply a sign.” Catholics could not agree more.
    Just to clarify matters: Catholic doctrine sees the Mass as the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ, not as a rescrificing.
    It’s always good to know what exactly is being rejected when something is rejected.
    Useful explanations can be found here: Scott Hahn: “The Bible and the Sacrifice of the Mass”,
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uL_IAJWvX0&t=364s
    and here:
    How is the Eucharist a Sacrifice?

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