My feeling is that the Lord’s Supper experience in every church building assembly in which I have taken part—bar none—is far from the intention and example of Jesus and His apostles. Dignified and reverent? Maybe. We typically have no problem with at least the “dignified” part, and reverence is certainly one worthy goal. But ritualistic, ceremonious observance is not the intent.
In the words “ritualistic” and “ceremonious,” I include some of the following common aspects of the Lord’s Supper experience (not all of which will ring bells for readers here, I know):
- after the third song, four men rising in unison to process funereally toward the table
- patterns of getting trays into each man’s hand (e.g., pass two to the guy on the end, two to the guy on the other end, one to the guy on your left … but never let the other guy take three all at once and pass two along while keeping the other!)
- “servers” that are official “leaders,” functionally speaking
- concern over the order of solids and liquids
In addition, the utter lack of actual communal experience is often notable. Get it? We call it communion, and we don’t commune! The connotation of the word “communion” — its relational dimension — is horizontal, involving a group of human beings. In my experience, the notion of communing has almost exclusively been directed toward the communing of an individual soul with Jesus, in a spiritual dimension. This is certainly an important aspect, but most of us are missing the relational riches of communing with a group of saints.
More on this tomorrow!