In the assembly, what does it look like for the Lord’s Supper to be the cardinal event? Is it always to be the activity on which everything else hinges?
I doubt that Jesus intended for our assembly minutes to be tallied, with only those gatherings that had 51% or more of the time devoted to the Supper considered acceptable. I do not think it is a matter of arithmetic. Yet our entire identity is based in having been purchased by His bodily sacrifice, and there must be many ways to manifest our acknowledgement of . . . our belief in . . . our contemplative spiritual meditation on His death, burial, and resurrection.
Following are some real-life, practical (or not so practical, depending on your situation) suggestions:
- Use a scripture-and-song sequence that is basically failsafe in focusing everyone’s minds and hearts.
- Use projected images (produced by artistically gifted members of your church, if possible) of crosses, of people looking as if toward the cross, of tables spread for Passover, of Jesus looking upward or outward, of the Temple veil torn in two. . .
- Have different ones plan the sub-focus—perhaps use families, single women, etc., who otherwise would not have the opportunity to contribute in this way.
- Start your assembly with communion. And don’t fret over the latecomers. It’s not a sacrament; it’s an opportunity.
- End your assembly with communion, having intentionally progressed through other activities toward it.
- Change the physical arrangement of your chairs, if you have them, so that people may share more with one another.
- Play video of well-done movie reenactments of the Supper as you lead toward the observance.
- Use songs on CD or tape that do not require active participation but that encourage meditation.
- Extend the time spent on the Lord’s Supper (and do not apologize for it!).
- Instead of a regular sermon, use several mini-lessons on aspects of the crucifixion, on the “seven last words of the cross,” or on virtually any aspect of Jesus’ life and teaching.
- Teach for a series of weeks or months on the “agape meal” that is known to have been common in the life of at least some early Christian churches, and implement some aspects of table fellowship in your “Lord’s Supper” event.
- Sing something appropriate during and after the Lord’s Supper “proper.” Consider an “arch form” that places the Supper at the center and uses the same musical or scriptural material as “bookends.” This way of organizing activities may help to centralize the experience, without further explanation.
- Consider the tasteful use of unaccompanied vocal solos. There are so many worthy songs that could help people contemplate Jesus.
- Use scripture devotionally.
- Read a Pauline paean such as Ephesians 1:3-12 between the taking of bread and wine.
- Project scripture (John 1? Isaiah 53? Revelation 4? Matthew 26? Colossians 1?) during the entire observance.
- Invite the believers to hum a familiar song (suggestions: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Lamb of God,” or “I Gave My Life for Thee”) while an appropriate passage is read aloud. An important consideration here: the song should be very familiar so that all mental faculties may be available for taking in the scripture message.
- Share a historical document that references communion practices and/or beliefs about the practice.
- Following the taking of the emblems, provide a time for individuals to approach one another to affirm relationship in the Lord, a la 1 John 1:7 . . . or to confess sin to one another.
- If you are really daring, if your congregation is already accustomed to varying methodologies regularly, provide an actual wooden cross made from landscape ties, some note paper, and some thumbtacks. Invite people to write worldly concerns, confessions, or expressions of gratitude to Jesus, and then to nail them to the cross during silence or while a song is sung. (Perhaps you remember the impact of some experience like this in your past.)
- A variation on the above that requires a different kind of advance preparation: invite the people to deposit their confessions into an open flame in order to bring home the fact that He remembers our sins no more.
- Don’t use official servers. Have one person (or one person in each section of seats) start the passing of bread and wine, and just allow the trays to continue from person to person, with each one serving the next one. (Doesn’t this seem communal?)
- In smaller groups (say, 25 or fewer), serve one person with a spiritual word offered to him or her . . . then continue the chain, one by one, with each person serving another while everyone else either sings, meditates, or listens. If your group is too large to make this practical, divide into subgroups first.
- Allow a time for individuals to speak to the entire congregation spontaneously of their personal meditations on the meaning of the experience. Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t go well the first time.
- Immediately before and after the Supper, worship Jesus through song and prayer.
I wrote the above in a period of about thirty minutes. You can doubtless come up with an even greater variety than is represented here . . . just think of all the freshness and meaning we can bring into the experience of communion with the Lord and His Body on earth!