Now, all y’all atheists, don’t get all excited. This is not what you think.
While I believe there are doctrinal and philosophical lies ushered around on the arm of Christianity, my concern for today is not particularly doctrinal. In fact, the topic here is nearly a-scriptural and merely a function of church tradition. It has little to no bearing on “salvation” in eternity.
I’m by no means the first to have noted this negatively. I’m concerned here with a tradition peculiar to the Church of Christ (and, I think, the Christian Church — which I have much less first-hand experience with).
I’m speaking of habits in the ritual practice of communion and the collection. It’s the joining at the hip — the both-and — that bothers me. Far too often, it goes like this:
- Sermonette/”table talk” or scripture reading
- Prayer for the bread
- Passing around of the bread trays
- Prayer for the “cup,”¹ with or without additional comments
- Passing around of the juice trays
- The mumbled phrase, “And now, ‘separate and apart from the Lord’s supper,’ we’re going to take up an offering for the Lord’s work. . . .”
- Passing around of the collection trays
Of the Sunday morning church assemblies I’ve been in, the above items have occurred in this exact sequence about 98.6% of the time, and my temperature is rising because of the communicable disease that has been spread.
Aside: it bears asserting that, while both communion and the collection have longstanding traditions associated with them, only communion has a real biblical rationale. The presence of the collection in the liturgy is born of the traditional understanding that we must support religious systems. While there are very good (some explicitly biblical) supports for charitable giving, no valid, scriptural rationale exists for a weekly, ritual collection.
It also bears mention that there are scads of other aspects of communion that are more important to consider, practice, and discuss. But the theological underpinnings of either communion or charitable giving are way too deep for my simple purposes today. Establishing that there is or is not a rationale for one or both of these is not my raison ecrire.
Please refer to #6 above.
The main point here is this: it is a stupidity, really, to perpetuate the illusion that the two are “separate” when they are completely conjoined in actual practice. We say they are “separate and apart” while, in reality, they are not at all separate. In an ironic turn of the tables, so to speak, many men who are designated “table talkers” even make a point of connecting the two through their comments. Communion and the collection may thereby become joined not only in terms of sequence and time, but also in theological concept.
Falling over ourselves to claim the two practices are separate surely warrants the adjective “disingenuous,” at least. I would go so far as to say we have frequently borne false witness.
We ought either to stop doing it the way we do it, or stop telling the lie.
¹ We say “cup” since we’re chicken to say “juice” and chicken to use wine, as some of the songs have it.