Here is a small collection of miscellaneous Lord’s Supper thoughts I’ve entertained in recent months.
As this little piece has developed, it reminds me of “Hook’s Points,” an erstwhile series written by Cecil Hook, now living non-physically eternally, who was a friend to many while inspiring and challenging them. (Here is a sample selection of “Hook’s Points.”) I don’t lay claim to Cecil’s perpetually beautiful attitude, but I like to challenge traditional thinking much as he liked to.
Lift Him up
Typically, pulpit furniture is elevated higher than the table used for communion. In a church in Georgia about 25 years ago, one elder-shepherd convinced the others to reverse the furniture. Then, the table was elevated, and the preacher praught from down low (although he wasn’t a low-down guy). Problem was, the table was then more removed from the people who were said to be communing around it, and the preaching seemed even more emphasized.
By the way, the phrase “lift Him up” in John’s gospel has nothing to do with notions of worship that use “high” imagery. And it certainly has nothing to do with furniture elevations. It has to do with the cross.
Color me traditional, if possible
When some in my tradition are feeling threatened by change, they’ve been known to say, “Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting chips and Coke for the Lord’s Supper!” In my experience, those who want change are customarily more careful and intentional than those who are content with the status quo; neither side is characterized by the flippant carelessness. However, I do assume that Jesus cares more that we remember Him than that we get the elements exactly right. After all, who knows the exact chemical makeup of the wine served at the Last Supper, or how the unleavened bread felt or looked? If we are sincerely bent on remembering Him and His atoning death, I suppose we will do things and use things that foster that remembering.
Still, I’m not going to buy white grape juice for the purpose of communion when red grape juice is available. The blood-symbolism is the thing, isn’t it?
And while you’re at it, what is “eschatology” again?
“Transubstantiation” and “intinction” are big words associated with communion in some traditions. (“Eschatology” is a more important word, and it’s only indirectly connected with communion.)
Sometimes I think words obscure more than they reveal. Ironically, “transubstantiation” refers to a supposed revealing of the Christ in the eating of the bread: namely, that the substance of the bread is miraculously transformed into His actual body, and that the wine also becomes His blood. In the course of insisting such things occur, though, what ends up being revealed more than the Christ is the audacity of human superimpositions on scripture.
Oh, the lengths to which overzealous (and, in some cases, corrupt) “Christians” have historically gone in order to develop exclusive dogmas and denominations! Frankly, the paranormal realities that may or may not occur when I slip a bit of cracker or matzah onto my tongue are not my concern.
I have only experienced “intinction” on isolated occasions. It refers to the mingling of bread and juice/wine before ingesting either. Intinction doesn’t appear to reflect the commemorative pattern of which we read in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 1Corinthians (leaving alone Acts 2 and Acts 20, which I take as referring to something larger and related, but not identical). This “method” does, however, bring into sharp relief the symbolism of the bloody flesh that was part of our Lord’s suffering.
I would have to say that on the half-dozen occasions I’ve observed the memorial using the intinction method, my spirit has meditated differently and newly, and quite possibly more deeply. I suspect that, just as with any other habit, the newness of the intinction experience would tend to wear off after a while, but perhaps it could be a good method to use now and again . . . until He comes (he appended eschatologically, with reference to 1Cor 11:26).
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At some point in the future, I plan to jot a few more notes on Lord’s Supper methodologies, including who does the walking/serving and the eating — in other words, who’s involved in which aspects and how it might all be accomplished. If you have other ideas, thoughts, or ponderings related to communion, please share them in the meantime.