[In the ARM (American Restoration Movement), we have a lot of conceptions around the Lord’s Supper. Some of these are only decades old; others are a couple of centuries old, and others may be older than that. Some, I’ll flatly suggest, are misconceptions. Please see yesterday’s post, and perhaps this one and this one, for prior, framing material]
I have for years taken exception to those ARMers who try to suggest that the reference to “breaking bread” near the end of Acts 2 refers to what we think of as the Lord’s Supper. (Please stay with me to the end of this post.) In verse 42, many of “them” have said, it is the “Lord’s Supper” being referred to, while virtually none of “them” would have said “breaking bread” in v. 46 has the same event as its referent. That inconsistency is galling. It’s the same expression, penned by the same writer, in the same book, and in the same immediate context. How could it possibly mean anything different the second time? Whatever “breaking bread” means in v. 42 must be what it means in v. 46.
Moreover, the nearly amusing (to us, at least, two millennia later) incident wth Eutychus has shown to some that it was very important to Paul and to the disciples there that they have “the Lord’s Supper” together. Some, however, have conveniently ignored the second reference to breaking bread after midnight. Without checking other time references in Luke-Acts, I would suspect that Luke reckons time as the Greeks would have, not as the Jews would have; if this assumption is correct, you have these Acts 20 Troas folks meeting on Sunday evening and observing “the Lord’s Supper” on the 2nd day of the week, after midnight. Or, perhaps, you have them meeting to observe the Supper and then having a six-hour sermon and then observing “the supper” again. I don’t really think either of these expresses full truth.
What if there was a table fellowship that they all looked toward, and there was a special significance on the first day of the week, when they remembered Jesus’ body and blood in a special way? What if they did this twice at Troas (Acts 20)? Or what if the ceremonial remembering didn’t actually occur at all that night, because of the near-tragedy with Eutychus? Had they erred¹ religiously (here I’m intentional with the choice of “religiously” over “spiritually”) and displeased God, simply because they didn’t observe a ceremony? Isn’t communion more than ritual observance?
At this point, I would formally put forward the notion that the “Lord’s Supper” might never have been conceived by Jesus or by the Father in the way that most of us have conceived of it through the years.
I do absolutely think He wanted us to remember him in a focused way at the table. But I also think he wanted us to participate in table sharing for its own sake, because of what such sharing of food and conversation can create among us, pausing during the meal to remember his sacrifice especially, through bread and vine juice. Pardon my bold speculation, but I doubt He particularly prefers the stoic observances that are the rule these days in liturgical and non-liturgical churches alike. The dis-integrated experience of bread and thimbleful of vine juice, while looking at the backs of others’ heads or at Bibles or while praying silently, whether in silence or with “special music” being offered, has very little to do with the communion practiced by Jesus at the Last Supper or with that He wants for us today.
Alan Knox’s minor flaw, by the way, was semantic and was found in his summary calculations–that certain phrases were used X number of times to refer to “the Lord’s Supper.” The term “the Lord’s Supper,” I think, throws us off the scent. It is not what we think of as “the Lord’s Supper” that’s the issue. Instead, it is the nature of the Christian assembly that deserves a serious look (which is consistent with how I read Alan’s overall thrust).
Let’s eat together more often. In homes, preferably. In the church building or in restaurants, if necessary. But let’s eat together, and let’s be spiritually minded enough not only to bless the food in the name of God, but to remember—specifically and intentionally, during the meal—the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. In doing this, the “supper” (or lunch or brunch or whatever) can become “the Lord’s” in a very meaningful way.