Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Celebrating the Lord's Supper

Our Book of Order says, “Prayer is at the heart of worship” (W-2.1001), but while prayer is at the heart of worship, Reformed worship centers around Word and Sacrament. “The Reformed tradition has emphasized the importance of the Lord’s Day as the time for hearing the Word and celebrating the Sacraments in the expectation of encountering the risen Lord, and for responding in prayer and service. Sacraments are signs of the real presence and power Christ in the Church, symbols of God’s action. Through the Sacraments God seals believers in redemption, renews their identity as the people of God and marks them for service” (W-1.3011a.(2), W-1.3033(2)).
Two General Assemblies ago, a paper came out asking us to place more emphasis on the Sacraments in worship. We were encouraged to give prominent places to table and font and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper more often, even as often as weekly, which was already provided for in our constitution (W-2.4009). The previously referenced section also states that the Lord’s Supper “is to be celebrated regularly and frequently enough to be recognized as integral to the Service for the Lord’s Day.” Some Presbyterian churches do celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week. Others celebrate it only once a quarter. Our session has voted to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every month plus a couple of extra times a year for special services.
While the Sacraments are joyful celebrations, they are also solemn occasions in the sense that they are serious. Although the Lord’s Table is open to all baptized believers, not all baptized believers have to partake of the Lord’s Supper. If we truly understand that Christ nourishes us spiritually with Himself in this meal and that Christ also unites us with all the saints in this meal, then it will be something we desire. Jesus Himself said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I give for the life of the world is My flesh. Truly I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life within you. Those who eat my flesh and drink My blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink. Those who eat My flesh and drink My blood abide in Me, and I in them” (see John 6:35-58).
This is not to say we understand how Christ does this, for it is a great mystery. However, if Communion has gotten stale for you, then instead of taking the elements, as they come by, serve the person next to you and use this time in the service to contemplate what Christ means to you. No one will judge you if you choose not to partake. In fact, it is better not to. The Scriptures admonish us, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves” (I Cor. 11:27-29). Paul earlier states that “discerning the body” means checking our relationship to our fellow believers, our attitude toward the church of God as well as our relationship with Jesus.

Something to think about: Do you come to worship expecting to encounter Jesus? Why or why not?

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