April 8, 2020

The Evangelical Liturgy 17: The Lord’s Supper

communionHere’s the intro to this series. All posts are under the “Evangelical Liturgy” category.

In the past two years, I have written extensively here at IM in an attempt to recover some sanity, frequency and meaningful practice of the Lord’s Supper in my Baptist tradition. You can find those posts in the “Baptists” and “Church” categories in the IM archives.

For this series, my purpose will be modest: how does the Lord’s Supper (please allow me to use one term, with understanding other Protestants and evangelicals may use others) fit into the evangelical liturgy and into a recovery of Liturgy in the Protestant church?

I would begin by saying that a recovery of a liturgical place for the Lord’s Supper in evangelicalism is not to become Catholic, Lutheran or Anglican, but to learn from those traditions where possible and appropriate. There are aspects of the Lord’s Supper that evangelicals will want to affirm and practice that are of little interest to more “catholic” Christians, and there are aspects of more sacramental practice that evangelicals will want to avoid.

It would be counter-productive in most evangelical situations to use the Lord’s Supper to create confusion. Many evangelicals are on a journey to greater appreciation of the Lord’s Supper in their personal spirituality. It would be wise to not use a congregation as a “lab” for that journey.

At the same time, it is more than safe to say that thousands of evangelicals are on that same journey, and with an approach that brings the congregation along gently, answers questions and stays rooted in an evangelical view of scripture, many evangelicals can have a far more meaningful experience of the Lord’s Supper within worship and in the Christian life.

I’d begin with some of the basics of the liturgical toolbox: Where is the table/altar? What will we call it and why? (Within the meaning we want to stress in our own tradition.) How will it relate to the pulpit in the worship space? What will be on that table to draw attention to the Lord’s Supper and nothing else? (I’ll vote with the Puritans on skipping the ostentatious additions, but with the Anglicans on a simple cross.)

Where is the table in relation to the pulpit? Here I have a real bias toward the Presbyterian idea of worship space: accentuate font, table and pulpit. I appreciate the kind of Anglican placement that has pulpit and table separated without neglecting either, but a worship space I often visit in a nearby Presbyterian Church gives plenty of room to all three. There is no missing and evangelical/Protestant “trinity” of Word/Table/Water.

Frequency is an issue in evangelicalism. Some traditions have isolated frequency as a kind of reverence, but the effects have been quite the opposite. Pragmatic evangelicals have found it too easy to abandon the Supper to some extra room and only from time to time.

On the other hand, those evangelicals- Campbellites particularly- who have done the Lord’s Supper as part of every Lord’s Day service have a quite varied record. I used to supply at a church that could set an Olympic record for taking the Lord’s Supper. It was trivialized by frequency, but I know this is not always the case.

I remain appreciative of evangelicals who can pull off Spurgeon’s version of the Baptist Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day, but I think most Protestant/Evangelicals will find monthly to be a good compromise, or at least a good starting place. An alternative service with more frequent communion is a good addition.

The elements have been something of a comic disaster for Protestants. The loss of “one loaf/one cup” symbolism has been far too easily accepted, and the replacement of wine with grape juice little understood. Where alcohol is an issue, the necessary compromise should be made with full ownership of what’s being done and without any embarassment in saying this departure should be corrected. I know this is controversial, but if we cannot obey the scripture on the elements- one loaf/one cup- then how are we to be taken seriously regarding the rest of our theology of the supper? Tiny chicklets and “shot glasses” are a last resort.

The Lord’s Supper should be tied to other elements of worship, most particular the confession of sin and the Creeds. Prayers for the Lord’s table should be especially focused on what is happening there and not on the usual menu of evangelical prayer rhetoric. Singing hymns/songs that convey the theology of the supper is also appropriate.

Where in the service? Classic liturgy puts the Word earlier and the Supper later. This has much to commend it, but it is not required. In fact, creativity in allowing the Supper to “preach” as much as possible throughout worship is needed. It would be simple to re-orient the entire liturgy to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper from time to time.

I would insist that evangelicals in my own tradition tie the Supper into the Passover celebration. There is much rich theology here to bolster our understanding of Jesus and what he was doing with the Passover meal. This is not to advocate any of the recent tendency to create a “Messianic” flavor to evangelicalism. We simply ought to know that Jesus took a meal about one kind of salvation and changed it’s meaning.

In my tradition, baptized Christians are invited to the Lord’s table. Closed communion has much to commend it, but I do not believe it can be easily done without bringing explanations into the worship service- in print or in person- to orient the congregation to the reasons all Christians are not welcome at the table.

I find myself deeply drawn to the Lord’s Table as an invitational sacrament, with evangelistic applications brought forward. Those who have not believed, but now do believe should be invited to participate as believers. “Here is water,” works with “Here is the salvation banquet” just as well.

Children? I would support my own tradition’s goal that the Lord’s Table normally be a place where baptized believers come to worship, but I recognize that parents may find the Lord’s table a place to begin a child’s confession of faith. It is a matter of parental disgression, in my view.

Many evangelicals have experimented with variations in taking the Lord’s Supper. Churches that serve the congregation seated can vary that with coming forward. A fellowship meal setting can alternate with formal worship. In evangelicalism, small groups can share the Lord’s Supper together, perhaps with a liturgy developed by elders.

A recovery of the Protestant liturgy will surely be incomplete without a restoration and recovery of the Lord’s Supper within the life and worship of the church. Let us pray and work for such a recovery, and have genuine appreciation of our more “catholic/sacramental” brothers and sisters and what their tradition can show us, even as we recover what is uniquely ours.


  1. Perhaps one aspect of the Lord’s Supper that would help lift it up in the eyes of contemporary evangelicals as something worthy of more than just the scheduled once a quarter at the end of the service sort of thing that is not uncommon is to focus on it as a means of witnessing for Christ. The ceremony is to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” and theologians (such as Calvin) have emphasized that participation in the ceremony as a corporate Christian body can be a powerful proclamation of our faith to the outside world, not just a private family gathering, so to speak. Since contemporary evangelicals put such a large emphasis on “witnessing,” perhaps discovering the power of the Lord’s Supper as a witness would lead to sermons or times of teaching that helped everyone in the pew better understand the purpose of the Lord’s Supper, a more active and reverent participation by everyone and perhaps more frequent and prominent celebration.

  2. Do we as Christians even have a scriptural view of the Lord’s Supper? Was it originally ceremonial or was it a part of a more casual meal that was enjoyed and shared by the whole congregation?

    Have we lost the sense unity and fellowship that the first Christians enjoyed by making the Lord’s Supper ceremonial and passing out, as you call them, “Baptist Chiclets”? I’d say for the most part we have.

    “For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you…

    “Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.” First Corinthians Eleven

  3. four easy ways for evangelicals to give the Lord’s Supper deeper meaning

    all of these have been mentioned by others i’m only compiling them

    1. observe it more often, monthly at the least, weekly sounds good to me

    2. don’t spend 30 minutes talking about what it is not, use the language Christ used and leave it at that

    3. return to a common cup and loaf, make folks come forward to receive it with the exception of the infirm of couse

    4. shhh don’t forward this to my congregation- but use wine and not juice

    I have done the first three of these in my own church and it has worked well with very little complaint, four would be almost impossible some folks would rather burn the church down first

    there are however, a couple of true vine baptist churches still around in my county, two to be exact

    • number 3 is the one I have problems with and I will not participate in the Lord’s Supper anywhere where only a common cup is used

      I know it’s meaningful for a lot of folks, but I personally think the union as a body can be conveyed without actually drinking from the same cup. Given what we know now about disease transmission, I personally can’t imagine ever sharing a cup or a loaf that’s been touched by dozens or hundreds of other hands and mouths.

      • i understand the sentiment, but a combination of having the loaf somewhat broken before hand and combined with intiction will do much to lesson folks worries about the common cup

        • I agree. That does in general seem to provide a good balance.

        • Christiane says

          Why not break the loaf while saying the words that Christ said. And do this in the presence of the congregation waiting to be fed?
          That way, it is ‘more biblical’, if you think about it.

          • Christiane says

            If you MUST you ‘grape juice’, why not make it a celebration of ‘the fruit of the vine’ in this way:
            have children bring bunches of washed grapes up to the ‘table’, have a juice-press for them to put the grapes into. Press the juice into ONE container and say the blessing that evangelicals say using the words of Christ in the Bible.
            Then the juice can be served from the one container into smaller cups to the congregation after the blessing.

            Make it a ‘celebration’ and let the elements become a part of the ‘liturgy’ in a way that brings the congregation ‘together’ in a special way.

            Seriously, any way you can involve the congregation in the proceedings in preparation is good. Any way that you can encourage a feeling that, in sharing this meal, they come together in communion with Christ and with each other, is good.
            Let the children in on the proceedings. They will always remember this when they are older.

        • Unfortunately, fingers in the cup are almost certainly more “dangerous” than lips on its rim. I suppose everyone could scrub up first, (and maybe wear masks and gloves if chatting to folks or shaking hands afterwards. 🙂 )

          “For the average communicant it would seem that the risk of drinking from the common cup is probably less than the risk of air-borne infection in using a common building,” Canadian cardiologist Dr. David Gould

          • The proper (or perhaps an augmented) practice of the Lavabo (ritual handwashing) would go miles and miles to prevent disease transmission. The breaking of the bread has more potential for transmitting disease than does the passing of the cup.

            In practice, before I ever touch the bread and wine, I use a water soluible hand sanitizer and water to cleanse my hands. From the point I do that, I only touch the chalice, paten, and bread. Also, while my preference would be for intinction over individual cups, I and I alone do the dipping. My hands have been washed. Everyone sticking their hands in a cup will do far more to spread disease than a single minister (or, in places where needed, several communion ministers – all of whom have washed).

            In my Chaplaincy work at the hospital, I only use hand sanitizer at the Eucharist in the Chapel… but believe you me, I use it all the time.


      • I hope you don’t shake hands or use door handles either (generally great ways of spreading bugs) 🙂

        Those little bitty cuppy things depress me, but I can’t quite decide why. A service I recently went to, I forgot that that church used individual cups. I was so relishing the communion liturgy, then they unveiled the cups. I suddenly felt that I had been tantalised with the offer of communion, and then it was whisked away.

      • I wonder if there is an official medical term for illnesses spread in this way. Personally, I vote for LTD’s (Liturgically Transmitted Diseases).
        Sorry everybody, but I just couldn’t resist.

      • Jeff,

        For those overly squeamish about the use of the common cup, chalices with pouring lips are widely avaliable which can be used to pour into an individual cup. I would argue, however (for those using individual cups) to institute a better policy if your current policy is to pitch the things in a trash can (as I have seen done before) at the end of the communion rail. The cups should be collected, and washed – even if they are disposable. Even if you do not accept that any physical change happens to the elements in the Lord’s Supper, it is a crying shame that the symbol of wine gets pitched in a trash can with little afterthrough. If someone tried doing that with a cross, the entire church would be up in arms!


    • The common loaf approach, whatever decision may be made on the cup, is one of the best ways to speak of unity and of the sacrifice of Christ as the bread is broken. It need only take a moment or two, while the choir sings a reverential song, for the broken bread to be quickly cut into manageable cubes. That cutting also keeps multiple hands from grabbing the bread and tearing into it, which is not very reverential and leads to some unfortunate visual effects.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Your Eastern-Rite training is showing, Fr Orthocuban. (I think somebody on this thread also mentioned Intinction.)

        Just take a look up and down this list for some REALLY weird ways to serve Communion. Oyster Crackers? Shot Glasses? “Snacks” with Grape Juice? Hermetically-sealed Packets like fast-food ketchup?

    • WRT point 1: I’ve had the opportunity to take communion (I almost said celebrate, but as a Methodist Lay Speaker that is the wrong phrasing) on both the monthly weekly basis – when I first joined a group that was doing communion weekly, I did fear that doing it so often would cheapen it, but if anything the frequency made it much more dear.

      WRT point 2: I can think of no reason to use any language other than that of our Lord on the night that he instituted the communion feast.

      WRT point 3: While there are some valid concerns with respect to disease transmission – there are some good coping strategies to deal with it. As far as the common cup goes – If you have a cold, and wish to take communion, it is wise and easy to wait until the end of the communion and be the last persons to take the cup. In my current congregation we receive the bread from the server and it is dipped in the cup, so for the most part individuals who are ill do not contaminate the cup. In congregations where wine is used, the alcohol content is generally high enough to disinfect the cup, however, if you are ill, the recommendation to wait until the end applies.

      Note: In my current congregation we use a single loaf which is divided in to as many pieces as are needed, usually two and we split the single cup in to as many as needed for the communion stations. Additionally as a health measure each of the people at a station use hand sanitizer before handling the elements.

      • As to the health concerns, this was a big topic in Roman Catholic circles several years back. A study was conducted with regards to single-cup distribution. The result was that you were less likely to catch illness during communion, even with a shared cup, then you were during the Sign of Peace (shaking hands, greeting, whatever the terminology your church uses).

        Just an interesting aside.

      • Total agree on the minimal language. Important for Christian unity as well.

    • Boy…memmmmories. Listening to preaching take half the time to say what isn’t going on, then start shaming you about whether you were worthy to be partaking. Thanks for the Gospel guys!

    • Regarding #4-
      Do those who insist on using actual wine rather than juice (I don’t have a problem with either necessarily) also require the bread to be unleavened? It would seem consistency might require that if one were to press the point of needing “true vine”.

      • LOL. You might wish to look at Church history. The East has been using leavened bread since long before the Great Schism. In fact, believe it or not, and very sadly, there was a major controversy over leavened vs unleavened bread in Church history. It was even addressed at the Council of Trullo.

      • If we are going to be consistant with Christ’s example we would have to limit ourselves to wine and unleavened bread served after a Passover meal.

        I am not saying we must be consistant , but the unleavened bread has as much sybolism as one loaf. It does seems a little inconsistant to care about one without the other, though I can see that some of the concern about wine is also concern about many Christians wrong views on alcohol being forbidden.

        I don’t know to what degree the first Christians felt at liberty to change things, but I find it difficult to find anything that portrays the Lord’s Supper as anything other than part of a genuine meal, rather than a distictly & exclusively religious happening.

        • I meant anything in the NT writings.

        • Christ’s example does not entail frequency, nor much of anything else. What was the example of the apostles? How did they go about things? History-free hermeneutics can’t answer that question.

          • Christ’s example was a yearly Passover Meal with very specific elements.

            I don’t think we should follow that example, but it seems odd to me to say we need to follow one part without folowing all parts.

            The only implication given by the Apostles example is that the frequency increased. There is no reason to assume that any other aspect did.

            The only outright commands given are limited to a command that we should do it at all and how we treat on another while doing it.

  4. I think the corporate aspect is one of the most important elements. On EWTN not long ago, a woman who had left an evangelical church and become Catholic was relating how in her (evangelical) church, there wasn’t even a corporate ceremony anymore. Rather, there was a table when you came in the church where there was some sort of snack and some grape juice that anyone could just partake of when they wanted to—that was their “Lord’s Supper”. I think that I’m reasonably accurately recounting what she said, but it seems quite extreme to me. Has anyone ever been at a church where this sort of thing was practiced? I did not grow up in a liturgical setting, but our Lord’s Supper (or communion) was always a reverent, corporate ceremony which we took our time with. I can’t imagine the vending machine approach to the Lord’s Supper.

    • If you Google, you can find at least one company that sells a Lord’s Supper individual kit. Inside is iMonk’s beloved “chicklet” and some grape juice. The church issues them and blesses them (or blesses them and issues them) according to local practice. The believers open their hermetically sealed packets and partake. Needless to say, it has not exactly caught on greatly!

      • I have partaken in this manner before, at a very large SBC church. While I appreciate the health and efficiency standpoint of this, having grown up Roman Catholic, this was an offense to my sensibilities of the communion service. My parents, who are still Roman Catholic, nearly fell our of their seats (no pews in that church, either).

        Note that I am not trying to condemn that church or the people there. It is a good church full of faithful people. Just seemed to me to be a weird way to try and re-enact the sharing of the body of Christ.

      • Because of H1N1, we took communion like this once at the Methodist church where I am a member. It was awful.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          When the H1N1 scare hit my parish, we just discontinued the cup for a couple weeks.

      • I recall seeing those at the Columbus Vineyard; I called them a Communion Lunchable at the time. You peel off the top and find the wafer, then peel off another piece of plastic and get to the wine/juice.

        However, as a megachurch who did communion every week, it was their way to get close to Usain Bolt’s communion record :-; you were supposed to pick your CL up on the way in, which we didn’t know to do as a visitor.

    • Jeff,

      There is a Christian Church, i’m not saying indicative of all, about two blocks from my house. I met the minister there one time. He said they passed it out as folks came in and everybody just ate when they were ready.

      I thought that odd.

    • I have attended a communion service like this at my brother’s mega Evangelical Free church–sort of self-service hors d’oeuvres tables set up in each corner of the gym, oh I mean “sanctuary.” (Sorry.) You just get your elements when you darn well please.

      It was hardly supper, but it was reminiscent of a low-budget cocktail hour.

  5. Steve Newell says

    In Acts 2:42, we see that the “breaking of bread”, which is another way of saying Holy Communion, occurred when the church gathered to hear the teachings of the Apostles’ teachings, prayers and fellowship.

    Holy Communion is part of worship on a regular basis.

  6. Dolan McKnight says

    Trying to get evangelicals to observe the Lord’s Supper will be difficult, particularly in mega churches where the logistics for large congregations are wieldy. I understand some mega churches restrict the Lord’s Supper to Wednesday nights, not wanting to bore the seekers in the weekend services with such a dull ritual!

    In particular, the normal method of the partakers coming down and kneeling at the altar and being served by the minister and the deacons will not go down well with evangelicals. There is nothing wrong with the passing of the plate of wafers and cups of wine from one congregant to another and it deemphasizes the idea of the pastor imparting something mysterious to the meal. Another good way that involves the partaker is intinction, as he tears a piece of bread from the loaf and dips it in the cup, usually held by the pastor or deacon.

    Another hindrance to frequent partaking is the lack of suitable contemporary music. Most people do not wish to partake in silence, although this has its merits. There is plenty of traditional music available, but few evangelical churches would use it either because it is in Latin (countless versions of Agnus Dei) or speaks in terms that could be understood as literal in relationship to the Body and Blood of Christ (although no more so than the Scripture).

    I don’t think the almost perfunctory (but certainly efficient ) taking of Communion I have observed in the Church of Christ is the answer, but finding a way that today’s evangelicals will embrace frequent Communion seems to me to be most problematical.

    • I agree with the method of intinction which you describe. This to me is a good way to get to “one bread/one cup.” Also reduces some of the concern with regard to people handling the elements (assuming the pastor tears and distributes the bread).

      As for music, I have experienced several methods, and all have their merit. I grew up in a church that used multiple hymns, to be sung by the congregation. It worked pretty well, although I can see the issue with (1) evangelical hymnals having less communion-oriented selection and (2) contemporary service music being more difficult to select/apply. I have attended services with no music. Actually, it is kind of nice to be able to pray in silence after receiving. The church I currently attend uses instrumental music during distribution. Both our traditional and contemporary services use organ/piano/keyboard selections primarily, with the selection determined by the worship team for the service (of course).

      I also think that most concerns evangelicals have regarding the practice of the Lord’ Supper can be overcome with education. Why do we come to the front to receive? Why should the pastor and a team distribute as such? Why or why not one loaf? Why or why not one cup? What is in the cup? etc. This should be something prayerfully considered by the church (congregation and/or denomination as appropriate) and then passed on to the church members. Really instill meaning to the actions, which I find lacking in so many churches, although not really denomination specific trends, in my experience.

    • We sit silently and prayerfully most of the time, but sometimes we have whoever is willing read aloud sections of the Word related to the gospel. (I know the whole Bible is related to the gospel, but you know what I mean.) Both ways really work, I feel we lack for not having music.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      In particular, the normal method of the partakers coming down and kneeling at the altar and being served by the minister and the deacons will not go down well with evangelicals.

      Even though that procedure (with “wafer only”) originally developed from the logistics of serving Communion to a large congregation. Just as Baptism by pouring/sprinkling developed from the logistics of doing a LOT of baptisms in the field where immersion would be difficult.

    • For large congregations, this is where the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist come in: people who take the ciborium with the hosts and go down into the body of the church/up into the gallery/wherever and pass it out, precisely to prevent the logjam of a huge crowd trying to make its way down to the altar rails.

      I don’t see why something similar couldn’t be done in megachurches?

    • I think if someone really wants to do it, the logistics can be managed. Catholics have served communion to over a million people at a shot in 20 minutes or less.

    • >”…particularly in mega churches where the logistics for large congregations are wieldy.”

      Yet Catholics manage to distribute communion to 100,000 plus crowds attending a Papal Mass in 10-15 minutes. Perhaps someone should attend and take notes.

  7. Stephen Yates says

    My church (large mega-church) does a number of ‘common’ loaves spread out through the congregation, partaking through intinction. My father-in-law hates this; says it’s chaotic and breaks from the reverence of passing plates and partaking together. Thoughts on instituting this in larger churches, and in non-chaotic ways?

    • Just an honest comment, no offense to anyone intended, but maybe we should build churches around the Lord’s Supper (and other similar doctrines and practices) rather than building the Lord’s Supper around churches. In other words, perhaps we should try to keep to smallish churches where the intimacy of the Lord’s Supper is preserved; then we’d never to have to worry about logistical issues (not just with communion but with parking, relationships, etc) that arise when we try to do everything bigger and bigger.

    • Steve Newell says

      At my LC-MS church, we will set up stations where the associate pastors will take the bread and the wine after they have been concentrated on the alter. At each station, pastors will administer the sacraments to those coming up.

      On Easter and Christmas, we will run over 1200 per service.

    • Communion in larger churches is an issue, and especially for those of us in my tradition where the community is a strong emphasis (esp in Anabaptism.)

      It all points out how much we need creative liturgists and esp how we need to spend time working with the Lord’s Supper in ways that may be a bit “out of the box” for us.

      Love reading about what is going on in other churches.

      • Michael, you don’t know how my heart sinks when the words “creative” and “liturgists” are used in the same sentence.

        Probably because in the Catholic experience, those words lead on to things involving leotards and giant puppets 🙂

  8. Steve Newell says

    In the Lutheran tradition, we use wine and wafers (unleavened bread) for the elements in Holy Communion. Does it matter to if you use wine (not grape juice) and unleavened bread (not yeast bread) at your church? Christ used both wine and unleavened bread on the night what he was betrayed since non-fermenting grape juice had been invented and no leavening were to used in the Passover meal. That is why we use wine and wafers.

    • Steve Newell says

      sorry, the second to last line should read

      non-fermenting grape juice had NOT been invented.

    • The Orthodox use leavened but rather dense loaves, which they cut into cubes and serve on a little spoon. I’m not sure why they use leaven but I’m sure they have some good reason.

      I associate unleavened bread with the manna in the desert, the Passover generally and, of course, the Last Supper specifically. Unleavened bread also symbolizes a break from the past since leaven comes from an older batch of dough. The Israelites coming out of Egypt broke from their past and the New Covenant breaks from the Old. Apparently, it symbolizes fasting and penance, too, although that connection isn’t natural for me.

      Leavened bread symbolizes joy and feasting, which perhaps is more appropriate for a Sunday.

      • Dolan McKnight says

        The controversy over leavened vs. unleavened bread goes back a thousand years to a time in Christianity when churches would accuse each other of heresy for the minutest of differences. Early on, both leavened and unleavened bread were used. The churches practices gradually separated until only unleavened bread was used by Latins (Roman Catholics prior to the Great Schism), while Orthodox used only leavened. This was not controversial until they began carping at each other for political reasons. The Bishop of Constantinople, in 1043, concerned that the Latin Church and the Arminian Church, both of whom used unleavened, were conspiring against the Orthodox, declared the Latin Church to be heretical unless they changed. Shortly thereafter the Great Schism occured, cementing the differences.

        The theology behind all this is complicated, but basically, the RC church uses unleavened bread because this is what was used by Christ at the Passover. The Orthodox believe that unleavened bread symbolizes sacrifice, while leavened bread, which the Old Testament proscribes for feasts, emphasizes the Messianic Banquet which the Eucharist (Thanksgiving) points too.

        Of course, the Lord’s Supper both looks backward toward Jesus’ suffering on the cross as well as forward to the celebration we will have after the Resurrection at the Great Banquet. Maybe we should break a loaf of each!

        • Steve Newell says

          What about wine and grape juice?

          • Dolan McKnight says

            I believe you will find discussion about this in the I-monk files. While there was “new wine” or grape juice immediately after the grapes were harvested, there were no preservation techniques, so it did not take long until wine fermented. Certainly, by Easter there was no “new wine” to be had, so that Jesus must have used fermented wine at the First Supper. Grape juice could not be used practically until Mr. Welsh invented a way to prevent fermentation. Obviously, the teetotaler movement in the nineteenth century led to many Protestant churches switching to grape juice, but there is no theological reason for it. Catholics are very careful to be sure that only wine is used.

            When the SBC young bloggers started writing that wine was certainly acceptable according to Scripture, Paige Patterson wrote a ridiculous defense of grape juice, claiming that Jesus never drank wine! Of course, this wasn’t any worse than many other defenses of theological positions!

            In my opinion, it matters little what the elements are. Wine and bread were fundamental to the early Jewish and Christian diet and symbolized the good things that God gives us for the Messianic banquet. I wouldn’t object if the Japanese used rice and sake or Hawaiians poi and pineapple juice, if that has more meaning for them.

            The important thing is the understanding of what is being received by the partaker. We remember and believe that Christ died and we participated in His death by dying to sin and because of His Resurrection, we believe and anticipate the Messianic Feast after the Judgment. I do not mean to disparage all the symbolism and ritual built up by different traditions around the Eucharist, but they are not the point. Christ and Christ in us, is.

        • I consider the leavened – unleavened argument to be one of the more stupid arguments in Church history. But, in passing, the Council of Trullo in the 600’s tried to legislate leavened. As a result, neither the West (Romans, Protestants) nor the Armenians accept it as Ecumenical while the Orthodox all cite the Sixth Ecumenical Council, which has a canon that says that the canons of the Council of Trullo are to be considered ecumenical. Of course, uhm, there were only a couple of delegates from the West, and the Pope refused to accept it, so . . . The Patriarch of Constantinople decided to cite Trullo during a time of rising tensions, but Trullo had been cited previously.

          As, I said, one of the more stupid arguments. My suggestion to those reading this blog is RUN AWAY FROM THIS ARGUMENT. I use leavened because I am under obedience. The same it true of Roman Catholic priests and unleavened bread. But, Protestants are free to choose on this one. Please avoid this argument like the plague and use whichever one is compatible with your group and your congregation.

          • I guess you could try and compromise by using a little leaven but I heard some where that it “leavens the whole loaf”. Sorry, just a little leavity! 🙂

          • I would agree; where you’re not going to have rubrics about “valid matter”, then just use bread, though I do shrink from the notion of using a shop-bought loaf of sliced white bread.

            I can see a big row about wine versus grape juice brewing, but once again: decide which and then stick to it.

          • I see both sides of the argument here, having functioned in both Western and Eastern traditions. Thus, in my current state, I just don’t really care.

            The main ‘argument’ that holds any weight against Leavened Bread in the Eucharist is faithfulness to the original institution of the Eucharist. This would, however, IMO, require us to cease using nearly every Church-approved wine (and certainly anything by Riunite, Sutter’s Home, etc…) since I am sure that the process for making wine commercially today bears little to no resemblance to the way wine was made in the time of Christ.

            Theologically, leaven can also symbolize sin, which is a classic theologic-symbologic explanation for unleavened bread, but, as a previous poster pointed out, leaven is also a sign of joy and celebration.

            I once heard someone say that there was no way that any wine could be genuinely Kosher, since yeast caused fermentation… an interesting thought… myself I would prefer using Mustum as a happy medium if I found myself in the midst of a situation where wine was being debated. I couldn’t in good conscience use Welch’s grape juice because too much of a doubt (my western side shows!) about the validity of the element would come into my mind. Mustum is unpasteurized grape juice with a very low naturally-occuring alcohol content. Rome approves it for alcoholic priests, through in my opinion, if it is good enough for one, it is good enough for all.


    • Steve Newell says

      In reading may of your posting, I have found that many churches don’t consider Holy Communion be time of great joy but a pain. I have seen where people complain about the amount of time it takes, the fact that it’s not “seeker’ friendly, etc. I am very sadden when I read this. We should consider it a great joy that we can receive what the Lord Jesus Christ has invited us to receive, namely the forgiveness of sin found in the bread and in the wine.

      As one growing up in various SBC churches, the Lord Supper was treated as something we didn’t do often (quarterly at best) and never part of a regular Sunday morning worship (Sunday nights). Moving to the Lutheran Church (LC-MS) where bi-weekly or weekly is the norm and it is part of worship, I have come to value Holy Communion. Holy Communion is both a gift and a command of our Lord that we should not limit.

  9. Joel from Louisville says

    What are the biblical grounds for taking the Supper with any less frequency than once a week?

    • The fact that scripture doesn’t give a frequency other than the implication that when the early church met, one of the things they did was break bread. Implying that means they always took communion every time they met- even daily- is unwarranted, at least on the level of binding practice. It’s a deduction, and deductions can’t be turned into direct commands. I’d also argue they can’t be turned into “once a quarter if nothing else is going on.”

  10. Okay I have a question, and I dont’ think I’ll be able to really get it across the way I want, but I will try.

    Imonk said that there were some good things to commend about closed communion, at least in theory. I totally agree. But here is my disconnect or maybe it’s just me.

    Those of you who don’t come from a tradition where the community of the fellowship is stressed as much as say in baptist churches with anabaptis ideas might not understand this. But it seems that many times, at least in baptist churches, the Lord’s Supper is almost used as a tool of church discipline. That is why there are so many who spend so much on warning folks to make sure they don’t take unworthily. Now I know that admonition is in the scriptures but when baptist churches are guilty of doing that are we sort of missing the point. I’ve been to the Lord’s Supper in methodist and Episcopal services. I don’t, or didn’t see the same emphasis.

    Let me give you a scenario. Let’s say a baptist pastor knows for a certain fact that he has a member living in open and rebillious sin. Perhaps he knows of an active affair, or a couple co-habitaing etc. Does the minister have a)any right to turn folks like that away b) should he do so, or do we take a more sacramental approach and say that a) yes they are living sinfully, but b) partaking of the Lord’s Supper will increase their faith and as long as they have not denied the faith and are not apostate then they should be welcomed.

    I only ask because I know of some baptist ministers who will do the former, I probably used to be one of them, but I find myself more drawn to the second more sacramental view.

    • okay,

      i just realized my response was more theological than nuts and bolts

      sorry for getting off topic

    • wrt your hypothetical scenario, wouldn’t a good pastor who is aware of such a situation take steps before the parties in question ever came to communion? wouldn’t a pre-emptive visit or letter stating the issues and disinviting them from communion until the situation is resolved tend to prevent the unpleasant encounters at the communion rail itself? just a thought…

      also, this is not meant to be a blanket statement in any way, but I think much of the preaching before serving communion about “what it’s not” and warning people to make sure they’re “worthy” is another example of an overreaction amongst groups that do this to make the message clear that “We’re not Catholic” (or “Episcopal” or whatever other group was looked down upon)—-we don’t think magic is going on and we believe we have to live right all week long. Again, *I* don’t feel that way and I know many do not, but as a kid growing up and hearing that sort of pre-communion preaching all the time, the hidden message to me was loud and clear. I think, as others have said, if we preach about what the Lord’s Supper IS and just let the Biblical texts speak for themselves without a lot of extraneous “preaching” beforehand, all will be better served.

  11. Don in Phoenix says

    Some not-so-random thoughts…

    (1) Communion is the one recurring act of corporate worship (whether deemed an ordinance or a sacrament) instituted by Christ himself, and thus deserves primacy in our practice of corporate worship.

    (2) Communion is a corporate act of worship that unites the Church local with the Church universal. Paul said every time we do it, however often that is, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” N.T. Wright’s brief book, “The Meal Jesus Gave Us”, explains it rather well, in that it brings the past and future into the present moment, uniting us with Christ and His Body throughout time and space.

    (3) Jesus said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” This alone argues for frequency.

    (4) Because communion/Lord’s Supper/Eucharist is the central unifying act of Christian worship, we should recognize it as such, and treat it as ecumenically as possible consistent with sound Evangelical theology (which often seems oxymoronic – feel free to delete the second adjective). By this, I mean that we should be intentional about using traditional liturgical forms and language that are not inconsistent with scripture, in order to emphasize that we are ONE BODY, with one Lord, partaking of one loaf and one cup (1 Cor 10:16-17).

    My recommendation, liturgically, is to draw from the Book of Common Prayer (eight versions of communion liturgy available, Rite II version C being the most “evangelical” in emphasis), or the more minimalist forms in the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship, editing for theological content where deemed necessary. Contemporary settings of “Sanctus” and “Agnus Dei” for congregational use are appropriate, as are similar material (I’m seriously going to try to fit in “Revelation Song” next chance I get to plan a communion service).

    As for the logistical nightmare of doing communion properly in a larger congregation, the best example I’ve seen is from the Sunday evening youth mass at St. Timothy’s (RC) parish in Mesa, Arizona – at least eight eucharistic ministry teams, throughout the building, each with one cup. In planning, one needs to realize that communion has a primary place in worship, and allow sufficient time and personnel to do it both efficiently and effectively, neither of which is possible in those evangelical churches that regularly feature sermons of 45 minutes or more. I like the liturgical balance between word and sacrament, where neither dominates the time budget for the service, and both are done intentionally, striving for quality rather than quantity.


    • CastingCrown says

      I’ve visited that church! I live in England, but attended Mass there last year and I was seriously impressed 🙂

  12. I found it interesting reading above that that Tigger23505 writes, ‘In congregations where wine is used, the alcohol content is generally high enough to disinfect the cup.” I never thought about that. I hope it’s true. And Steve Newell writes, “…non-fermenting grape juice had NOT been invented.” So perhaps it’s not really a “big deal” if folks choose to use grape juice instead of wine since it’s possible that if non-fermented grape juice existed back in Jesus’ time, he may have used it instead of wine. (Though I kind of doubt it…I bet his disciples LIKED to drink their wine!)

    i think it would work well if the priest or minister said the words that Jesus said during the last supper and then cut up the bread or broke up the bread (I would recommend unleavened just because it would take up less space if you have a lot of people to partake) then distribute the bread pieces among a number of the group who would then station themselves up front with the plate of bread and a cup of the wine that the priest or minister poured from one larger cup. Then, the people who stationed themselves would say to the people approaching them, “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” right after they (the ones stationed) dipped a bit of bread into the wine. That way, you don’t have so many people trying to handle the dipping of the bread and being messy about it, slow about it, reluctant about it, etc. if it was wine they were using and the person approaching cannot drink wine, that person could then choose to reach for a piece of the bread instead or perhaps a “signal” would be set up to indicate that they only want the bread. If you used the grapejuice, you wouldn’t have to deal with that “worry.”

    Regarding the “sign of peace” that we Catholics do when we shake each others’ hands and say “Peace be with you”….maybe we should change it so that we put our hand on each other’s shoulder or upper arm, not touch their hands. You could each do it at the same time with your right hand touching their left shoulder. It has a kind of “laying on of hands” type of “look” about it too. I bet I won’t see that change though. I don’t mind the shaking of hands, though I know others do, so maybe this would help them and like I said, I think it would “look” good, too.

    • Don in Phoenix says

      A bit off topic, but responding to the “sign of peace” thing…and only FWIW:

      Handshakes are not scriptural. Kisses are. Hugs are a good hygienic compromise.

      • Unity Church does the “hug of peace.” Male worshippers have been known to carefully position themselves next to women whom they desire to hug.

        Of course, the ancient church would have divided male and female sections.

    • I’ve been told that the material for the common cup in higher church settings (silver, I think?) also has an effect on killing germs.

      Maybe, as Paul suggests, we should be worrying more about getting sick and dying from judging the body wrongly.

      For the record, my understanding of this is that here he means the body in the sense of the church, not their understanding of real preassence or whatever other view people take, due to the overall context that he was rebuking them due to their apparent judgement of each other that certaing christians intheir church were of a lesser value or class.

      • “Bacteriological experiments have shown that the occasional transmission of micro-organisms is unaffected by the alcoholic content of the wine, the constituent material of the cup or the practice of partially rotating it, but is appreciably reduced when a cloth is used to wipe the lip of the cup between communicants. Nevertheless, transmission does not necessarily imply inoculation or infection. Consideration of the epidemiology of micro-organisms that may be transmitted via saliva, particularly the herpes group of viruses, suggests that indirect transmission of infection is rare and in most instances a much greater opportunity exists for direct transmission by other means. There is substantial evidence that neither infection with hepatitis B virus nor HIV can be transmitted directly via saliva so that indirect transmission via inanimate objects is even less likely. ..Currently available data do not provide any support for suggesting that the practice of sharing a common communion cup should be abandoned because it might spread infection.”

        The hazard of infection from the shared communion cup.Gill ON.
        Public Health Laboratory Service Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, London, U.K.

        • I am soooo copying this over to my blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

        • Ehhh – I’m easy on this one. A rub of the corporal, and no worries 🙂

          We don’t really do this in Ireland, so I’ve drunk from the chalice about twice in my entire life (and the first time felt really, really weird).

          However, the same principle applies when venerating the Cross on Good Friday – everyone goes up, kisses the crucifix held by the priest, the priest or acolyte gives it a wipe and goes on to the next person.

          Now, if you’ve got a streaming cold or a cold sore or the flu, then common courtesy dictates that you don’t spread your germs around. On the other hand, if you practice a reasonable level of personal hygiene and are in good health, I’m not worried.

          The kiss of peace – if that becomes kisses or hugs, see me running screaming for the door. A formal embrace, though: that I could do 🙂

    • Grapes are harvested in Summer to early fall. Jesus and the disciples would not have had non-fermented grape juice in the spring.

  13. I just had a terrible, terrible flashback involving not taking Communion seriously as it should be.

    My mom was gone for one of her many conferences and came home with a tiny plastic bag full of watered-down Ribena (for my non-Brits, this is a blackcurrant-based drink) and a cube of local bread. She called me, poured the Ribena into a cup and gave me the cube of bread. Then she instructed me to pray for my miracles and blessings and healing and that the head of her church blessed this “Communion” and bringing home this “Communion” brought the Holy Spirit back with her.

    You should have seen my face. I protested, but then she called me rude and screamed “Honor your father and your mother!” Shoot, even I knew it was blasphemy at 14.

    • It’s semi-common for a lay person to take the left-over elements after the service and serve them to shut-ins, etc. (This way, the bread and juice/wine have been blessed and presided over by an ‘official’ ordained person).

      After taking communion one Sunday at church, I took the elements over to my pastor’s home while she was out on maternity leave and served communion to everyone there.

      To serve someone the Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation at the same time tiny preemie infants are being fed may sound unusual or even disrespectful, but in practice it was very worshipful and meaningful. Indeed, we are more helpless than those infants.

      Why oh why oh why should only those who are ordained ministers be allowed to preside at communion? Did Jesus only allow people with MDiv degrees at the Last Supper?

  14. For an evangelical context, I would recommend a contemporary version of the Book of Common Prayer (1662), the official prayer book for the Anglican Church. Dr. Toon of the Prayer Book Society has produced an excellent contemporary version called, An Anglican Prayer Book. The 1662 Prayer Book is very scriptural and the liturgy was meant to proclaim liturgically the gospel of salvation by grace through faith.

  15. As a church organist, one thing I usually do during the Lord’s Supper is play hymns quietly in the background. Sometimes I might (or someone else might) play some sort of classical composition, but generally because of the flexibility to wrap up a verse quickly, etc, I play hymns. Usually, I choose hymns having words directly connected with the ceremony or maybe 1 or 2 of that sort and then 1 or 2 connected with the sermon or theme of the day. I try to make selections that people will know the words to (so the music is meaningful and not just background noise), though often I try to pull out older hymns or perhaps hymns from other traditions (still covering the same themes) just to introduce them. Time and again, people will either walk by me as I’m playing singing the words in a way to let me know that they KNOW what I’m playing and appreciate it. Particularly when it’s a lesser known hymn, the looks of recognition and appreciation on people’s faces are very uplifting. Helping people meaningfully worship is what keeps me motivated as a church musician.

  16. I also think it would be good if the minister could recite the words from 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 just prior to the people coming forward for the Lord’s Supper:

    “When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.” (NLT)

    and since I am enjoying seeing what Eugene Peterson writes:

    “When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is.” (The Message)

  17. Jonathan Hunnicutt says

    Yeah, I don’t know why people freak out so much about the one cup. Have we become a society of germophobes?

    In Seminary we learned that no disease has ever been found to have been transferred via the one cup at a liturgical service. Maybe this is because of the alcohol. I dunno.

    Two questions:

    Most liturgy of communion seems to focus on communion viewing Christ’s death primarily and often only as a sacrifice. This is of course true and wonderful. But what about communion as the foretaste of the eschatological banquet? The victory feast of the Lord of Hosts?

    Lots of people are starting to emphasize the passover (which is excellent), but I don’t think the passover is being emphasized enough. Jesus took the elements of the passover and reworked them around himself. This means that Jesus thought that on the cross a New Exodus was going to happen. On the cross, God was going to set the slaves free. [I’m cribbing this all from NT Wright btw.]

    So why don’t we have more Christus Victor communion liturgies and New Exodus communion liturgies? There are elements of Christus Victor, but still the overall mood is sacrifice.

    • Don in Phoenix says


    • Jonathan…I submit my “Amen” as well to giving greater attention to the Christus Victor view of what God did through Jesus on the cross.

    • Don in Phoenix says

      From the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship, for the communion service, the opening “hymn of praise” is changed from “Gloria in excelcis” to “This is the feast of victory for our God”…

      Alas, the words are copyrighted, and I don’t have permission to quote them, but a search for the phrase in quotes will yield the text…

    • “Have we become a society of germophobes?”

      Yes, and all the sicker for it as there is now plenty of research evidence that diseases like eczema, asthma and even leukaemia are related to inadequate exposure to pathogens.

      What do people think God gave us an immune system for? 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I don’t know about leukemia, but “inadequate exposure to pathogens” is credited with the rise in lethal allergic reactions over the past 20 years. (I mean, when did you ever hear of fatal peanut allergies before then? And suddenly they were everywhere and anything peanut was getting banned.)

        The theory goes that exposure to pathogens (and resulting childhood diseases) trains the immune system in how to recognize and target pathogens — effectively setting the immune system’s IFF recognition protocol. Without this exposure (as in today’s germophobic upbringings), the immune system doesn’t know what to target and is as likely as not to attack its own body in an immunological Friendly Fire incident.

        I’ve heard of Kyle’s Moms so germophobic that they rub their kids’ hands with hand sanitizer every time the kid touches anything. Raise a kid that way, and he/she’ll never have those childhood illnesses, only to die of anaphlactic shock at 18 when somebody opens a can of peanuts 100 meters upwind.

    • You might wish to read the consecration prayer from the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, a liturgy which is used during about 1/6 of the year by the Orthodox. “. . . He released us from the delusions of idols . . . having won us unto Himself for His own people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation . . . He loosed the pains of death . . . making a way for all flesh through the resurrection from the dead–for it was not possible that the Author of life should be holden of corruption . . .” You get the idea. Notice that instead of passing through the parted Red Sea, the way that is made for us is through the resurrection from the dead, but the language is Exodus language.

      • Don in Phoenix says

        I love Eastern liturgies (St. Basil and Chrysostom). They’re not friendly to Evangelical worship styles, the “McChurch” phenomenon, or the “Word and Sacraments in 75 minutes or less” guarantee that modern Western liturgies have pretty much guaranteed…but they’re good material. The best thing about them, as I’ve learned from my good Byzantine Catholic friend, is that they avoid the Western (Roman) and Protestant hyper-rationalism, maintaining the majesty and mystery of the faith.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      In Seminary we learned that no disease has ever been found to have been transferred via the one cup at a liturgical service. Maybe this is because of the alcohol. — Jonathan Hunnicutt

      Sure argues against Reverend Welch and all the “drys”, doesn’t it?

  18. At our small Hebrew Christian fellowship, the way we’ve worked the Lord’s Supper liturgy is one of the things I’m most proud of. As the guy who’s taken the role of “Vocal Gentile” I was pretty insistant that we partake of Communion more often per the example of Christian history. On the other hand, the Jewish members of our leadership were pretty insistant that we include the Kiddush (traditional blessing over bread and wine to ceremonially sanctify the Sabbath). The problem: despite both including bread and wine, Kiddush is not inherently Communion nor vice versa. In order to make it work, we’d have to either drop one or find some point of connection.

    As I and my fellow liturgy enthusiast were brainstorming, we came across a Jewish prayer associated with the Kiddush that calls the Sabbath a rememberance of Creation and a memorial of the Exodus. Between the “rememberance/memorial” language and the Exodus’ association with Passover (and thus Communion), we had found our connection. So the liturgy we came up with was a combination of verses from Genesis 1 & John 1 flowing into the afore-mentioned Jewish prayer flowing into the Corinthians “On the night he was betrayed…” passage flowing into some really neat adaptations of the traditional blessings over the bread and wine (more on that in a bit) concluding with the congregation reciting some verses from Psalm 116 that talk about the “cup of salvation” and offering a “sacrifice of thanksgiving” (the Greek for Thanksgiving is where the word Eucharist comes from).

    Those blessings: “Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth and who brought forth Jesus, the Bread of Life, from the grave.” and “Blessed are you O Lord Our God, King of the Universe who creates the fruit of the vine and by whose blood we abide in Jesus the True Vine.” In both blessings, the parts following “and” are our additions to the traditional Jewish blessings. This has created a much more New Testament feel to our Hebraic service. I’d probably be somewhere else if we didn’t have such overtly New Testament aspects.

  19. as my sem prof said, “we believe in the real presence of germs more than the real presence of Christ,” and that is why most evangelicals don’t have common cup or even common loaf.

    during the words of institution, we break a piece of matzo and pour juice that is never consumed by anyone. i wonder what happens to it afterwards? hmmmm

    i always thought it funny when the presider asks, “is not the one loaf of which we partake a sign that though we are many, we are joined together by One?” i always wanted to say, “NO, it’s not a sign,” because we don’t partake from the same loaf. it’s a symbol. unfortunately, a lot of what is done in my context is nothing but symbol to most. that is, most don’t believe anything actually happens at communion.

    great post! i’m hopeful as more and more church plants in our congregation are incorporating weekly Eucharist in their worship.

  20. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Tiny chicklets and “shot glasses” are a last resort.

    And don’t “shot glasses” suggest something a LOT stronger than wine?

    Funny… you Baptists have a rep as”drys”, yet your Communion looks like you’re chugging Tequila shots or something. “SPRING BREAK!”

  21. Three thoughts:

    On leavened vs unleavened bread: one argument for leavened bread which sort of convinces me is that in our culture bread is leavened, and thus unleavened bread does not speak as clearly of the bread of life. I still prefer unleavened bread, though.

    On discerning the body: if one reads 1Cor 11:29 in the light of 11:27, I don’t see how it can refer to the church as the body – if it did, what would the blood in v27 refer to? It is pretty evident to me that v27 and v29 talk about the same thing.

    On Evangelicals and communion liturgy:

    My wife is from a UK Plymouth Brethren background (Exclusives and Open), and I find the Breaking of Bread in some of those assemblies as liturgical (in a positive sense) as anything: there is order, consistency, and intentionality about everything that is said and done in this context, there are no gimmicks, and a simple reverence that is impressive. Now if only they would not exclude me from the table because I am no one of them … but then the Catholics do that, too.

  22. “Some traditions have isolated frequency as a kind of reverence, but the effects have been quite the opposite.”

    In my evangelical upbringing of approximately 35-40 years ago, communion services were looked upon basically as pains in the you-know-what. Too lengthy; just too much trouble. The pastor put it off long enough until the once-a-quarter rule slipped to maybe twice a year. We went from individual glass cups to disposal plastic individual cups because the deacon’s wives were complaining about having to wash them. (This was before the era where men realized they were actually capable of washing dishes as well.) Then–being the frugal Germans they were–they began to wash the disposable cups because “they were still good.”

    With all this negativity floating around, no wonder no one wanted to do it.

  23. Brother, you do know that “Campbellite” is an epithet to most of us in the Restoration Movement churches, right?

    (not picking, just informing)

  24. Regarding children at the table, I once read a defense of the open table of Methodists. The writer made the analogy for open communion by comparing it to the family dinner table where parents and children come together each evening. The children are not told they must eat at another table apart from the parents until they understand what it means to be a part of the family and can responsibly participate in all the varied aspects of family life. On the contrary, they (the children) learn what it means to be a part of the family by being at the table with the parents. Of course, that means they spill their milk, are corrected for putting their elbows on the table, don’t understand some the parents conversations, and so on. But they get to help with sitting the table and cleaning it, even when it would be far easier for the parent to do those things themselves. But the parent knows that the child will only come to see themselves as part of the family through their inclusion and participation of family life around the table. The child naturally grows toward becoming a full fledged family member through all the myriad activities of life at and surrounding the table.

    Of course, no concrete Biblical injunction can be found to support this analogy between the Lord’s Supper and the family table. But everything about the spirit of the argument speaks to me of the spirit of Christ.

  25. On why there should be the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/Holy Communion during worship…I had a professor who liked to say: worship without Eucharist is simply synagogue…i.e. Christ builds on the ancient worship of Israel to include now this new meal which serves as a visible sign to the world of the future coming of God’s kingdom in and through Jesus. This new meal now gives an identity to people who follow Jesus. Just as Torah serves to identify and distinguish Israel and her adherents, the Lord’s Supper/the preaching of the Gospel/Holy Baptism now distinguish Christ’s disciples in the world.

    I’m interested in how what we do forms who we are. The Lord’s Supper, while it communicates forgiveness of sins, the promise of a new future, and the unifying Spirit of God, also forms us in the world. We receive Christ’s body; we are made members of Christ’s body; we are sent to be Eucharist for the world. This is a foretaste of the feast to come; and our call is to invite people to the Banquet–the one we can already taste, and the one that is in store for us yet to come. Because we tend to be hard-headed disciples of Jesus, I’m all for practicing this often in our worship.

    • “Worship without Eucharist is simply synagogue…”

      I like that, and will use it. Thanks. Certainly it is the long-standing tradition of the church that worship is BOTH Word and Table.

      But we all know how much tradition is valued, don’t we?

  26. “Some traditions have isolated frequency as a kind of reverence” what other disipline in Christianity do we believe this way??? do we pray less to mean more?? confess less to mean more??? seems a little silly to me. — my flavor of Chirstianity (Mennonite) has long had quaterly Communions. but in the past that was because they would have a time when all the members would confess any ill will they had to each other before they would all take of the Lord’s supper. This could be done beautifully or it could become a circus (usually beautifully i understand). This worked when everyone lived in a tight knit farming community, but now with the change in work, schedules, turning more urban, people are less connected & can’t always make it to every service. —-sadly we have gone the way of the baptist & “isolated frequency as a kind of reverence”. but i am excited that a new “liturgical creativity” is moving in the Mennonite Church. There a some churches that started having Lord’s Supper once a month. now what should we do with feet washing????

    • Brian K,

      As a member of one of the few SBC churches that still wash feet, I say keep it with much enthusiasm.


      • A foot-washin’ Baptist– How Cool! how many times do you wash feet??? My church has foot washing every Maundy Thrusday & then another undefined time each year. It has always been a meaningful experience to me. I love seeing newly baptized believers being lead thru their first foot washing, usually one of the only times you see older members worshiping with youth in a meaningful way. Respect the Feet!!!

  27. I am with the IMonk in calling the Lord’s Supper the Lord’s Supper, or the Lord’s Table.

    “Communion” is a theological term that describes what we had in Adam, lost in Adam, have had restored in Christ, and will know in full at his return. It is, in effect, the word that defines salvation, and thus the name of our church… Communion Presbyterian Church.

    Many churches bear the names of theological terms (Grace, Redeemer, Faith, etc.). We followed with “Communion.” We are not named after a sacrament — but we do come to the table each week!

    I have greatly appreciated everyone’s input!


  28. As a former Campbellite, I’ve had to relearn the meaning behind many of the practices we did simply to check it off the list. The Lord’s Supper is one of those practices. While we did “partake” weekly(and not to say it did not have meaning), there was a strong undercurrent of doing it because we had to in order to satisfy God’s rules for Sunday morning.

    Now I’m finding much more meaning in the LS and am coming to understand what a gift it is to participate with my brothers and sisters with Christ in our midst. And as a gift I need to accept what is being offered rather than trying to work myself into an acceptable state in order to receive the elements.

  29. “In my tradition, baptized Christians are invited to the Lord’s table. Closed communion has much to commend it, but I do not believe it can be easily done without bringing explanations into the worship service- in print or in person- to orient the congregation to the reasons all Christians are not welcome at the table.”
    It warms my heart to hear you say this, as about a year ago we had it out over this issue and I thought I might get kicked off the forum altogether. You are correct also that it should not be done without explanation. Yet I believe this explanation ought to be done in the manner of Luther’s exhortation to communion. Ironically, I have written a fairly extensive explanation of our practice, that is meant also to reorient members of my congregation as to what they are doing and why. (I posted this on my blog not too long ago). I only read it when there are visitors, a couple times a month. But I have some in my congregation who would rather I never read it! I suppose though, that they would also rather I not practice closed communion. My conscience is bound though.

  30. When a church that doesn’t have an offering taken up every week “to make it more special”, let me know. 😉

    Jus’ sayin’.

  31. Oops. Sorry, about the odd wording. I forgot to adapt the beginning of the sentence to an edit at the end, and then hit “submit” too soon. It should read: “When a church decides not to have an offering…”

  32. I just have one comment regarding the use of real wine —
    My church has a LOT of recovering alcoholics/substance abusers attending. And while, granted, a sip of wine isn’t going to intoxicate anyone, I’ve come to understand that recovering alcoholics have to avoid the stuff completely. Any thoughts on this?

  33. Thanks for this series. Yours is definitely one of my favorite blogs, because I know I’ll always find thoughtful and plain-spoken analysis of how the Church can better live out its faith. (And I always learn more about other traditions.)

    I was raised Prebyterian, with the wheat bread chicklets and shots of grape juice monthly. (I remember twice in my youth being given white grape juice – which I dubbed the “plasma of Christ.”) It was nice to shake things up on special occasions by walking up to share one loaf and one cup by intinction. It made us think more deeply about the meaning of the Sacrament.