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  • June 2009
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A Pet Peeve About How We Observe the Lord’s Supper

If I were to trot out all of my “pet peeves,” you might think I am a “right peevish person” – which I am not. I can grumble along with most people, but my “peeves” do not cause me to lose my temper or my friends. In fact, usually they are not even expressed. This one, however, is one that I do express – and, I believe, for good cause.

My pet peeve about how we in the churches of Christ observe the Lord’s Supper is that in far too many instances little or nothing is said about why we observe this Supper other than to read the accounts of the “institution” of the Lord’s Supper with maybe a comment to the effect that we are commanded to do this every Lord’s Day.

Naturally, since we exist as autonomous congregations, the practice varies from congregation to congregation. In fact, one church I attended for more than ten years (six and a half of which I served as one of the elders) had a practice of no comment at all prior to the Lord’s Supper. A visitor or new convert could attend for years and have no idea what this was all about! That was when I began to be vocal (in the elders’ meetings) about our need for better instruction on the purpose of the Lord’s Supper – and how we should participate in it.

My fellow elders were willing enough for me to make brief comments when it was my turn to preside at the table, but my example was followed by very few (if any) others. Since no one person was charged with leading at the table very often, the congregation hardly noticed a thing!

My present congregation is an exception to the above peeve. Most of those who “preside” at the Table have excellent comments.

There is such a wealth of Biblical material for us to address legitimately at the Lord’s Table that I hardly know where to begin. On a given Sunday the assembled group in probably half the congregations will be told how the Lord instituted this memorial on the night in which He was betrayed. To me, this  is evidence of the lack of thought that goes into our observance of what most of us will declare is the very purpose of our assembly!

I am not even sure that most of our people realize just what we are to remember. Ask most church members what we are to remember in the Lord’s Supper, and you are most likely to hear that we are to “remember the Lord’s death.” So, many people find the sad songs about the suffering of the Savior to guide their meditations during the time of “partaking” of the bread and cup.

In reality, Jesus said, “Do this in rememberance of Me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25), not “of my death” but “of Me.” Now, in remembering Jesus we will certainly remember His death, but we will also remember much more, and there will be more of joy than of tears in that rememberance! After all, the Lord’s Supper is the foretaste of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb of God and His holy bride, the saints of all ages! Hence, it should be more of a festival than a  funeral.

Partially as an effort to do something about my pet peeve, I have been writing a “Communion Meditation” for the congregation where I serve as one of the elders. These have been in our bulletin each week for the past three years.

It is my intent to include one of these “Meditations” as a regular part of this blog. They are brief, usually 250 – 300 words in length. They are based on many different parts of the Scriptures, and they all focus on Jesus and our relationship to Him. After all, “Communion” comes from the Greek word koinonea, which also means fellowship. Hence, Communion is about fellowship or relationship, much more than it is about mourning the death of One Whom we love. After all, He was raised from the dead three days later! Yes, He paid an awful price for our salvation, and we are right to grieve for our sinfulness that made it necessary. But He was also raised again for our justification (see Romans 4:25).

This alone should make the Lord’s Supper a Celebration, not a Mourning.

Click here for the first in my current series of Communion Meditations. This series is based on the gospel of Matthew, and it is my intent (which may or may not be fulfilled) to use each chapter of this narrative gospel in these meditations. Again, I invite your feed back and comment.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Jerry,
    I couldn’t agree more. Like most others, when I preside at the Lord’s Table, I read from (and comment on) the familiar passages from Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22. However, I often select appropriate texts from all over the New Testament and even the Psalms. Here’s a couple of short comments I’ve written and used for I Corinthians 10:16, 17…

    “The apostle Paul’s emphasis in this context is on the Lord’s Supper as being a communion (or fellowship) with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we physically and spiritually eat of the bread and drink of the cup in the proper manner, we (as the Lord’s church and body) reaffirm our unity with Christ. We also demonstrate our unity with each other. Each Sunday, we affirm our faith in the Lord and His covenant. We recommit ourselves to keeping the New Covenant (Hebrews 8). The Lord specifically designed and instituted this memorial for observance on each Lord’s Day to remember His life, work and sacrifice for us.”

    • This is the sort of thing we need to be saying more and more. We need to go beyond the blood and gore of the cross to its meaning. While the cross was the ultimate purpose for Jesus coming to earth, we must also realize that his sacrifice and his suffering began long before Gethsemane. In all that He did, He was laying His life down for hurting people. In following Him, in being one with Him, we become like Him. We learn to lay our lives down for each other and for those around us whom we seek to influence for Him.


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