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Can We Talk About The Lord’s Supper?
I ask us to reexamine our traditions concerning the Lord’s Supper.

One More Thing

This work is not intended to provide a liturgy or suggested plan of worship, but it was mentioned that when the Lord’s Supper is given a high value and place because of an enriched understanding, things like the royal priesthood of all believers begin to be better understood, and becomes more manifest. Maybe that is because we are more aware of the depth of our participation in the Lord’s Supper. But whatever the reason, one of the effects that arises from exercise of our royal priesthood is a tendency to inculcate more extensive participation from those outside of what many may call the clergy in our worship. At worship services that might mean a more open setting where members of the congregation participate by praying, giving a word of praise, suggesting a hymn or song, offering a short teaching, all directing our attention to Jesus.

Picture an early church. The influence of the synagogue on the form of the meeting is apparent. But so also is the influence of early and zealous Christian koinonia. Further, the lines between, what came to be, the priesthood, or the clergy, and the laity were not so clearly drawn yet. No doubt there were elders, and in large cities even a presiding elder called an episcopos, a bishop. And there were those who had been given gifts of preaching and teaching. But the meetings were not so formalized as ours are today.

We have some small pictures of the Church meeting in the New Testament. We also have some pictures of synagogue meetings. The Gospel of Luke shows us Jesus in the synagogue. It illustrates a little bit of what a synagogue meeting was like, Jesus was given an opportunity to read and comment upon the Scriptures. After His trial of temptation when fasting in the wilderness, we find this,

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? (Luke 4:14-22)

“He taught in their synagogues …”. The specific instance we are given tells us this: He “stood up for to read”. You can see the faint outlines of synagogue practice that shows some measure of openness in participation. Now let’s move on to examples found in Paul’s letters. But before you read any further, just be aware that the practice of speaking in tongues in not being encouraged by anything in this study, although neither is it being discouraged. Everyone will have to make their own minds up on the matter. But to continue, after the forming of the Church we read that the “… manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man …”

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:7-12)

Paul continues in Chapter Fourteen,

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:26-33)

As you read this, can you not begin to form a picture of how it might have been back then? The Scriptures referenced above strongly suggest that these gifts were given to, and exercised by, the general body of believers, not a clergy so called. In the new Church, influenced by the form of the synagogue, and in the exuberance of newness of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and in the blush of first love, and led by the Holy Spirit, the fellowship had room for a more open manner of gathering. But also notice what Paul said above: God is not the author of confusion. The last passage in that Chapter reads:

Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Corinthians 14:40)

A more open worship meeting is not synonymous with disorder. But for it to work, the people have to be taught how, and those charged with the exercise of authority in the church have to, well, exercise their authority to ensure that all things are done decently and in order. Also, and this is paramount, the leadership must insure Christ is given the preeminence in all things throughout the worship. And, all must look to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

A more open worship format does have the advantage of inclusiveness, developing a sense of involvement for the saints in the congregation beyond being an audience, which has been a criticism of traditional clergy led, sermon based worship.

Another beneficial aspect is that just as we are to live worshipful lives, each of us individually, so also in an open style meeting we can express worship from many voices. This could be compared to a melody, which needs variety in tone and rhythm to save it from being a dreary droning hum. When one thinks about it, dreariness has been a criticism of traditional worship services which has led to many innovations to enliven things. Some good, some not so good. We must remember that Jesus told us in John Chapter Four that the Father seeks worshipers. We are to worship in our spirits individually in the way we live our lives, and we are to worship in congregation, individually but in unity and order with each other, in our churches.

And, when the congregation is taught that worship is given to Christ, when we are taught that He alone is the subject and object of our worship meetings, when we know that He is the center, and our worship is focused by the Lord’s Supper upon Him alone, then our worship is not mixed or confused with other things such as mere enjoyment of the music (more about this in the next paragraph). Then Christ truly is given the preeminence amongst us in our worship, which is what the Father’s plan for our worship is.

It is granted that music, or other things may attract seekers into our worship services where they may hear the Gospel message. That’s a good thing. But there is also, as we all know, the plain fact that too often people sometimes don’t move very far away from that initial attraction to things like the music. Then they become an audience, and our worship service takes on some element of being entertainment for them. Something is lost in this, and the Lord’s Supper is the imperative that pushes us in the proper direction where everything is centered upon Jesus. The various aspects of the Lord’s Supper discussed in these studies serve to hold the vision of Hebrews 2:9 before us:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9)

All the things we devise for our liturgies and worship formats matter to us. But do they matter to the Lord? Remember that those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4.24). Thrills and chills are feelings in the body and mind. If they are what one is after, there are all manner of means to achieve them. But, spiritual and true worship will also have an effect on our body and mind, and there is deep satisfaction in such worship. Spiritual and true worship is what is sought by the Father. As these studies point out it begins with something like what Paul said in Romans 12:1, and it will manifest itself in various ways. But let’s ask ourselves what we're looking for. There are many ways to thrill the flesh. And it’s not our goal be thrill seeker friendly in our churches is it? Nevertheless, spiritual and true worship, following the principle of reversal, brings profound spiritual and true satisfaction.

No doubt open participation in a worship service is worrisome. It requires individual self control as well as discipline maintained by the leaders of the church. Maybe in the greeting everyone could be told that participation is open to those who have been through a worship study, or are known by the leadership to be fitted to participate. Elders, or whomever, will have to be referees.

Another worrisome part of this is that more open meetings seem to fill more than an hour. Probably an hour and a half at a practical minimum. What to do? You have to decide for yourself. If you've been through this series of studies you will begin to understand what is meant that our best theology is taught in our worship services. They are not didactic exercises but they have great heuristic value. Intelligent open worship has all the value of a Sunday school class, and more. And we don’t forget the closing of the meeting — which sends us out to continue to live our worship in our daily lives.

Worship culminates in passing the bread and the cup. This is a profitable season for silent reflection. And it is not to be hurried through. Here is where we proclaim by eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 11:26) that we,

… commemorate the Lord’s death and resurrection in the Lord’s Supper and profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and that we await his coming in glory." Note

We are known as those who declare Christ and Him crucified to any who may see us. This becomes our identity, we are profoundly identified with Jesus by the eating of His body and drinking of His blood in the figure of the Lord’s Supper. The passage is found in John 6:28-69, and is too long to include here but it should be read carefully. Then answer for yourself the question Jesus asked of His disciples,

Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? (John 6:67)

What is your answer? Peter answered for the twelve with the classic profession of faith,

… Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
(John 6:68-69)

This is not the least reason why we call the Lord’s Supper God’s work, and say that we should prefer nothing to it.

©FH 2012

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The source of this statement is from a section in the Catholic document: DECREE ON ECUMENISM (UR) quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 1400. It comes from a context explaining the impossibility of inter-communion with Protestants. But it is so aptly, even brilliantly, phrased, and it so well summarizes what we are doing in the Lord’s Supper, I have borrowed it (following a time honored tradition) for use here. The intent is to neither imply approval of Catholic doctrine nor to imply Catholic approval of anything said here.

The sources are found at the Vatican Archives online: UR 22 § 3 and CCC Paragraph 1400 . You'll have to scroll down the pages to find the references.

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