Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Un-Churched Communion

As we exited our church in May a thousand questions swirled around our heads. Questions, like, what are we going to do with our kids, worship, fellowship, teaching, giving, discipleship, baptism or the Lord’s Supper.

Slowly, bit by bit, Father has been visiting each question. He hasn’t always answered each question but there has been a time to talk with him about them. I both love and hate this part of my journey right now. . A subject will come up through a simple thought, something that happens or something I read. I remind Him that I still have questions about this topic. But you know what? Most of the time, it seems that He appears content just to listen to my question. He does not seem to be in any hurry.

But every once in a while Father gives me something substantial. Simple, but substantial. It was that way the other day as I listened to a podcast from the God Journey. It was the podcast from May 4, 2007 where Brad and Wayne were interviewing a close friend of Wayne’s named Bob Stamps.

Mr. Stamps has studied for a lifetime on the significance of the Eucharist, (we called it either the Lord’s Supper or Communion.) During his talk with Brad and Wayne he blew me away. In summary, this is what I gleaned from their talk.

When Jesus first offered this symbol to his disciples he was sitting at a dinner table. They were in the midst of doing something incredibly common. They were eating dinner together. In this setting, Jesus says to take the elements of the table, bread and wine, and He said, when you eat like this, remember me. Bob went on to say that for CENTURIES this act of remembering the Lord’s death till he came back was only done around someone’s dinner table. It was in the midst of eating together at someone’s dinner table that this remembrance was observed.

A few things stood out to me and will forever change how I view having the “Lord’s Supper.”

1) Jesus wants to meet me - not just in a building where we all come together for two hours on a Sunday morning for a ritual, drinking out of little tiny cups and a morsel of bread. He wants to meet us in the most common of settings. In my dining room. At my table. With us. Among us. In our homes. With our family. With our friends.

2) He never said, build a special table at the front of the building where you meet on Sundays, cover it with a white cloth, fill tiny cups with juice – not wine, and have special golden plates to put tiny pieces of very, very dry crackers on it. Now make sure that every knows that this table is holy. You may call it the Alter.

3). This meal we are to share is to be among people we have relationship with. There is very little relationship among those we went to church with. Oh, we were together a lot, we worked on things a lot. But in that morning that we came together for a service we barely got out hellos, how are you, how’s the kids, yeah – we are busy too…football you know…and various other “greetings” but not true fellowship. Try having those kinds of conversations around the dinner table and you see what is so crazy about the whole thing. Life gets talked about at the dinner table. Good stuff….bad stuff….laughter…tears, are all mixed in and among us as we talk. And THAT is what Jesus wants to be a part of. That is the setting he wants us to not forget him. He wanted to be surrounded with family and friends in this remembrance.

4). The meal is to be abundant. I’m not talking about lavish. But I am talking about a meal. Jesus did not say that He wanted us to come together for a sip of wine and a bite of dry cracker. He said, “When you do this……meal….remember me. I wonder if the tiny portion that we get in a typical communion allotment is somehow a tribute to the amount of grace that we feel is also poured out for our sins. This was never to be the picture. It is out of a sizeable portion – a meal – that we are to take a portion of that and remember him. From abundance we remember his abundant love, grace and provision.

4. The meal is to be shared. How much of my life have I sat with just myself – inspecting and feeling guilty for my sin and then sipped the juice and chewed on the dry cracker all by myself. Alone. Just me and God. Sometimes we would take it as a family and later in years we would sometimes celebrate it of sorts with each other or another couple. But mostly it was just me. My sin. My shame. My guilt. My repentance. (See what Mr. Stamps says about Paul's admonition to inspect our lives during communion - it is truy freeing)

5. Why did we exchange wine for juice?. A dinner with wine changes everything dynamically. It becomes a celebration. Wine makes the heart glad. Wine is a symbol of richness, lavishness, God having a party. It is a remembrance of his death but it is a remembrance of JOY for all he has done for us. He paid it for us. He is our victor. Church would have been a lot more fun if we had just come together for a dinner and served several bottles of good Shiraz. Maybe even the poor and the pagan would have wondered if they could join us.

Anyway, I encourage you to listen to the podcasts of God at Our Table and then the next one entitled, Living in the Arms of Mercy. You can access them here or on itunes buy putting Wayne Jacobsen into the search bar and clicking on the God Journey. Let me know if you get any other revelation from them.

13 comments:

Steve Sensenig said...

This is great stuff. I've always had the sense that we're missing something with regard to communion, and I'm not sure it's what some parts of Christendom think we're missing.

I'd also like to know when the idea ever came into play that only certain people can actually "administer" communion? I find that troublesome to say the least.

Maria said...

I appreciate your summary... when I started reading about house church, the line that struck me (I believe from Wolfgang Simson) was that communion "started out as a substantial meal with symbolic meaning, and we've turned it into a symbolic meal with substantial meaning."

Barb said...

Steve, I would have liked to hear the first "sermon" that moved the communion table into a place where only one kind of person could administer it. It had to start somewhere.

Maria, that quote is great. just what i was trying to say.

Erin said...

Thanks for this post. Some things that have been niggling at my mind but I hadn't articulated. I know I have only experienced any power in communion when it is the way you described...as a meal with people we have relationships with.

traveller said...

It is exciting to see your journey in this regard. If you have never experienced a communion meal like this find some other followers of Jesus and do it yourself. When our simple church meets we always have a meal together and communion as a part of it.....sometimes at the beginning, sometimes at the end, sometimes the breaking of the bread at the beginning and the wine at the end. At Easter we did a Passover meal that beautifully displayed the imagery of Father's intent from the beginning to redeem us.

In our group no one person leads each time. And, it is certainly not limited to men. Women lead it as well. We get such interesting experiences since each person finds some new scripture or other writing to help us celebrate the presence of Jesus. It is such a joyful and meaningful experience with a small group of people.

I encourage you try it yourself and see what Father does in your presence.

Barb said...

Erin and Traveller,
We have only done this once at with my children and another couple that are almost a part of our family. It was wonderful. I wonder though if it is to be a whole lot more often. I need to see what it meant when Jesus said, as often as you...
I can't wait to do it as a bigger group too. It sounds wonderful.

traveller said...

Often!

Steve Sensenig said...

One time, we had a group meeting in our home, and the wife of one of the men was unable to be with us because she was at her parents' house a couple of hours away helping them with some situation.

After our meal together, we decided to celebrate communion together, and so we used someone's cellphone that had speaker-phone capability, called the wife on it, told her to go get something to celebrate it with us, and talked through it out loud over the phone so she could join with us. It ended up being really awesome. She was able to be a part of it, even though physically not there.

It was one of those "spur of the moment" things -- not at all pre-planned -- but definitely caused us all to realize the unity that comes in that kind of fellowship.

Alan Knox said...

Barb,

I appreciate you sharing some of your struggles and trials in the area of the Lord's Supper. Since many of your questions seem to center around the ritualistic practices associated with the Supper, I thought you might appreciate this tongue-in-cheek examination that I wrote last December: What did I learn in church about the Lord's Supper?"

I think that sharing meals is very important for building relationships. This is especially important for believers as we fellowship not only with one another, but also - and more importantly - with Father and Son through the Spirit.

-Alan

Barb said...

Steve, maybe that's what Jesus meant when he said "greater things you will do." Communion by phone..great!

Alan, You made me laugh today. I remember being old enough to recieve the "don't spill the juice" and then give it out to my kids.
And I remember the glass cups.

Sarah said...

Great post and thinks for pointing me to the podcasts!

Barb said...

Sarah, if you haven't been on the God Journey, nose around a bit there. They have been great.

Also,just to make sure, be sure to check out lifesstream.org

Brilliant stuff

Sue said...

Hey Barb,

Thanks for the link to TGJ. I have been thinking lately about how I think I've missed a few podcasts here and there this year, and about going back and relistening. I know I haven't heard this one before ... and I have been thinking a lot lately about communion. So thank you doubly for mentioning it :)