On the subject of wine and bread…
Earlier this week, a friend of mine posted his thoughts on the Evangelical Church and Communion. I found his post thought-provoking, noble and well spoken, though it apparently caused such a fervent response that he was urged by the leadership of his church to take it down. (It’s a shame when the church cannot partake of healthy dialogue regarding the elements of the faith. I happen to believe that even flat-out emotional debate is good from time to time, but maybe that’s just me.)
At some point, an argument was made for using pre-packaged communion elements based on saving the Church money that could be used for other ministries.
Was someone really suggesting that pre-packaged elements are cheaper? Surely not. More convenient, perhaps. Cheaper than bread, juice and reusable cups, (be that glass or metal, chalice or cup) no. That argument is just plain silly.
But, before this conversation goes any further, I think it is worth noting that my friend was commenting on the Evangelical Church as a whole, and the shift he has seen away from the sacrificial elements being taken in a reverent way. This wasn’t an indictment on any one local church, but rather a question of how we, as The Church (I know, there goes Rob on an ecumenical kick again) reverence our most sacred of rituals.
That brings me, of course, to the sacred ritual itself. There is nothing in our Church history that is more sacred and intimate than the taking of communion. Keep in mind that many of your brothers and sisters throughout history gave their lives rather than give up this very thing.
When I think about communion, I tend to try and find something that resonates with me in the same way…. In this case, I liken it to making love. That’s right. Giggle and blush if you must, but that’s the truth.
In a marriage, there is no greater intimate moment than making love to your spouse. It is the pinnacle of togetherness. It is the very physical act of saying, “I love you and I want to be as close to you as I can possibly be.” For the Christian, no ritual comes closer to that kind of commitment than taking the elements.
So, think about your wife for a moment. Do you prefer to make love to her in a cozy bed and breakfast, where the candles are lit and the rose petals have been set up across the room, or do you prefer a rent-by-the-hour motel? I think your wife could answer easily, which matters more to her. Now, you COULD make the argument that the act is the same in both places, right? I mean, either way you are getting it on…
But, one just feels a little more loving than the other, yes? One environment says, “I love you and I want you and you matter to me.” And the other says, “My own physical gratification is most important, and let’s get this over with.”
So, why would we look at communion any differently? Why would we say, “The way we do this doesn’t matter as long as our hearts are right?” It doesn’t make any sense. Of course it matters how and when we take communion!
Would you say, “Making love to my wife is so awesome. I’m only going to make love to her quarterly because otherwise it would lose its specialness.” No way! Because it is special, you want to join with her in it as often as you can, right? Right.
Look, I’m not attacking the local church I attend on Sunday mornings. I love it there, and I believe in the Church and her leadership. I’m amazed by the compassion and heart of the pastor and the people. What I am saying is that like anything else, it is healthy to reexamine what we do and why we do it from time to time and make changes that are in line with what we believe. In this case, we have a very excellent record in scripture as to how communion was received. There is no need to stray in the name of convenience.
What my friend wrote resonated deep within me, and it made me joyful, not angry or bitter to know that people still care about our sacred rituals.
Communion is special in my opinion, and I love it enough to do it often and right.