Friday, January 09, 2009

The Lord's Supper

There a couple of good posts on the Lord's Supper around the blogosphere:

First, Michael Jensen sets forth ten propositions (tongue in cheek) why we should not celebrate it at all. (There are actually debates among prominent leaders of the Sydney Anglicans on this topic including should it be celebrated and can lay people preside over it).

Second, Jim Hamilton, has a good post at Moore to the Point on why it should be celebrated weekly.

If you haven't already read it, a good little book that I enjoyed is N.T. Wright's The Meal that Jesus Gave.

I tend to think that a church pot-luck dinner with a few prayers and hymns sung at the same time is far closer to what the early church did re: the Lord's Supper, as opposed to current practices involving a 5 minute guilt-trip sermonette, a crumb of bread, and a drop of sour grape juice. Rob Jewett wrote: "The purely symbolic meal of modern Christianity, restricted to a bit of bread and a sip of wine or juice, is tacitly presupposed for the early church, an assumption so preposterous that it is never articulated or acknowledged."[1] Bo Reicke showed that the early Eucharistic meals took in the context of a common meal shared by a broad stream of early Christianity through the fourth century (see Jude 12, Ign. Smyr. 8.2 on “love feasts”) [2].

I should point to two excellent blog posts by Darrell Pursiful on how and why the eucharist got separated from communal meals (see here and here). Interesting reading.

For those in the memorial/ordinance tradition, I have this question: how and to what extent is the Lord's Supper a means of grace!

[1] Robert Jewett, “Tenement Churches and Pauline Love Feasts,” Quarterly Review 14 (1994): 44.

[2] Bo Reicke, Agapenfeier, 21-149.


Dunc and Als said...

It's a means of Grace as it helps us to trust in the Lord more ... have you ever been at the end of the queue and had to drink from the common cup after everyone else? I'm inclined to pray a prayer for the Lord's mercy on what I am about to swallow!

Patrick George McCullough said...

Amen! You're preaching my Anabaptist language :)

Pat McCullough

Jonathan Robinson said...

thanks for that MFB.
Surely the extent to which it is a means of grace is reliant on the extent to which Jesus is present? How does the meal mediate Jesus to us, is he present in our fellowship, or the food and drink, or our remembering, or what?

michael jensen said...

Question is: is what the early church did normative? Is there a good reason for the way the practice has evolved? I say YES. 1 Cor 11 points to why... So the argument of 'it was in the context of a full meal' doesn't really cut the mustard with me...

michael jensen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Pook said...

I agree exactly with MJ. Paul asks the Corinthians "don't you have homes to eat and drink in?" He criticises them precisely because they ARE treating the Lord's Supper as just any old meal. And in a pagan manner at that. It is a symbolical, spiritual meal and you don't have to eat a full ordinary meal for it to be a sign and seal of the covenant of grace like it is meant to be.

I believe it is a means of grace to about the same extent that Calvin, the Westminster Confession (XXVII-XXIX), and the 39 Articles believe it is. It is more than the bare memorial meal of Zwinglism and some Sydney Anglicans. There is a real spiritual transaction taking place, in the same way as the Spirit operates when we read the Word. The Sacrament is the Word of God in another more tangible form.

Arthur Sido said...

Is there not a place between the two extremes of rigid sacramentalism and informal meals? Can believers in a home experience the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace or must it be in a church building? Can a potluck among fellow believers exhibit the sobriety and gravity that the breaking of bread and drinking the cup demands? I have broken bread and had (non-alcoholic) wine in my home with believers and it was as meaningful and perhaps more so than a church ceremony. But I have also had meals in my home with fellow believers that were social but not at all in keeping with 1 Corinthians 11 nor would I consider those meals an adequate replacement for the Lord’s Supper. It has less to do with location and more to do with the spirit.

Abu Daoud said...

Early Christians were often, a) persecuted, and b) celebrated communion at the burial sites of martyrs, sometimes ON the graves, sometimes in catacombs (in Rome). They were working in their context, which is and was the right for them to do.