A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 49
The lesson discusses various aspects of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper, Eucharist, or the Communion meal. It explores the controversy surrounding its terminology, such as Last Supper, Lord's Supper, Communion, and Eucharist, providing some explanations for these terms. The text delves into the theological background, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. The lesson discusses practical considerations such as how Communion is conducted (served as individuals sit, received from a priest, taken from the table, etc.) and where it can be observed (in the church building, during home groups, at weddings, etc.). The author encourages flexibility in these aspects, emphasizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
I. Introduction to the Controversy Surrounding Communion
A. Different Names for Communion
B. Theological Background: 1 Corinthians Chapter 10
II. Paul's Critique of the Corinthians' Lord's Supper Practices
A. Division and Abuses in the Corinthian Church
B. The Significance of Participation in the Lord's Table
C. The Consequences of an Unworthy Manner
D. Interpretation Variations of 1 Corinthians 10 and 11
III. Understanding the Significance of Communion
A. Communion as a Time of Remembrance
B. Communion as Fellowship within the Church
C. Communion as Anticipation of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
IV. Diverse Views on the Presence of Christ in Communion
A. Transubstantiation: Roman Catholic View
B. Consubstantiation: Lutheran View
C. Spiritual Presence: Reformed and Calvinistic View
D. Memorial View: Zwinglian Perspective
V. Frequency and Practice of Communion
A. Different Practices Among Churches
B. The Debate over Who Should Lead the Communion Service
VI. Who Is Eligible to Participate in Communion?
A. Various Perspectives: Members of the Local Church, Like Faith and Practice, Evangelical Church, Baptized Church Members, or Anyone Present
VII. Modes of Serving Communion
A. Different Methods: Served as You Sit, Received from the Priest, Taken from the Table, Self-serve, or with the Whole Church
B. The Debate over Using Communion at Weddings
VIII. The Elements of Communion
A. The Use of Unleavened Bread and Wine
B. The Controversy Over Using Different Food and Drink
IX. Conclusion: The Rich Diversity and Controversy Surrounding Communion Practices
- In this lesson, explore the significance of systematic theology, blending academic insight with personal devotion. Learn to interpret biblical texts, understand how theology shapes beliefs, and fortify your faith against deception. This study fosters personal, biblical, and responsible theological growth, vital for spiritual development and discipleship.
- Learn diverse ways to tackle theological questions, focusing on Holy Spirit baptism. Understand deductive, inductive, and retro-abductive methods. Acts 17:11 and Acts 15 show how community perspectives contribute to nuanced theological discussions, promoting unity amidst differing viewpoints.
- This lesson provides insights into theological certainty levels, categorizing beliefs into "die for," "divide for," "debate for," and "decide for," highlighting essential doctrines, divisive issues, passionate debates, and less crucial matters, while underscoring the significance of understanding diverse perspectives and theological terms across different Christian tribes.
- Explore general revelation through creation and conscience (Psalm 19, Romans 1). Responding leads to God, though not salvation alone. Special revelation possible. Diverse salvation views, favoring knowing Jesus. Seared consciences don't always void salvation.
- Gain deep understanding of special revelation: history, divine acts, and communication revealing God's character and redemptive plan via Messiah. Lesson highlights Bible's key role, conveying God's nature, guidance, and transformative power, emphasizing ongoing divine-human communication.
- This lesson delves into the concept of divine inspiration in Scripture, citing 2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:16-21. It explains "God-breathed" as a term highlighting God's creative influence on words, rejecting mere concepts or dictation. Inspiration involves human authors, their personalities, and styles, conveying God's message to the entire church.
- In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of God, including their definitions, biblical support, and implications and applications.
- In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
- In this lesson, you'll grasp a deep understanding of God's character. His foremost quality is compassion, like a mother's love. He's gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving, extending favor even to the undeserving. Yet, He's just, not sparing the persistently rebellious. This lesson dispels misconceptions, urging contemplation of God's profound blend of love and justice.
- This lesson delves into holiness via Isaiah 6, emphasizing dedication over separation from sin. It challenges misconceptions and calls for church reform.
- This lesson delves into the fundamental characteristics of God, particularly the Trinity, emphasizing God's essential relational nature within Himself and its biblical implications, while also addressing theological controversies and highlighting the complexity of the Trinity.
- This lesson explores different approaches to knowing God, inspired by Thomas Aquinas, discusses the doctrine of immutability, and highlights how God can change in his attitude and actions based on biblical evidence, emphasizing the value of in-depth Bible study and open dialogue in understanding God's nature.
- This lesson covers key theological concepts: sovereignty, election, and free will. It explores differences between Calvinist and Wesleyan-Arminian views on God's sovereignty, impacting God's plan and human responsibility. Emphasis on defining terms to prevent disputes. Speaker is a "Calminian," blending Calvinism and Arminianism for a balanced perspective. Valuable insights into theological complexities and scripture interpretation.
- Exploring various theological views and problematic issues surrounding the concept of providence, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of prayer in providence, as well as the compatibility of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
- You will gain knowledge about anthropology and its biblical foundations, creation of human beings and the image of God in humans, fall and sin and their implications on human nature, redemption and sanctification, and human destiny and eschatology, including views on heaven and hell and the return of Christ.
- This lesson offers valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of providence and its profound implications for our comprehension of God's role in the world.
- The lesson touches upon various types of suffering, categorizing them into six different types: moral evil (e.g., rape), natural evil (e.g., cancer), persecution, sharing the suffering of another, punishment for sin, and suffering caused by the devil.
- Learn to discern God's will by cultivating a Christ-like character, living by moral principles, seeking counsel, embracing uniqueness, and praying. It's about aligning with your long-term happiness and godly desires, offering a balanced approach to life decisions.
- Explore Jesus' nature and incarnation. Learn how He balanced divine and human attributes, challenging traditional views. Reflect on His mission and ours, empowered by the Holy Spirit, bridging divinity and humanity.
- This lesson delves into the incarnation of Jesus, explaining his dual nature as both God and man during his earthly mission, supported by Old Testament, Gospel, and epistle references. It acknowledges the complexity of his divinity and humanity, even after his ascension.
- This lesson explores Jesus' dual nature, divine and human, delving into emotions, knowledge, sin, and his role as the Second Adam, offering theological insights.
- Learn about Jesus' life and mission, challenging traditional beliefs like the virgin birth. Explore his spiritual journey, resurrection, and more, fostering critical thinking and alternative perspectives.
- This lesson provides a comprehensive examination of atonement, its various dimensions, and the theological concepts surrounding it.
- Learn about the Holy Spirit, baptism, and its role in Christian faith. Understand diverse perspectives on its workings in believers' lives, emphasizing its incorporation at conversion and empowering influence, supported by biblical insights.
- Gain insight into the relationship between spirit baptism and conversion, the various terms used in Scripture, and the importance of ongoing fillings with the Holy Spirit for special ministry tasks, character, and as a command for all believers.
- This lesson explores the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It challenges traditional definitions, proposing that any ability empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry is a spiritual gift. The primary gift is the Holy Spirit himself.
- Learn about the theological debate on spiritual gifts like prophecy and miracles. Explore four perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor, a continuationist, emphasizes discernment and scripture while promoting respectful dialogue among believers with differing views.
- This lesson explores the Bible's view of humanity, emphasizing humans as God's unique creation, made from dust and breath, in His image. It delves into human origins, our role as covenant partners, and the interaction between spirit and body, supported by biblical passages, offering a holistic perspective on being human in God's eyes.
- This lesson redefines humans as image-bearers of God, emphasizing the role of reflecting divine attributes in all work, gender equality, and growth in Christ-likeness. It promotes dignity for all, with potential for deeper reflection as faith matures.
- In this lesson you will explore the origin of sin, rejecting dualism in favor of a Christian perspective where sin arises from the choices of morally responsible creatures. The lesson introduces the idea of a pre-creation rebellion by Satan, emphasizing that humans are called to engage in spiritual warfare by doing good and promoting Shalom in the world.
- You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, marks, purpose, structure, and sacraments of the Church and learn about the different views and definitions used to define it.
- This lecture discusses the leadership offices of a church, including eldership, deacons, and church members, and how they function according to biblical principles of polity, which prioritize following what the Bible prescribes, closely following what it describes, and using wisdom and being Spirit-led in matters it is silent about, all with the aim of effectively sharing the Gospel and achieving unity and focus.
- In this lesson, you will explore baptism's significance, modes, and theological perspectives, and learn its role in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
- This lesson provides an overview of the historical, biblical, and theological aspects of Communion, including practical considerations for its practice.
- You will gain a good understanding of death and its theological implications, including the biblical view of death, consequences of death, and resurrection and the afterlife. The lesson covers the definition of death, cultural views, and the portrayal of death in the Old and New Testaments. You will also learn about the physical and spiritual consequences of death, as well as the Bible's teachings on resurrection and the afterlife.
- From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
- By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
- Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
- In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.
- This lesson delves into the structure and authority of a church, examining different leadership models and emphasizing the overarching role of scripture as the final authority, while also highlighting the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes and the unique nature of the apostles in early church leadership.
- Learn Dr. Breshears' local church leadership principles: focus on equipping, inspiring, empowering, unifying, exemplifying, caring for, overseeing, and shepherding members. Rooted in biblical teachings, emphasizes servant leadership. The lesson discusses congregational decision-making, women in church leadership roles with respect for differing views.
- Learn about church leadership principles, roles of elders and deacons, active membership, mutual commitment, gift utilization, and clear processes in this comprehensive lesson.
- This lesson explores sacraments, focusing on baptism and diverse theological views. Baptism signifies a profound commitment to Christ within a believer community, emphasizing understanding and promptness post-conversion.
- In this lesson, you'll grasp the essence of baptism, its questions, and debates. Discover belief's role, its confession, and the link to repentance and faith. Explore diverse views on baptism performers, methods, and locations. Gain insights and wisdom for informed baptism decisions in your faith community.
- From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. It will provide you with insights into the controversy surrounding its terminology and the theological background of Communion, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. You will learn about various theological perspectives on the real presence of Christ in the Communion elements and explore different viewpoints on the frequency, leadership, eligibility, and practical aspects of Communion. Overall, this lesson will equip you with the knowledge to better understand and participate in the Communion meal.
- This lesson delves into two ends: individual death and the end of the age. It explores human death, material and immaterial aspects (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 3), fear, loss of autonomy, cremation, death determination, rewards, and urges preparation to meet Jesus, facing the undeniable reality of death.
- Learn about the Kingdom of God, its aspects, Christ's return interpretations, and key concepts like inaugurated, Messianic, and millennium kingdoms. Emphasizing humility and mission in theological debates, it prepares you for insightful discussions on Christ's return and tribulation.
- Learn about Christian views on heaven and hell. Hell is punishment for those who reject Jesus; heaven is eternal bliss with Him on a renewed Earth. Explore differing views respectfully.
Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.
A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
So speaking of controversial topics, let's talk about Communion. First of all, what do we call this thing? Because just that is, again, very controversial. Do you call it Last Supper? Do you call it Lord's Supper? Do you call it Communion? Do you call it Eucharist? There are words behind all of those. It's not Last Supper, that's what Jesus did. So we won't call it Last Supper, but Lord's Supper, many people call it that because it's celebrating what Jesus did there. Communion is that fellowship meal. Eucharist is a term for thanksgiving. These all have different things. It's not too important.
But a bit of theology, if we go to 1 Corinthians Chapter 10, Paul here talking in the beginning of verse 14, "Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to a sensible people. Judge for yourselves what I say." Here's the thing. "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation," or a communion, "in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break a participation," or communion, "in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we are many, are one body, share the one loaf."
"Consider the people of Israel: did not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No. But the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons, too. You cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are you trying to raise the Lord's jealousy?" And so on. And so, what it's saying here is this idea that you're participating in something very important is the background of what we think when we think of the Communion meal.
And continuing in 1 Corinthians 11, down at verse 17, Paul is talking about an abuse of the Lord's Supper and he says in verse 17, "In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good." Wow. I thought Paul was a nice guy. Boy, not here. He's going after them. And hear him say, "When I hear you come together at church, there are divisions among you," that goes back to chapter one, "and to some extent, I believe it. No doubt, there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. So then when you come together, it's not for the Lord's Supper you eat, for when you're eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I tell you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not."
So what he's talking about apparently is they're having a common meal with the church, and as a part of the common meal, they do the Communion meal, the Lord's Supper, the Lord's Table. And what he's talking about here is rich people at the potluck bring a whole bunch of goodies for their table and the poor family over here has basically nothing on their table because they don't have anything. And the rich people chow down and get drunk, and the poor people sitting next to them get nothing. And that reminds you that the rich man in Lazarus. If the rich people don't care about the poor people by sharing their stuff, Acts 2, you're despising the body of Christ. If you're not sharing your stuff, the rich person to the poor person, he really gets after them. You're despising the church of God when you do that.
Then he quotes "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you." And actually, we quote most often in Communion is 1 Corinthian 11. So then, verse 27, "Then who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. So examine yourselves. Those who drink without discerning the body of Christ," verse 29, "drink judgment to themselves. Many are weak and sick. A number of you have fallen asleep."
So if you do this in unworthy manner, you can end up dead. That's pretty serious. So what is this? It seems to me this is not an unbeliever drinking in a unworthy manner. This is a rich guy who doesn't care about the poor guy, who thinks he can drink at the table of the Lord and be happy about it, is despising the church of Christ. And that's what it means, "if you eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ," where people share it together, you're in a Matthew 25 great white throne judgment and you're drinking condemnation to yourself. Because if you don't care about the poor guy sitting next to you in the fellowship, you show that you don't have the life of Jesus in you. I think that's what he's saying.
Now, many people read this completely different than this. And what they say is you must examine yourself. Be sure you don't have any unconfessed sin or something like that, but you must be a member of a church or something. And I think this is talking about the rich guy who doesn't care about the poor guy type thing. So I'm reading this rather differently, but this is a Matthew 25-type thing. "Therefore my brothers and sisters," verse 23, "when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. And he who is hungry should eat something at home so that when you meet together it not result in judgment. When I come, I'll give you further direction." I think that's what he's talking about here. So how you read 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 will have a big impact on how you understand Communion or the Lord's Table or Eucharist, whatever you call it.
So let's go through the same kind of thing, practical questions. What is it? Well, pretty much we agree it's a time of remembrance of what Christ has done, looking back to the crucifixion of Christ. Its fellowship of the community of the Spirit, living out the reality of Christ's work in anticipation of Christ's returning, the marriage supper of the Lamb.
So every time we do the Communion, we're practicing from marriage supper of the Lamb. We're looking back to that Lord's Table when He took the bread, "This is my body given for you," not broken for you, given for you, "and the cup, this is the New Covenant in my blood." And those are richly symbolic, applying back to all kinds of Old Testament things. So it's looking back to the original Supper and what happened there and the things coming out of that. Is looking to the present fellowship of the church and the life-giving relationship there, and looking forward to the Lord's coming and the marriage supper of the Lamb. So it's richly undone.
Big, big, big, big, big, big question, how is Christ present? The real presence is the term, great differences. So the Roman Catholic view, transubstantiation, the elements are essentially Christ's body and blood, but the bread and wine are still bread and wine in attribute Aristotelian philosophy, essence, attribute in a reality outer visible character. So in the Roman Catholic view, when in Latin, "Hoc est Corpus Christi" or in English, "This is the body of Christ," he holds up the wafer and there's a moment of silence in the mass. At that point, everybody is worshiping because that wafer is now Christ's body. Same thing with the cup. That has become, in essence, the body of Christ. But if you were to steal that wafer, run it down to a chemist, "What is this?" The chemist is like, "It's just bread." The essence is body of Christ, but the attribute is bread. And that's the Aristotelian philosophy behind the transubstantiation.
The whole Reformation era says, "Nonsense." And I'm definitely with that. I don't think Jesus was saying that bread became, in essence, body of Christ, especially since He was there. The Roman Catholic's view to me is untenable, but I understand why they're doing it, because this is a respectful thing.
The Lutheran view was often called consubstantiation. And what Luther was emphasizing is in this bread, in this wine, in the waters of baptism, that the presence of Christ is concentratedly present in that bread, wine, and water. So it's in, with, and under the bread, but the bread is still bread. But this bread has the concentrated presence of Christ in it. So it's not transubstantiation, but there's also something special about the consecrated elements.
Calvin, who disagreed with that said, "No, no, no. This is bread and wine. But Christ is concentrated present in the ceremony, the liturgy. And so the presence of Christ is a spiritual presence in the memorial meal. And He is present there in a way that He would not be present in other places, so Word and sacrament go together because He's present in the preaching of the Word. He's also present in the Eucharistic presentation."
The memorial view, which Zwingli held for a while but then went back to a more reformed view, is the idea that there's nothing special about the meal. It's just a ceremony remembering what happened at the cross. So the ordinance is simply a memorial of Christ's finished work on the cross, nothing special in this service compared to anything else.
And so, when I grew up, very much, we held a memorial view. And I think the attempt was by the pastor of the church I grew up in, Alameda Community Chapel there in Albuquerque, was to make the Communion as meaningless as possible. And he was quite successful at it. It was done quickly, and the time I just thought it was normal. I've come to disagree with that now and that 1 Corinthians 10 is saying, "There's something special going on. This is a participation, not just a memorial, but a participation in the body and blood of Christ." And 1 Corinthians 11 says, "If you do it the wrong way, you can be punished by God for your disrespect of the body of Christ."
So I come out on a spiritual presence, the real presence of Christ is this is a meal in which we celebrate the presence of Christ in the community, both looking back to the cross and all that happened then, but a celebration of participation in Christ today, especially in this meal. And so, that's where I come out on this kind of thing. And again, this is a view where people disagree and differ a lot, but think it through carefully and do it because of reflection on scripture, not just because you're a part of a tradition. So I think there is a genuine participation in Christ that comes with eating this meal.
How often should you do it? Well, clearly, it says in the Bible once a month. It does. It has to, because my entire life we've done communion once a month. So it's got to be in the Bible somewhere, I just can't find it. 1 Corinthians says, "When you gather," 1 Corinthians 11:17, I think that's what he's talking about here. "When you come together" is verse 20. That seems to indicate it happens every time.
I think it should be in every gathering. My church does it once a month, which proves as an elder, though I'm the longest serving elder by a lot and the oldest elder by quite a bit, I have no authority. But we have elements off to the side and we invite people to participate every service. But to me, that's not the church coming together to celebrate. So we do it once a month and I'm unhappy about it. I express that whenever I can.
Who should lead? So in Anglicans, for example, it has to be a priest. In many services, it has to be an ordained pastor. Especially with the Lord's Table, for some reason that is higher than a baptism. So I know churches that will let fathers baptize sons and mothers participate or something. But the only one who can lead the Communion is an ordained pastor. Others say, "Well, it could be any leader in the church," and others say any faithful believer could lead.
Now biblically, and again in my story of Odessa, Biblically there is not even a hint of who leads the service, not even a hint. So when the Bible is silent, that leaves us freedom to be wise and Spirit-led. So in our church what we do is the Communion comes directly out of the sermon, following it, so whoever the preacher is that day is the one who leads in the service. So because I'm one of the regular preachers, I often lead the service. And in our church, the people who preach are elders, so it's always an elder leading. If we had a guest preacher on a Communion Sunday, he would probably not lead the Communion service. We'd have somebody else come up and do that, just depends on who it is. But that's not because you have a policy that it needs to be an elder, it's that who is doing the preaching. I think anybody could lead, because there isn't anything in scripture. But I do think it needs to be done wisely and well. So that's the way we do it.
Who should serve? And there are a couple of different ways to do Communion. One is what I call the Episcopal service, where you hold the elements up in front and people come forward to receive it. The other is the Baptist way, where people sit and people take the trays to them with the bread and juice. Either way, who serves? In Sherry's traditionally, pretty wise tradition, Missionary Baptist, it was only deacons of the church and it was their way of serving. And when we moved away from deacons in my Baptist church later on, it was really hard for Sherry, because her tradition being only deacons can do it and that's their way of showing their service and being served was something important, and we moved away from that. It was very difficult to go through because it was challenging her tradition.
In our church, we currently generally have leaders are the ones. We usually do it Episcopal style, so people come forward and receive the elements. So as I'm recording this, we did Communion yesterday, and I was standing up in front with another guy. He was holding the tray of bread, I was holding the tray of the little cups. And anybody, as they'd take the bread, Gerry would say, "This is the body of Christ." And I would say, "This is the blood of Christ, given for you," and be able to take it back and we'd do it together.
I've done services where I was leading, where I'd call volunteers. And what I'd say is, "I don't want the usual suspects. Anybody who'd like to do, this come forward." And one of the times we were distributing trays to people as they sit, I called for volunteers and I saw a guy come up who was seriously developmentally delayed, and I thought, "Oh, this is not good. I don't know if I can trust him to hold the trays." His disability was that serious. I though, "Oh, what am I going to do?" And I'm thinking really fast, because I don't want him to be... I'm fine with him doing it. I just don't want him to be embarrassed somehow.
And what happened is Lori, far back in the back, one of our ushers, saw what was happening. And Lori, being a really sharp lady, quickly said, "Oh." So she came forward and with him and went with him to help him do it. And by the time he came back, he was no longer carrying the tray. He was just past doing that. And Lori was carrying it, but the guy had the biggest smile on his face, and I want to be there being served by him. What a great thing. This guy who is so disabled by mental challenges was the one who was serving the community. It was great. That's what we do. Servers could be any faithful believer is the way we do it.
What's required for participation? Biggest controversy areas is right now, and you see my list of things here: members of the local church in good standing. That was Sherry's view in the Missionary Baptist Church, so you had to be member of that church and in good standing in that church. So when Sherry and I were dating a long time ago, I happened to be there for one Communion service. I could lead in the Sunday school, read the lesson and such. But when it came to Communion, the deacon came up to Sherry, held a tray out to her, backed as far away as he could, went around me, and gave it to the next person. I understood what was happening, so I just kind of laughed inside instead of getting mad. But that was her view. You had to be a member of that particular Baptist church to take the Communion there.
Another view is member of churches of like faith and practice, so you have to be a member of good standing at a church of similar view. So the Evangelical and Catholic dialogue in talking about Communion that time back in St. Paul, Minnesota, and we had Baptists and Pentecostals and such that were on the Evangelical side. And I made a comment, "Well, anybody could take Communion in our churches. You don't have to be a member of that church" or something like that. And one of the Southern Baptist guys said, "No, that's not true." "Oh, really?" I said. "Yeah." He said, "We would not allow a Pentecostal to take Communion in our church because it's not a church of like faith and practice."
I started to laugh, and I realized he was dead serious. And this is a good guy. He's a friend. He's a seminary teacher. I won't mention his name, but his view was somebody from a church that did not have similar faith and practice would not be invited to take Communion in their church. And that included the Pentecostal guy who's sitting right next to him, would not be invited to take Communion in his Southern Baptist church. Okay. Not my view.
Another view is members of the evangelical church, so you're members of a Church, and an Evangelical believes in the basics of authority of scripture, deity of Jesus, and those kinds of things. Another view is members of the Church who have been baptized, so you have to be baptized in order to take Communion. So baptism is the initial sacrament and then Communion is the ongoing sacrament. So if you haven't been baptized, you can't do it. And then, another view is members of the Church, but no further restrictions, or anyone present.
So this is a point of real controversy. For many people, if you've not been baptized, you can't take Communion. I don't find that restriction in scripture. So where we come out on this at our church, and I do this theologically, is I led Communion not this past time, but the time before I did that, I was a preacher. And what I then do is I invite anyone, and I explain it more carefully than I'm doing it here, I invite anyone who wants to have a meal with Jesus to come forward. And I specifically say, "You may not have made a commitment to Christ yet, but if you're wanting to make a connection with Him, this is a good place to do it. Come forward, receive the elements, and do that as a way of connecting with Jesus here today. And hopefully, that'll lead to more."
So we have a pretty open invitation. And so, we have children who take it who have not been baptized yet if they're with their parents. A kid coming up by himself, we never had that happen, like a six-year old. I'm not sure what I'd do in those cases. I haven't faced it yet. But we specifically invite people to not yet a believer in Jesus, "If you're connecting with Him in some sense and want to do more, come forward." So that would be our view, and others have different views.
I think nobody has Communion police, better start doing interviews before you do that. Except I grew up with that, because I grew up in the Brethren church, and there they did Communion once a quarter. And the elders went around and interviewed everybody to make sure that you were right with the Lord before you could take Communion. It was also combined with foot washing, which was another sacrament. And I was too young to be really a decider in that, but I really don't agree with that. But they were serious about it. What's required for participation? For me, anyone who wants to have a connection with Jesus, including people who are not yet believers.
How? Be served as you sit, get it from the priest, get it from the table, by yourself, with the whole body? All of the above; we do all of the above depending on the service. I think there's lots of different ways to do Communion, and we tend to do it how it's connected to our sermon. If we're talking about a place where humility and service is central, then we'll often serve the Communion to people, with people walking down the aisles and that sort of thing.
Where? In the church building, because it's a church sacrament. That's the most common view. Anywhere where the whole church gathers, so if you're on a retreat down at the coast and the whole church is there, a big part of the church, you can do the Communion part of that. Anywhere the church gathers or anywhere that feels relevant.
The question comes up, can you do Communion, say, at a youth retreat? A lot of churches say "No. There are no elders present and you really can't do it there." I don't agree with that. It seems there are no restrictions. And I think a youth retreat, if it's well-led, it can be goofy of course, but it should be well-led and reverent wherever it's done.
I know another church, Bridgetown Church here in Portland, that they do not do Communion in the gathered service, ever. Communion is done in the home groups that meet during the week and it's done a part of their common meal. And during the meal, the leader of the home group takes some bread and some wine and does Communion in that environment, and they never do it a church gathered together.
John Mark did a sermon, "How the Meal Became a Mass." There's a book with that title, and his argument is the tiny little wafer of bread and tiny little cup of juice or however you do it, or the bread dipped in the cup of juice or wine is just not a meal. And he thinks it should be done as a part of a meal. I still like the idea of the church gathering together to do it.
So I would say anyway, what about weddings? Can you do Communion at a wedding? I did one wedding where they invited the entire group to have Communion. And we were planning, I said, "Now wait a minute. You realize there will be unbelievers?" "Oh, yeah. We do church with unbelievers present. Why not here? This can be a worship service as well as a wedding." "Okay." So we did, and we had the six of us who spoke at this wedding in different ways, all had trays, and people came forward and were invited to come participate in the Table of the Lord, like you would at a church service.
What about the bride and groom doing Communion? When I do weddings and planning, my outline is that that's one possibility, because I think having the bride and groom do Communion together as a sacrament of Christ's special presence in their marriage is actually a good thing to do. And we explain what's happening here, so I think this is appropriate. Others say, "No, no. It's a church sacrament. It cannot be a part of a wedding." I just disagree. I'd say probably a third of the weddings that I do end up having the bride and groom do Communion as a sacrament symbolizing Christ's presence in their marriage. It's always gone well.
So the other kind of question you need to ask, what do you use for elements? Well, I'm caught on the side that's like Jesus. You should use unleavened bread and wine. "It's hard to get unleavened bread." "No, it's not. Just go on and buy some matzo. It's unleavened. It's a little more expensive than regular bread." "But I love the smell of fresh break bread." "Yeah, but it's not what Jesus did." You can argue about that.
"Oh, we can't do wine. There might be an alcoholic somewhere in the place that would back into demon rum if he smelled wine in the Communion service." "Show me one example of that ever happening," I say sarcastically. "Well, my churches use juice. No wine in the place." "Eh," I'd say. "Why do you want to do it? Why do you want to use wine?" "Because it's biblical." "Well, but..." We have some fun discussions at our elder tea. So we currently use matzo bread and juice. I would have wine at least as an option.
Are most any food and drink? I have trouble having Communion with fizzed out coke and soda crackers because you're on a youth retreat and that's all you've got available. One of the most interesting Communion sermons I ever heard was done by Reverend Wurmbrand, a Romanian guy who spent a lot of years in the communist prison during the bad days in Romania. And after he was released, he was at a chaplain at a western seminary. Tortured for Christ is his book. And when we walked up on the stage, there were three little steps up to the stage there in the chapel. He had to be helped up because they had beaten his feet so badly that he couldn't wear shoes. So people helped him walk up those steps. And he sat down, it was one of the most moving services I've ever been a part of, when he talked about faith.
And the thing that struck me most deeply is how these people in this Romanian prison celebrated the Communion with the elements from which God created the universe. What did God create the universe out of? Nothing. They celebrated the Communion with nothing as the elements, because they had nothing available to them to do it. And they celebrated the Communion with the elements from which God created the universe, the heavens, the earth, with nothing. It was one of the most moving things I've ever heard, because they were committed to celebrating the Communion together in their separate cells, and they could hear each other. And they did it carefully and they celebrated Communion with the elements from which Christ created the universe, deeply moving, deeply moving. I don't think it makes a difference what elements. I would use unleavened bread and wine if I had my choice. But the thing is to make it a time of deep remembrance and spiritual presence of Jesus, where it's of participation in the body and blood of Christ.
One cup or tiny cups? I know the health concerns. We have gluten-free bread available and all that. We'll do that. I would still do one cup. I wipe the cup between drinks, but not a huge problem. I will say the little pre-processed cups, where you have an absolutely tasteless wafer, you tear this off, eat the tasteless wafer, undo this, drink the sweetest garbage ever, you cannot do Communion with those things. You cannot do to the Lord's Table with those things.
The thing I would like to say here is whatever you do, make it a participation in the body and blood of Christ. The different ways you do it in different traditions, I'm not that worried about it. But I think this should be a meal with Christ fully present in there. The other ordinances, foot washing, marriage, penance, ordination, they have a place, but I think baptism and Communion are still the central ones. So that's what I'd do. Questions?
I have a question on the whole consubstantiation and the old issue. It's a quick story. I was visiting a friend who was kind of ran a church. While they're in school, they did the janitorial work and stuff. And we're having dinner after church one Sunday afternoon and the wife said, "Do you like the croutons?" And I said, "Yes." She said, "Do you know what they are?" I go, "No." She said, "I have to cube all the bread for Communion and whatever's left over, I season, leave outside for two days until they get stale. And that's my croutons." So the croutons were the body of Christ.
No is that not respectful enough, or simply does it not matter?
It doesn't matter to me. When it's in the service, it's sacred kind of stuff. But after it's over, it's just bread, unless you're Roman Catholic, and then it's body of Christ and you've got to do it properly.
So you're okay using day-old Lord's day bread.
For salad. You're okay with that?
Yeah. Once you're done with it, it's just bread.
Okay. All right.
Yeah. In the service though, don't disrespect it in the service.
But after, it's just bread. So I get these things when the kids come forward and clean out the Communion tray. Okay, I probably wouldn't do that, but I'm not going to get upset about it.
What do you think of the tradition of having community once a year? Jesus says, "As often as you do this, which is Passover, do in remembrance of Me." And I remember being in one where there's two or three days of services where you got your tickets and when it came to that meal, the Passover, you had to present the tickets to show that you had been prepared properly.
And then, you celebrated Communion. What do you think of that kind of Communion?
I've never run across that.
Yeah, that's a whole new thing. That's interesting. We do passover Seders as a church, not every year, but frequently and we have a Communion as a part of that, just to tie Passover and Communion closely together, the Lord's Supper. So Dan Sered would come in, who is head of Jews for Jesus in Israel. He'll be with us again before Easter this year. And he does an incredible Seder, very worshipful. And to the Israeli believer, he does a really good job of it. We sell out really fast when we make the tickets available. So it's a simplified Seder. It's not the whole thing. So we do that once. Yeah. There's lots of ways.