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Communion Police

December 7, 2010 1 comment

I’ve begun asking some questions about communion or The Lord’s Supper.  I know what my professors at seminary would say, and I respect them a lot, but is there something beyond what we can explain in textbooks?  I would venture a guess that many of my professors would probably say, “yes.”

In a church plant you have to walk some fine lines when it comes to church order and practical theology.  There are certain rules and ways of practicing the institution of communion that make good sense and make for a healthy life together as a church.  They can,  however, make things tricky in our setting.

For instance, when you create a welcoming space for worship where those who don’t believe are welcome to participate in the life of the body without believing, it can sound odd to then say, “everything but this.”  Now, you can say, it’s like a carrot, but at the very least it’s tricky.

There’s a part of the liturgy that invites all people who are baptized and members of a Christian church to participate in the meal together.  Confession time: I don’t say that.  I say something like this: “If you believe Jesus is the Son of God and put your faith in Him for salvation, you’re welcome to participate.  If not, that’s OK, because that’s where you are right now – you can feel free to come foreward also and receive a blessing.”

We don’t have communion police, and I don’t withhold the meal from those who I know to be questioning those very things.  I understand there are many who might say we are eating and drinking condemnation upon ourselves, but my hope is this: that there is something mystical in the elements or in the act of coming forward or in making the move with the feet and hands and mouth that creates a connection with Christ.  Is there something in the this non-Christian taking that step?  I think God blesses that and meets them there – somehow.

I’m holding the cup and as each person comes forward I’m praying for their faith and for the efficacy of Christ in their life.  What happens in holy Communion?  I’m not sure, but I’m praying for some miracle in the lives of those who participate.

Day in the Life (8/1/10)

Tomorrow’s Plan:

7:15am: Brush teeth, get dressed, eat a bowl of Cheerios and blueberries, pack up my computer, make sure I have my sermon, kiss my kids goodbye.

8:00 – 9:45: go to church building, unlock the gate to the back parking lot, set up sound system, plug in the coffee maker, prepare for communion, sing harmony while Lee gets the songs in order, fine tune the powerpoint slides, run through sermon, turn on the air conditioning in the building, unlock all the doors, put the offering plate on the front row of chairs.

9:45: prayer with Lee and whoever else wants to join us.

10:07: promplty begin our worship service

11:09: give a benediction and invite everyone to mangle the chairs I set up so that we can turn our worship space into a potluck zone

11:15am-12:30pm: eat potluck food.

12:30-1:00: shut down the church building, usher my children into one of the cars.

1:00: go home and prepare to leave again.

1:38: get into the van alone and go fill it up with gas, and buy some M&M’s for the road.

1:50: launch out alone for a drive to Lee, Illinois.

6:00: arrive in Lee, Illinois and meet the people who own the house where a concert will be happening.

6:30: sit down and listen to the musical stylings of Andy Gullahorn who travelled from Nashville, TN to do a radio gig with Andrew Peterson on Monday, but came a day early to do a house concert for a small group of people who love good music and great storytelling.

I consider this time professional development because Andy Gullahorn knows how to tell a story.  He does a lot of things in his songs that I want to be able to do in my sermons.  It’s a two hour preaching workshop disguised as a concert.  And…since I haven’t gone to any big conventions for pastors to develop professionally – I have it in the budget to drive to Chicago area and pay the $18 for a ticket to pure bliss.

9:00: say goodbye to my new friends and hop back in the van for the drive home.

9:15: stop for more gas and M&M’s and find the local NPR station on my radio (and hope it’s not the kind of NPR station that only plays classical music, because that will totally put me to sleep).

1:00am: push the garage door opener and park the car, stagger upstairs, brush my teeth, flop into bed a happy man.

If you are interested in joining me for almost any of this (you are not welcome to brush my teeth) get a ticket at this website.

Lucky Me

We eat together.  I think this is one of the things I like best about Embody.  We eat together.  We’re never fancy…it’s super-informal, but it’s us.  It is becoming a defining action of ours.  Potluck dinners…well, lunches mostly.  After communion we have lunch.  We don’t have an oven, so there aren’t a lot of casseroles, but we do crockpots and salads and hot dogs for the kids.  It does a lot for us.

There is something about breaking bread together.  It’s something everyone has in common – eating.  We all do it, and when we do it together there is a bonding that happens over the food.  The conversation is about life outside the four walls of the building we meet in.  Some kid (or adult) spills their food all over the carpet.  The kids finish early and play around the building while the adults spend time together.

All the tables are mismatched, the silverware and dishes were donated, the chairs are the ones we sit in for worship (rearranged), the weather keeps us inside or outside – depending.  But there we are…breaking bread, laughing, being honest, sharing dreams and jokes and stories about the everyday.  And Jesus is present.

Jesus seems to make an appearance where food is involved.  I think I like that about Jesus a lot.  After his resurrection he becomes evident to his disciples on the road to Damascus when bread is broken (this is when they realize it’s Jesus).  Then, while all the disciples are hiding in a locked room he just “appears” in the midst of them.  And what does he say?  “Do you have anything to eat?”  Of course, when Peter is out fishing he sees Jesus on the shore cooking fish and jumps into the water to join Jesus on shore.  And what did Christ leave for us to do? – one of the things he commanded us to do? – eat and remember him.  In fact, he used the simplest of foods for the element – bread (something found in every culture).

This is what we do.  We eat together.  Potlucks.  They’re perfect for the poor in the congregation who bring nothing or the rich who bring the normal or the single mom who just needs a break on the weekend.  Potlucks bring a much-needed change of pace for many people.  It’s not a strategy I’ve put together…It’s just what makes sense when God’s people get together.

Communion

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

In our denomination (RCA) the Lord’s Supper is watched over by the local board of elders.  We don’t have a board of elders.  Technically, we do: First Church’s elders.  I’ve asked them permission to have communion on a monthly basis.  They say, “yah, of course”.  I smile.  That’s more than they have communion.  They obviously love us and want us to have our own identity.

We do things differently in communion.  They allow people to come to the table if they have been baptized and made a profession of their faith.  It’s a process that goes through the elder board.  We welcome people who put their trust in Jesus Christ and have faith in Him.  We don’t have membership.  This means we don’t have “control” over who is coming to the table.

I am working under an understanding that God desires to have union with his people, and this is one of the primary ways we have union with Jesus…through the Lord’s Table.  He feeds us and nourishes our faith.  We are somehow caught up into heaven with Him and with the communion of saints. 

I suppose some people might take issue with how open our table is.  Here’s what I know, however: I have someone who is intentional about calling herself a “seeker”.  She’s courting Jesus right now and is a very “spiritual” person, but doesn’t necessarily believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  Sunday she came forward and took part in communion.  We didn’t have a conversation.  Don’t know if things have changed for her or not.  But she is meeting Jesus and she knows that He is welcoming her to His Table and to a life with Him.  I pray that she comes to faith in Jesus Christ, and that the Table is a main way she comes to know Him.

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