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The Lord’s Supper – Another Example (Guest Blogger)

Posted by on Sep 23, 2007 in guest blogger, ordinances/sacraments | 12 comments

Previously, I have described how we partake of the Lord’s Supper (see “The Lord’s Supper (one example)“). Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of exchanging emails with Dustin, a brother from nearby Greensboro, NC. He is one of the elders of Shepherd’s Fellowship of Greensboro, and blogs at “Grace in the Triad“. I asked Dustin to describe how they partake of the Lord’s Supper. I thought this might be encouraging to some of my readers. The following is his description:

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Here is a basic rundown of the “mechanics” of how we do the Supper:

1. After we finish our church meeting, the ladies are busy prepping the “pot-providence” :-) dishes and table while the guys are helping break down sound equipment and moving tables where they need to be for the meal. One family rotates each week on a schedule to determine who is responsible to bring the elements for the supper (the bread and grape juice). We sit out the whole loaf and a huge pitcher of grape juice at the end of the table with the rest of the food. Folks are also able to use the bathroom, etc., at this time. This is about 15 minutes.

2. We all stand in a circle, hold hands, and pray before eating the meal. This can be quite fun with 65-70 people! I (or whoever is leading) then prays a prayer of Thanksgiving for the food with a sense of joy and gladness because we are prefiguring the marriage supper of the Lamb – a time of intense, face-to-face fellowship with Jesus in heaven that will happen in the future (Acts 2:46; Rev. 19:6-9).

3. Folks get their food in a buffet fashion, and since we use a whole loaf, the believers can go through and simply take a piece of the loaf and put it on their plate when they pass through. They also pour out some juice at the end of the buffet line into their own cups. We also allow children and unbelievers to have some of the juice and bread if they want (the bread tastes good cause’ it’s homemade), but we warn the parents not to teach their children to partake of it as an ordinance [which would basically be akin to infant baptism], but that its o.k. to eat it as part of the fellowship meal if they want.

4. Once people are eating, fellowshipping, etc. we get their attention for a moment and I or another elder (or any capable believer) “fences the table” by reading and briefly but accurately explaining or reminding folks of the warning found in 1 Cor. 11:27-34. We basically explain to the hearers how the rich Christians despised the poor in the church at Corinth by eating most of the food before the poor got there (thus treating them like 2nd class Christians), and they were also getting drunk off of the communion wine. We exhort sinning Christians in our midst (esp. those who have sinned against a fellow believer and treated them contemptuously) to avoid partaking so that they can further focus on their need to reconcile with their brother and sister and with God whom they’ve sinned against. This has served to cause people to reconcile beforehand so that they can partake of the elements with a good conscience (which is exactly what we want!) We also focus on reminding the unbelievers in our midst to watch the Christians partake of this part of the meal because it is not only a remembrance of Christ’s death but also a pre-figuring of that sweet time in heaven at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19) and it is a reminder of their need to be washed clean of their sins by the shed blood of Jesus.

NAU 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.

5. Next, whoever is leading (a) Reads 1 Cor. 11:23-24, (b) believers then joyfully partake of the bread, and then (c) the leader leads in a brief prayer of thanksgiving for God’s love demonstrated through breaking Christ’s body for the Church.

NAU 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

6. When it looks like most folks are finished eating their meal, the leader reads 1 Cor. 11:25-26 and we all partake of the cup together:

NAU 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

7. We then have a brief closing prayer of thanksgiving to God for the atonement of Christ and we remember with joyful anticipation His second coming.

All of this may sound a little cumbersome, but it’s not bad at all. We have thoroughly enjoyed doing it this way and I can say that it has had a truly “sacramental” effect on our church body in accordance with 1 Cor. 10 ( i.e., the Holy Spirit building unity and koinonia through the shared Supper). After doing it this way, I’d *never* go back to crackers and a thimble-full of grape juice. I’m just too spoiled now! :-)

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I appreciate Dustin for sharing this with me and allowing me to share it with my readers. I pray that this is beneficial to our brothers and sisters who read it. If you have any questions for Dustin, or if you would like to comment on this description of the Lord’s Supper, please feel free to use the comments here.


12 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-24-2007

    Dustin,

    I really enjoyed this description. Makes me want to come visit. :)

    “I can say that it has had a truly “sacramental” effect on our church body in accordance with 1 Cor. 10 ( i.e., the Holy Spirit building unity and koinonia through the shared Supper).”

    I wanted to ask if when you partake of the bread and wine you see this primarily as koinonia with each other or with Christ also?

    “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?”

    In John 15 it talks about the fact that we are in Christ and Christ in us. Michael Card has a song where he says “We are His body and He is our soul.” In my reading of the Church Fathers there is an understanding of the Lord’s supper that sharing in the elements is sharing in the life of Christ. Thus it is a reminder of, but more then a reminder really a conscious participation in the trinity and fellowship with Christ.

    Athanasius in his treatise On the Incarnation has said that Christ assumed the whole nature of man in order to remake it without the corruption imputed by the fall. Thus in the Lord’s supper in partaking of Christ we are partaking of the new nature. There is no getting into the wedding supper without putting on the wedding garment.

  2. 9-24-2007

    C Grace,

    You’ve asked some good questions of Dustin. I’m looking forward to his response. I’ve just started reading Making a Meal of It by Ben Witherington. I hope to comment on the Lord’s Supper / Eucharist later as I read more of this book.

    -Alan

  3. 9-24-2007

    c grace,

    Thanks for your helpful comments. We see the Lord’s Supper as having a kind of sacramental effect through building up the unity of the body by the power of the HS as well as building our fellowship with Jesus during the meal by not only remembering His sacrifice for us but also joyfully anticipating His return.

    I cannot explain to you exactly how this fellowship between each other and Christ is increased, we just know that the Scripture tells us that it does and that is good enough for us.

    However, this also means that we don’t participate in the Agape meal with a somber, funeral-like type of mood. No, there’s joy and anticipation because we are pre-figuring and in some spiritual way “pre-participating” in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb that will occur in heaven (Rev. 19:9). I think this is part of the “now-not yet” aspect of what Paul spoke of when he said, “Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”

    Also, our view is that this continual seeking of more intimate fellowship with each other and Jesus shouldn’t occur only during the Agape meal, but should also occur throughout our daily lives and the Agape meal is supposed to be the weekly climax of that weekly activity. To us, this is true New Covenant living (1 Cor. 10:31). I hope that helps my friend.

  4. 9-24-2007

    Dustin,

    I’d love to hear more about this sacramental effect of the Lord’s Supper. I know you said that Scripture doesn’t tell us how fellowship is increased, and I respect that. I’m wondering if you could perhaps share some examples or stories with us to help us understand.

    -Alan

  5. 9-24-2007

    Alan asked,

    “I know you said that Scripture doesn’t tell us how fellowship is increased, and I respect that. I’m wondering if you could perhaps share some examples or stories with us to help us understand.”

    By “increasing fellowship” I meant that I don’t understand the *mechanics* of how the Holy Spirit increases our koinonia with each other and the Lord during participation in the Lord’s Supper specifically, but I really don’t think anyone does. Here’s a great quote from Steve Atkerson, of the New Testament Restoration Foundation re: the sacramental effect of the Lord’s Supper:

    Just as the form of the Lord’s Supper is important (a full fellowship meal that prefigured the wedding banquet of the Lamb), also important are the form of the bread and cup. Mention is made in Scripture of the cup of thanksgiving (singular) and of only one loaf: “Because there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1Co 10:16-17). The one loaf not only pictures our unity in Christ, but according to 1 Corinthians 10:17 even creates unity! Notice carefully the wording of the inspired text. “Because” there is one loaf, therefore we are one body, “for” we all partake of the one loaf (1Co 10:17). Partaking of a pile of broken cracker crumbs and multiple cups of juice is a picture of disunity, division, and individuality. At the very least, it completely misses the imagery of unity. At worse, it would prohibit the Lord from using the one loaf to create unity in a body of believers. [http://www.ntrf.org/articles/article_detail.php?PRKey=9]

    Dr. Eric Svendsen touches on this in greater detail in his thesis cum book “The Table of the Lord”. Svendsen makes what I believe to be a convincing grammatical argument in his book re: the sacramental effect of the Agape meal, especially as it relates to partaking from the one loaf and one cup. Since he can state it much better than I, here are his comments from his own blog series on the Lord’s Supper titled “The Significance of the ‘One Cup/One Bread'”:

    But just what is the point that Paul makes about the bread? Paul goes beyond the mere fact that the bread is a “participation in the body of Christ” (v. 16) by showing its significance for unity. There is one (heis) “loaf of bread” in the Lord’s Supper (v. 17; when used with a numeral, artos always means “loaf of bread”). This “one loaf of bread,” according to Paul, somehow creates unity within the body: “because there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body.” As if to anticipate that someone might downplay the force of hoti (“because”), Paul adds, “for (gar) we all partake of the one loaf of bread.” There can be no mistaking Paul’s meaning here, and it is doubtful that the grammar can be taken any other way. For Paul, there is theological significance in the singularity of the loaf of bread. It is important to Paul that there is an expression of unity in the body, not merely a static concept of unity; this is accomplished by all partaking of “one loaf of bread.”

    But the notion that the combination of single loaf and single cup symbolizes the unity of believers, while true in itself, does not go quite far enough. Paul does not say we partake of one loaf of bread because we are one body; on the contrary, he states we are one body because we partake of one loaf of bread. The force of hoti and gar together makes it clear that Paul sees the singularity of the loaf as a cause of this unity, not merely its symbol. This view is held by the vast majority of New Testament scholars who comment on this passage, including Wainwright, Robertson, Plummer, Fee, Barrett, Grosheide and Morris.

    The same may be said about the cup. Although Paul does not specifically assign a numeric value to the cup, the presence of the article (to potêrion) and the parallel with the loaf suggests that (as with the bread) there is only one cup. Poterion (“cup”) is almost certainly intended to stand for both the cup itself and the contents within (viz., the wine). When each local assembly gathers together to partake of the bread and the cup, the members are made one body by virtue of their common participation in the loaf of bread and cup.

    Whether this oneness is metaphysical or merely representative cannot easily be determined, although Paul’s insistence in v. 20 (“I do not want you to be participants in demons”) favors a metaphysical oneness. In either case, this oneness must be seen as an essential quality of the Lord’s Supper. Its cause (i.e., the singularity of the loaf and cup) must therefore also be of an essential quality.” [http://ntrminblog.blogspot.com/2005/05/significance-of-cupone-bread.html]

    Does that bring a little clarity in answering your question about increasing body unity and koinonia through the Agape meal?

  6. 9-24-2007

    Dustin,

    Thank you for the explanation. I enjoyed the quotes very much. Have you noticed any tangible examples of “increased fellowship”?

    -Alan

  7. 9-25-2007

    Dustin,

    I like to bake bread on occation, and have thought about baking bread to use for communion. I paused however, because I couldn’t decide whether to make unleavened bread since the Lord’s Supper was a passover meal, or to make a dinner bread. What kind of bread to you use? I’m not trying to be legalistic here, as I know you’re not serving roasted lamb either, but yeast is often understood as a type of sin and the wafers and crackers used by churches are chosen because they are unleavened.

  8. 9-25-2007

    Wow, some great discussion here.

    “Paul does not say we partake of one loaf of bread because we are one body; on the contrary, he states we are one body because we partake of one loaf of bread.”

    I think this must go back as you say to the metaphysical truth that in some way beyond understanding the one loaf is itself the Body of Christ. Thus we partake of that one Body and become what we partake of.

    You talk about increased fellowship. My parish priest just gave a sermon stressing the fact that as we cooperate in faith with the Holy Spirit and the grace of God in the Spirit He multiplies grace and the Spirit to us.

    In this God does not merely give us the power of the Spirit — that power is itself a personal aspect of God that cannot be separated from God. Thus God is giving us more of Himself. In other words through our obedience in faith He is drawing us into a deeper and more intimate relationship with Himself.

    As for increased fellowship with each other it seems to me that God Himself is love and in giving us more of himself He cancels the power of sin which separates us and increases our ability to love each other.

    The energy of grace is the power of spiritual fire that fills the heart with joy and gladness, stabilizes, warms and purifies the soul, temporarily stills our provocative thoughts, and for a time suspends the body’s impulsions.
    - St Gregory of Sinai

  9. 9-25-2007

    Brent,

    Interestingly, thought we know that the Last Supper was shared during Passover, the idea of unleavened bread is not mentioned in Scripture. Yes, “yeast” is sometimes used as a metaphor for sin, but “yeast” is used in other ways as well. In the case of unleavened bread, the bread was “unleavened” to remind them of the haste in which they left Egypt.

    I think the idea of the “one loaf”, which is mentioned in Scripture, is more important than the absence of yeast. We don’t always use one loaf, but we have in the past. There are several simple recipes online.

    -Alan

  10. 9-25-2007

    Alan,

    Yes, I’ve noted that people within our ekklesia are spontaneously getting together Sun. evenings and throughout the week for fellowship, prayer, and general mutual ministry.

    Brent,

    We use regular leavened bread and usually bake it ourselves. The Scriptures uses the picture of leaven for both sin and the spread of the kingdom of God, so it doesn’t really matter either way. My friend Steve Atkerson says,

    The Jews ate unleavened bread in the Passover meal to symbolize the quickness with which God brought them out of Egypt. Jesus used unleavened bread in the original Last Supper. Nothing is said in the New Testament, however, about Gentile churches using unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. Though sometimes in the New Testament yeast is associated with evil (1Co 5:6-8), it is also used to represent God’s kingdom (Mt 13:33)! [http://www.ntrf.org/articles/article_detail.php?PRKey=9]

    Also, the law of Christ never tells us that we absolutely have to use unleavened bread for the Agape meal.

  11. 9-26-2007

    Alan,

    What an interesting conversation.

    When possible, our practice has always been to seek to make each celebration of the Lord’s Supper unique in some small way whether as a meal or a symbolic one; one loaf, a broken loaf; one cup, several cups; member of the congregation leading, elder leading; congregation serving one another, one/several serving all, elder/s serving; congregation briefly ministering the word, elder/s doing same; leavened bread and unleavened; always juice because we were aware of recovered alcoholics amongst us.

    Intimacy and unity is a work of the Holy Spirit in us,strengthened by mutual participation in ministering to one another, whether gathered or individually.

    Am I right in seeing is a tendency amongst your correspondents to look for rules, or better rules?

    Let’s not seek what the Lord didn’t give, other than to remember Him and His precious work on our behalf, and remembering what the Holy Spirit reveals to us through Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12.

    We need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap which our recent forefathers and peers did, of seeking for formulas, designs and rules which WE can implement,and which make US feel better, when it is ALL of Him, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  12. 9-26-2007

    Dustin,

    Awesome! It is great to see believers seeing their relationships grow outside of a regular, formal meeting. It shows that they truly understand that they are family!

    Aussie John,

    I loved your comment, especially the diversity in the way that you celebrate the Lord’s Supper! We’ve also shared the Lord’s Supper in many different ways, in many different locations. And, you are absolutely correct that we must not separate from other believers over the methods of partaking in the Supper. The Supper is meant to bring people together in Christ, not separate them based on our interpretation of the Supper. Thank you for the reminder!

    -Alan