the weblog of Alan Knox

Lord’s Meal

Posted by on Jan 13, 2009 in blog links, ordinances/sacraments | 20 comments

Michael Bird at “Euangelion” wrote a very interesting post called “Lord’s Supper” about a week ago. This was his conclusion:

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].

[1] Robert Jewett, “Tenement Churches and Pauline Love Feasts,” Quarterly Review 14 (1994): 44.
[2] Bo Reicke, Agapenfeier, 21-149.

Bird also points to two posts that describe how and why the Eucharist was separated from the meal: “Why did Eucharist and agape diverge?” and “The Earliest Liturgy: Developments“.

What do you think? Should the “Lord’s Supper” be a true meal, or is the snack enough?


20 Comments

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  1. 1-13-2009

    It certainly should be more vibrant than the mere passing of a cracker and a rote prayer, but I agree with some of the comments at Euangelion that 1 Cor 11 indicates that it was more than a potluck meal. Where is the happy and more importantly Biblical medium?

  2. 1-13-2009

    I think first it has to be an attitude. It must be more than a meal. It needs to be a sincere reflection on what Jesus did for us.

    If you have it right mentally, the physical form becomes less important. I like the way a friend of mine does it at his church. During the service the body and blood are partaken of that allows for prayer and reflection, followed by a “family feast” after service that allows for fellowship and fun amongst the body.

  3. 1-13-2009

    Obviously we’ve made a spiritual experience into a ritual. The thimble and cracker aren’t sufficient, but it seems to be a little ambiguous what the alternative should be.

    Should the Lord’s Supper be a meal itself, part of one, or more like a big snack? I’m not sure.

    In Russia for house churches we passed around (a short time after breakfast) some tortillas and grape juice. We had a short time to pray privately and reflect/read, then we shared our thoughts about Christ’s sacrifice and what Christ was doing in our lives.

    I’m not sure if this is the perfect model, but it definitely seems closer than the ritualized side project we’ve made it to be.

  4. 1-13-2009

    Arthur,

    I’m wondering if the answer will be found in a “biblical medium”, or in bringing Christ’s sacrifice into every meal?

    Andy,

    I agree that attitude is important. It seems in 1 Cor 11, Paul is dealing more with community actions than personal attitude, although personal attitude certainly plays a part in that.

    Joshua,

    I’ve always thought it was amazing that God used an ordinary (“secular”?) activity (partaking of a meal) and imparted great significance to it (“spiritual”?). Perhaps this is an example of how we should live in every ordinary moment?

    -Alan

  5. 1-13-2009

    Alan,

    I believe the Lord’s Supper should be a full meal.

    Another story! During 1979, I became convinced of the above, whilst serving a small (20 members) country congregation. The pews in that very new building were very light and easy to move (far easier than the staid country folk). Prior to the morning meeting I took the trestle tables from the adjoining hall and placed them in a long row, the pews either side, and arranged all kinds of food and drink along the full length.
    An elderly daughter of a founding father, was the first to arrive with her husband, and with the loudest of stage whispers she said, “Look what he’s done to the church!” This lady was representative of most of the congregation, always chastising children for “laughing in the church”.
    At least no one rebelled. They seated themselves after realising that their traditional place had disappeared.
    It was an opportunity of a lifetime. I knew the consequences could have been dire in a traditional Baptist church, but the Holy Spirit was at work and by the end of the rather long morning, there were tears of joy, laughter and an atmosphere of freedom about which many remarked, and which remained for six years (40 members and several adherents), until a couple arrived who tramped all over what these dear folk had accomplished, in the name of traditionalism.

  6. 1-13-2009

    I think that ‘Communion’ should definitely be a meal. I believe there are two broad elements to the meal: (1) Remembering Jesus and what he did for us; and (2) doing this in community with him and with those around us. I think we are better at doing the former than the latter.

    Community with others, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, is something that Jesus is passionate about. The meal is meant to include strong fellowship, not simply individuals partaking of a crumb of bread and a sip of grape juice.

  7. 1-13-2009

    Aussie John,

    You mean that couple fixed things, right? ;)

    Andrew,

    I think you’re right. I think the church misses something important when they don’t eat together.

    -Alan

  8. 1-13-2009

    A meal can be just as corrupt as a cup and a cracker.

    A cup and cracker can be just as glorious as a meal.

    Jesus commands, “remember me” and the beauty of grace is that we can do so in many ways and in many forms.

  9. 1-13-2009

    Our fellowship has a meal after every Sunday service. However, we still do the little cup of grape juice and cracker thing before hand.

    I believe the shared meal is more of a communion than the juice and cracker liturgy.

    This first Lord’s Supper was a full Passover meal. I think we have a lot to learn about what “communion” is really about. It will take time for church goers to break from traditions.

    Just having a meal together after the service is a huge step. Something happens when you share a meal with people.

    Great discussions Alan!

  10. 1-13-2009

    The first few years of my walk I spent them in the United Methodist Church, although we became doctrinally different over the years, the people I had fellowship with, broke bread with, and shared communion with are family to me now. Every day we spent time together in fellowship beyond a quick trip to denny’s. This is more than I can say for any of the other places I’ve been since.

    Point?? I would say it’s definitely not a potluck, and in meeting in homes with other groups the meal was a time of fellowship, the observance of the Lord’s Table was part of the process and rightfully observed as such. And when observed it was taken as a time of reflection in remembrance of the Lord and His sacrifice.

  11. 1-13-2009

    Joe (JR),

    You said, “A meal can be just as corrupt as a cup and a cracker.” Yes, unfortunately, the Corinthians gave us a good (infamous) example of this.

    Jack,

    You said, “Something happens when you share a meal with people.” I agree.

    James,

    Thanks for sharing a part of your story. I’d love to hear a description and explanation of what you mean by “rightfully observed”.

    -Alan

  12. 1-13-2009

    I believe it should be a meal. Our church sets aside the 3rd Sunday for a meal together. We've done a light lunch after our regular time of worship, the Lord's Breakfast in place of a more traditional worship time, and an evening meal together. This Sunday evening we'll share soup for supper. We are also planning an all-family Winter Olympics game night to follow. In the past we've had children and adults come with object lessons to illustrate a spiritual truth and have sometimes worked together on a project to provide Gospel walking sticks for the Fellowship of Christian Farmers.
    Sometimes we use the juice & crackers, but it's all in remembrance of Him.

  13. 1-13-2009

    BTW Alan, your posts on this subject have done a lot to emphasize the importance of not only the Lord’s meal, but of how the church should function. God has used you to enable us to look beyond tradition. Thank you!

  14. 1-14-2009

    Kat,

    Thank you for the descriptions and the encouragement! I appreciate you staying around and reading my blog for so long.

    -Alan

  15. 1-14-2009

    Then there was the church I heard about in the 60’s that installed vending machines in the foyer that dispensed sodas and chocolate chip cookies (25 cents each, and the profits went to the building fund), which were used for communion. Undoubtedly an urban legend!

    Personally, I like the meal, because it gives us an opportunity to “commune” with the body also. But whatever – as long as we’re not stuck in a rut.

    Perhaps we will soon read that someone has discovered Leonardo’s long-lost painting – “The Last Cracker and Thimble of Grape Juice” and then the matter will be settled.

  16. 1-14-2009

    I am wondering if there has been too much emphasis on the word “this” in the words of institution at the Lord’s Supper as in I Corinthians 11?

    23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

    24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

    25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

    26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

    Maybe we should encourage one another to remember what Christ has done for us at every meal. If that is done each time as a family or when guests are invited or when the church is gathered together, then it would set the tone of fellowship for the whole meal. I even visited with a man, who I would classify as an non-believer, who told me that the family that he worked for as a hired man used their meals times as a family altar where each one of the family brought their needs before the father to have him help them with them. My thoughts were that this should be the way that each individual family works as well as the family of God.

  17. 1-14-2009

    Sam,

    Yes, communing with the church is very important, and lacking today.

    Clarence,

    If we look at what Paul says in 1 Cor 11, we’ll see that the Corinthians were eating together, but Paul says it was not “the Lord’s Supper”. Why? Because of the way they were relating to one another. So, yes, like you said, the way we treat one another when we eat together may be the deciding factor.

    -Alan

  18. 1-14-2009

    I know of a church that has more “communion” while having coffee and donuts after their worship service than at any other time, even though that is not what they would call it.

    As for my own church we have communion during a potluck meal, but the problem comes when talk turns rapidly to politics rather than caring and concern for one another.

  19. 1-14-2009

    Roger,

    Yes, the problem is that we don’t want to – or just don’t – talk about what edifies us. We prefer to keep our conversations supercial and trivial.

    -Alan

  20. 10-10-2010

    Where did my comments go? Ralph Hewlett