the weblog of Alan Knox

Community becomes ceremony

Posted by on Feb 27, 2009 in blog links, community, fellowship, ordinances/sacraments | 7 comments

In commenting on a passage from Charles Spurgeon (which I quoted in a post called “Spurgeon’s ‘Building the Church’“), Arthur at “the voice of one crying out in suburbia” has made some excellent observations in a post called “On the Lord’s Supper and genuine, Biblical Christian fellowship“. First, read the Spurgeon quote, either on Arthur’s post or mine, then read Arthur’s comment:

That is a far cry from how we break bread with one another today. I think that the problem with the prior post on denying the table to Christians is that we are not talking about the Lord’s Supper in the same frame of reference that the Bible speaks of the Supper. We see the Lord’s Supper, the fellowship, the breaking of bread as being something that is reserved for formal, organized meetings “at church”, on schedule and in the proper format. Nothing could be further from the Bible. We have lost the sense of the Supper being an act of worship, of fellowship, of community among the redeemed. It is now a ceremony, a function, a sacrament. We are poorer as a people for it and the Supper is less meaningful because of it.

Again, this is not to discount the need for and the value of corporate gathering and worship. We have been in fellowship with other believers in a corporate setting every Sunday since we moved, often multiple times on Sundays. But we as the Body of Christ have so modified the idea of Christian fellowship and the breaking of bread and worship from how it appears in the Bible that I fear that we are doing a lot more tradition following than we are Bible following. Especially from those of us who are Reformed, who believe in the inerrancy, perspicuity and sufficiency of the Bible. We, of all people, should seek in the spirit of semper reformanda to constantly test what we believe and what we do with the words of Holy Writ and not let our theology and practice be dictated by tradition or culture or confessions, but instead be guided by the Word of God. What is tragic is that being “Reformed” seems to require greater and greater form and structure. What is ironic is that being “Reformed” is looking less and less like a reformation and more and more like what Christians were trying to reform in the first place.

Are we willing to admit that we’ve replaced community with ceremony? Are we then willing to move beyond ceremony and seek true community in Christ?


7 Comments

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  1. 2-27-2009

    Are we willing to admit that we’ve replaced community with ceremony? I think some will, but the majority won’t question tradition and ceremony. I just don’t believe the question would even occur to many folks. People in general are most comfortable with their traditions; they don’t have to think or change. Authority could be an issue as well. I don’t get the impression that church authority is routinely questioned, especially as it relates to ceremony.

    Are we then willing to move beyond ceremony and seek true community in Christ? I’m sure some are, but how would you define “true community”?

  2. 2-28-2009

    Alan,

    I agree with Jeff Nelson’s comments. In addition to his comments I would say that the reason most will not question tradition and ceremony is that they believe what they are told by “church” leadership. Also, they will never bother to check out the scriptures for themselves.

    Blessings,
    Gary

  3. 2-28-2009

    Jeff and Gary,

    I think you’ve both made some great observations. My questions were primarily addressed to those of us who do recognize that ceremony has replaced community. I, for one, am ready to move past ceremony and seek community.

    What is community? That’s a huge question. I’ve addressed that occasionally on this blog. I would say that the community we should seek is the commonality we have in Jesus Christ, and living in that common relationship – primarily, living as family with God as our father.

    -Alan

  4. 2-28-2009

    Jeff,

    “I just don’t believe the question would even occur to many folks”

    That really is the crux of it. People don’t ask the question because asking the question doesn’t even occur to them. Of course we do it this way! Well, why? Ummmm….

    As Alan warned me, asking why can lead to some people getting really uncomfortable.

  5. 2-28-2009

    why?

  6. 2-28-2009

    Why is community the antithesis to “ceremony”?

  7. 2-28-2009

    Josh,

    Ceremony is not the antithesis of community. Ceremony becomes a problem when ceremony replaces community.

    -Alan