How Do You “Do it”? How Often Do You “Do It”? Where Do You “Do It”?
I’m talking about Communion, you sick weirdo. Communion.
It’s strange, isn’t it? The ritual. I’ve been thinking a lot about Communion lately—digesting, if you will. As a practicing (arguably) church-goer, I’ve been around many styles and frequencies; I’ve been doing Communion my whole life.
It recently occurred to me that I have no idea why. But I’ll get there. Let’s start with the how; I at least know that.
Generally, I’ve found all Communion styles fit into these two approaches: The “Do-it-all-together Approach,” and the “Do-it-when-you’re-ready Approach” (not counting Catholicism’s “Approach-Approach”).
The “Do-it-all-Together Approach” is the classic way. A pastor leads the chewin’ and the drinkin’; the congregation waits for his word, like a starting gunshot, to stuff their mouths with grubby bread bites; like some anti-hamburger eating competition, it’s over in awkward time.
The “Do-it-when-you’re-ready Approach” is a little looser and a little more personal. My problem with this method is the loss in community vibe (uhem, Communion), becoming more about individuality than fellowship.
Frequency is the most volatile factor I’ve found.
I grew up in a small Baptist church; we partook once a month. My wife grew up in a Friends church—where I attended the last three years and also met her; Communion there is a once a year special service. Since the move across the country, we’ve been attending a Rochester Grace PCA congregation (or Presbyterian Lite if you’re unfamiliar). They do it every week.
Like a hula-hoop, every church has their own spin.
The PCA pastor makes the same speech, every Sunday, right before he dishes up Communion: “Don’t do it unless you are a sold-out believer in Christ. This is a serious ordeal! It’s okay to let the plate pass…” and so on, warning us of God’s punishment and wrath as if we needed a reminder, and lazily referencing Bible books and passages without really explaining anything.
I’m not sure Communion needs to be that big of a deal. To me, the Last Supper speech is simply a call to remember the sacrifice of Jesus, nothing more. When we live in awareness of His sacrifice, we live in awareness of our freedom. And that’s awesome, nothing beats the freedom of Christ.
I wonder if the ritual fogs up the message.
The Why (This is where you come in)
Here’s what I got:
It’s a reenactment of the Last Supper.
Here’s what I don’t get (Please, if you know why, say so in a comment!):
Did Jesus, at the Last Supper, intentionally designate a ritual to be done, or is this an entirely man-made response?
What does Communion look like in countries without extra bread?
Does a Communion ritual take pressure off of us to break bread together in our homes?
Some questions framed less negatively…
Is it dangerous, as the pastor says, to take the ritual lightly?
Is there any danger in NOT performing the ritual?
Does Communion teach us about God in a unique way, a lesson we wouldn’t otherwise perceive?