This past Sunday we observed the Lord’s Supper. Twice, actually. In the morning service we used the traditional method of a cracker and sip of juice. We also observed the Lord’s Supper in the evening. Though this was unofficial, it was certainly more like a New Testament Lord’s Supper. We had a cookout. There were burgers, hot dogs, slaw, potato salad, cakes, pies, and cookies. It was a wonderful time of fellowship with fellow believers. We talked together, laughed together, got to know each other more, encouraged each other, prayed for and with each other…it was true biblical fellowship. It was the same type that would have occurred in the 1st Century. We spent over 3 hours together as one big family. Many of us had attended cookouts on Saturday (July 4th) with families, friends, and coworkers. There was only one thing that brought all of us together on Sunday evening. Our relationship with one another through Jesus Christ! We had a meal together and we honored Him in it and through it.
I have been a follower of Jesus for over 12 years now and the longer I am involved in the local church the more I see the need, the desperate need for true biblical fellowship. This can and should be accomplished in part by a right observance of the Lord’s Supper. In the New Testament, believers met very frequently to encourage each other, pray together, study the Word, etc. They would meet in homes in the evening and have a meal together. In fact, it was this meal that helped unify them and remind them of their unity and equality in Jesus. There were slaves seated right next to nobility, Gentiles next to Jews, educated men next to uneducated men, etc. This type of commonality did not occur anywhere else. Only through the Cross of Christ are all men and women seen as equals. The first generations of believers shared this meal and were always reminded that Jesus was the reason, He was the focus of their gathering.
After several generations when the believers began to meet in buildings designated for worship, it became less convenient to share a meal together. It began to be represented by only a bit of bread and a bit of wine. It soon became a religious formality instead of an intimate time with fellow believers. Fast forward a few more hundred years and observing the Lord’s Supper became one way to receive God’s grace. All of the sudden there seemed to be a spiritual, almost mystical importance attached to the practice of receiving the bread and wine. This continued for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until the early 16th century when the Reformers began to question this practice. Luther moved some from what the Catholics were doing, but not much. John Calvin went a little further. Ulrich Zwingli said the Lord’s Supper is a memorial. For those who followed Zwingli’s thinking, they removed the “spiritual and mystical” aspect. However, they did not return to the roots of the Supper.
I am a Baptist. I am proud to call myself a Baptist. Baptism is important to us. Jesus gave the church only 2 ordinances, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We Baptists have gone through many inconveniences to practice baptism as it was done in the first century. We have a baptistry in the Sanctuary. We fully immerse fully clothed adults into a tank of water in front of crowds of people, on a Sunday morning. We do this because Baptism is commanded and we do not want to take the convenient route of sprinkling water on the head of a baby. Unfortunately, we have kept our conveniences when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. We no longer treat it as if God dispenses grace to us through the Supper. We no longer think that some mystical thing is occurring when we observe the Supper. But we have made it an individualized, self-focused, self-examining time in which we do not focus on one another. We do not focus on the victory and new life in Christ. More often we focus on the death of Jesus and our sinfulness. Many people are filled with guilt and grief over their sins and only take the Lord’s Supper out of obligation or expectation.
Sunday night in our church we had the Lord’s Supper. It was a meal with celebration, fun, laughter, joy, mutual edification, and encouragement. I think this is what Jesus had in mind when He told the disciples, “do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:24)