Categories
Christian Living

Children and Communion

Reclaim Our Practice of Communion from a Biblical Context

In their practice of Communion some churches allow children to take Communion (the Eucharist) and others don’t. I’ve seen both occur at various worship services, but I don’t know which practice is more common.

A similar consideration is the issue of closed Communion versus open. For churches that practice closed Communion, only members of their church (or denomination) may partake. All others must watch.

For churches that practice open Communion, both members and nonmembers can celebrate the Lord’s Supper, although they often place restrictions on just how open they are.

I understand the rationale for restricting children and nonmembers: Some churches that exclude children do so over concerns that they’re too young to understand what’s happening, that they’ll go through Communion as a ritual void of spiritual significance. A similar explanation occurs over nonmember involvement.

In both cases, well-meaning church leaders limit participation in Communion out of respect for its significance and a desire for only those who fully understand it to take part.

Though I understand this, I don’t agree. Let’s look at Scripture for the context.

When Jesus introduced the sacrament that we now call Holy Communion or the Holy Eucharist, he did so on Passover. In doing so he expanded the meaning of Passover to be a remembrance of his death to save his people.

In the Old Testament, Passover occurred once a year. It was a meal celebrated in people’s homes with their family and neighbors. Jesus didn’t change any of these practices when he taught us about the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament.

Yet our practice of Communion today has moved far from its original context.

A Shared Meal

In Scripture we see Passover and Communion as part of a meal, not a symbolic cracker and sip of juice. Imagine someone showing up at your house in the middle of dinner. You invite them in but don’t offer them any food. They watch while you eat.

Wouldn’t that be rude? Of course.

The same applies to visitors at our church who we make watch our Communion remembrance of Jesus. We celebrate, and they sit idle. That’s just as rude as not feeding a guest in our home.

A Family Event

In Scripture we see both Passover and Communion occurring in a home setting with family and friends (not at a church service). When Moses instituted Passover, he didn’t say that only the adults could eat. The whole family participated. The kids didn’t need to be a certain age before they could eat the Passover.

Since it’s a meal, we have our entire family gathered around the table. No loving parent would ever sit their children.to eat and then not put food on their plate. But isn’t this what we do when we don’t let children take Communion?

An Annual Remembrance

Passover occurred once a year. Not once a quarter, not monthly, and not each week, but annually. I worry that many people have taken Communion so frequently that it ceases to be a time of remembrance to relish and becomes a ritual to perform.

The Practice of Communion

Unless we lead a church, we can’t change its practice of Communion. Attempting to do so won’t bring about reforms and could get us kicked out.

Instead, we should follow our church’s conventions for Communion with God-honoring respect, while reframing the practice in our minds to embrace its biblical, spiritual significance.

As individuals, however, we can reclaim the history behind Communion. We can celebrate the Lord’s Supper around the table, at our home, with family and friends, once a year.

Look for what you can do to reclaim the practice of Communion from a biblical perspective that has spiritual impact. Click To Tweet

My family does this each Easter Sunday. (Another ideal time might be Good Friday.) We do this to remember what Jesus did for us when he died as punishment for our sins to make us right with Papa.

Look for what you can do to reclaim the practice of Communion from a biblical perspective that has spiritual impact. Then go do it.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Discover What the Bible Says about the Lord’s Supper

When We Take Communion It’s to Remember What Jesus Did for Us

The Lord’s Supper is another phrase found only in the New Testament. This isn’t surprising since Jesus instituted this practice when he taught it to his disciples at Passover.

Most Christian churches follow Jesus’s command to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:19), though they do so in a variety of ways. And many churches revere it as a sacrament.

Two common words for the Lord’s Supper are Communion (Holy Communion) and the Eucharist (the Holy Eucharist). Neither of these words, however, appear in the Bible.

In fact, Lord’s Supper only appears once in 1 Corinthians 11:20 (and two more times if you count the subheadings that translators added later: 1 Corinthians 10:14 and 1 Corinthians 11:17).

Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper

Three of the biographies of Jesus include the account of Jesus turning the Passover meal into the Communion. These occur in Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:7-23.

In each of these passages, the added subheading is “The Last Supper,” reminding us that this is Jesus’s final meal before his arrest and execution. But the phrase The Last Supper doesn’t appear anywhere else in the biblical text.

Last, in his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul also talks about the Lord’s Supper, explaining the process and teaching the people the proper way to approach it. Apparently the church in Corinth struggled with doing Communion right (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

Breaking Bread

Another interesting phrase that’s possibly related is breaking bread. Breaking bread occurs three times in the Bible (Acts 2:42, Acts 20:7, and 1 Corinthians 10:16). Breaking bread could be a euphemism for Communion or simply sharing a meal with other believers.

Should we treat every meal we eat with other followers of Jesus as Communion? Click To Tweet

It’s up to us to consider if every meal we eat with other Jesus followers is in fact a celebration of Communion. More to the point, should we treat every meal we eat with other followers of Jesus as Communion?

When we celebrate the Communion, we remember Jesus and what he did to restore us into right relationship with Papa.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Not Another Communion Sunday

We Should Celebrate the Lord’s Supper to Remember What Jesus Did for Us

Holy Communion (also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist) is a time of celebration. In this we remember what Jesus did for us when he died in our place for the things we did wrong. In doing so, he reconciled us with the Father.

His act of ultimate love for us is the foundation of our Christian faith.

Given this, you’d think I’d look forward to another Communion Sunday. I don’t.

Though I try to anticipate the Lord’s Supper, enjoy its rich symbolism, and connect with God, I struggle. I most always fall short. When I take communion, God seems distant—at the very time we should be the closest

The problem for me is the ritual. I know that some of you relish the ritual of the Eucharist. You find deep, profound meaning in its practice. I’m so happy for you. Unfortunately, the repetition of the ritual pushes me away. It serves as a wedge between God and me.

Not Another Communion Sunday

A few weeks ago, I walked into church and saw it configured for communion. I groaned inwardly. “Not another Communion Sunday.” At least I hope it was inwardly.

This church seems to practice communion about once a month. Sometimes the message connects with it, albeit in a tangential form, and other times it doesn’t—or if it does, I miss it. The Lord’s Supper unfolds not so much as a celebration but as an obligation. It’s mechanical. It’s something to check off our to-do list before we wrap up the service.

I’ve been to other churches that have Communion about once a quarter, while others do it weekly. And I went to one church that tried doing it every other week.

There they worked to make it significant, but the effect was a mini sermon about communion after we already heard a full-length sermon about something else. My mind wasn’t in a listening mode.

No schedule seems right to me. This is why, when I looked at the biblical history behind communion, I suspected it should be an annual event, just like Passover.

Frequency Isn’t the Issue

At first, I suspected that I’ve simply been to too many Communion services over the years for it to ever be something I’d anticipate and that would connect me with God. Often the church liturgy—whether a formal one or merely a rut that leaders have slipped into—uses the phrase “celebrate Communion.”

Often the church liturgy uses the phrase “celebrate Communion,” but it doesn’t seem like much of a celebration. Click To Tweet

Celebration, however, seems far from what takes place. If someone told me they wanted to celebrate my birthday and it proceeded like a typical communion service, I would say, “No thank you,” as politely as I could. Then I would do my best to avoid it.

Friday Night Pizza

Something I do look forward to in our family is Friday night pizza. Most every week we get together with our children and grandchildren to share a meal, celebrate life, and enjoy each other’s company. This is the highlight of my week.

For those few weeks where our schedules don’t align, I have a weighty dread that something profound is missing.

Why can’t I anticipate Sunday communion the same way I anticipate Friday night pizza? The reason is they are completely different. One is boring, and the other is exciting.

One unfolds like a solemn funeral march (in the way it is, because, after all, Jesus did die), and the other is a raucous embrace of family. One lasts a few minutes before we leave the church service, and the other can go on for hours as we enjoy community.

The Next Step

If only Sunday Communion could be more like Friday night pizza, then my attitude would be different. I’d approach Communion with expectation and make sure I never missed it.

While some may find offense that I compared the ritual of another Sunday Communion to the joy of my family’s weekly practice of Friday night pizza, we can learn from this. We need to make the first more like the second.

Then communion—which, by the way, started out as part of a meal—can become the celebration it should be.

How we make this happen in a church service, however, presents a significant challenge. There is simply too much ingrained historical baggage to overcome.

That’s why I advocated we bring the celebration of communion into our homes to enjoy with family and friends, as part of a meal, just like the first communion and just like Passover that preceded it.

When we do this, our attitude will shift from moaning “Not another Communion Sunday” to exclaiming “It’s another communion Sunday!”

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Communion at Church

Though we cite scripture when we take communion, we don’t do it in a biblical way

Most Christian churches celebrate communion in some form in their worship practices. Though they do this in different ways and with varied frequencies, the central process is similar.

As a basis for their practice of communion—also called The Lord’s Supper or the Holy Eucharist—they cite biblical explanations of when Jesus instituted this practice.

Three of the four biographies of Jesus give us details about the first communion. These appear in Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:14-20. Paul also recaps this in his first letter to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

These passages are often part of our modern practice of communion, either formally as part of a liturgy or informally in explaining the practice or as the elements are in your introduced.

Because we invoke scripture when we take communion, we assume we’re doing it in a biblical way. Unfortunately we aren’t. Though we crouch the experience in scripture, we have veered far from what it should be, from what Jesus expected us to encounter.

To understand communion we need to look at the occasion when Jesus introduced this to his disciples. It happens as they celebrate the Passover meal. Exploring this situation lets us know the meaning behind communion and informs us how we can rightly experience it today.

The Context of Communion

First we must note that both Passover and the setting when Jesus introduced communion happened during a meal. When is the last time you took communion as part of a meal?

I suspect your answer is seldom or never. And that’s the point. By separating the sacrament of communion from a meal diminishes its true meaning and turns a celebration into a ritual.

If we are to enjoy communion the way God intended, we need to make it part of a meal, not as a separate ceremony.

The Setting of Communion

Next consider the setting of where Passover and the first communion were celebrated. Passover occurred in the family home, with friends gathered and possibly some neighbors invited over.

It didn’t happen at a religious service or during some large gathering. Instead it was in a private setting, an intimate gathering with people close to you.

Jesus followed this when he celebrated his final Passover meal with his disciples. They met in the upper room of a home, and Jesus surrounded himself with his closest friends here on Earth.

They shared a meal and during that meal he introduced the symbol of the bread to represent his body and the wine to represent his spilt blood.

If we are to enjoy communion the way God intended, we need to do it in our homes with our family and friends, not in church.

The Frequency of Communion

Some Churches take communion every week, others once a month, and some quarterly. A few churches do communion at random times without any prescribed schedule.

So how often should we take communion? The answer will surprise you. It’s not weekly, monthly, quarterly, or randomly. There are two possible answers, which we can glean from the four accounts in the Bible about the first communion.

In these accounts Jesus tells us to do this in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19), and Paul adds the phrase, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup” (1 Corinthians 11:26, NKJV). Well how often is that?

If you want to disassociate the phrase “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup” from the annual practice of Passover, then the only interpretation indicates every time you have a meal. That means we should practice communion each time we sit down to eat.

That’s three times a day. And if we practice communion that often, we run the risk of it becoming a meaningless ritual much like the obligatory prayers we say before we eat.

However, since the setting was Passover and Passover is an annual event, it’s likely that Jesus intended for us to celebrate communion once a year, an annual holiday like Christmas or Easter.

Jesus intended for us to celebrate communion once a year. Click To Tweet

Celebrate Communion

If we are to enjoy communion the way God intended, we need to do it once a year as an annual celebration, not more often.

This gives us three principles to follow if we are to rightly celebrate communion: It is part of a meal, enjoyed in the intimate setting of our homes surrounded by family and friends, and done as an annual event.

Noticed that a church building and a church service are nowhere in this understanding. Instead of celebrating communion at church, church should teach us how to celebrate this with our family in our homes.

When we do this, we will reclaim the celebration of communion as it was originally intended, how Jesus practiced it, and as the Bible describes it.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

One Way That Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament

Jesus turns the celebration of Passover into the celebration of Communion

As the Israelites prepare to leave Egypt, Moses instructs them to have a special meal with their families and neighbors. They celebrate the first Passover. From then on Passover becomes an annual celebration.

Fast forward a couple millennia. Jesus gives his disciples instructions to celebrate Passover together. As they eat the Passover meal, Jesus adds something new to their tradition and gives it fresh meaning.

Taking the bread they’re eating, Jesus uses it as a metaphor for the sacrifice he’s about to make. Then he repeats this with the wine.

The Bible records this event in Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:15-20. Paul also gives instructions about this remembrance in his letter to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:22-29.

These passages provide us with the basis for how we celebrate Communion. We may also call it the Lord’s Supper, The Holy Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist, or Holy Eucharist. They all mean the same thing.

They all direct our attention on Jesus and what he did for us to reconcile us with Papa.

When Jesus institutes what we turned into the sacrament of communion, he fulfills the Old Testament practice of the Passover. That means he takes something old and adds his own twist to make it something new.

From this we see three key elements of Communion:

Part of a Meal

We see the practice of Passover and Communion in the Bible as part of a meal. Matthew and Mark note that Jesus’s reflections happen as they eat. Luke adds some additional detail. He records a second mention of the cup after the meal.

The key point is that communion is part of a shared meal, not an act separate from it.

The key point is that communion is part of a shared meal, not separate from it. Click To Tweet

With Family

Neither Passover or Communion take place in a large church gathering or religious ceremony. Both happen as a private gathering within a community of family or close friends—our squad. The people celebrate Passover in homes with family (or with neighbors).

The Communion Jesus shares with his disciples occurs in an intimate setting with his close friends. This shows us Communion isn’t something that happens at church but apart from it, usually in homes.

As an Annual Celebration

Jesus says we are to celebrate Communion in his honor to remember him. Paul adds to this, writing that Jesus also said, “do this, whenever you drink it” (1 Corinthians 11;25).

Though we may interpret Jesus’s words to mean every time we have a meal, the context is Passover, so a better understanding is every time we celebrate Passover, which is an annual event.

When we observe Communion every week at church, even once a month or quarterly, it can become routine and lose its meaning. Instead we should treat it as an annual celebration that we greatly anticipate and highly revere.

When we add this to the concept of a family meal, Communion could elevate to the level of a treasured family celebration similar to Thanksgiving or Christmas: a special time with family gathered.

The ancient practice of Passover and Communion bears little similarity to what we do today. I can’t ever recall celebrating communion in church as part of a meal. Communion was always a ceremonial representation, included as part of a church service.

The bread was reduced to a small bit of bread or a cracker. The wine was reduced to a mere sip, barely enough to wash down the morsel of food we ate just before it. In doing so we trivialize Communion by making it less than what it should be.

Let’s take back Communion. We can return it to an annual celebration in our homes with our family. And we will do it in remembrance of Jesus.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

Three Versions of the Last Supper

The final time Jesus ate a meal with his disciples before he was executed is commonly called the Last Supper; he celebrated Passover with them. Today, we continue this tradition in memory of him.

Though people use different names for this, such as Communion, Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper, The Eucharist, and Holy Eucharist, among others, the intent is the same: remembering what Jesus did for us.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this event in their biographies of Jesus. However, each of them presents it differently.

Matthew’s version is the one I’m most familiar with, having heard it read hundreds of times in church as part of a Communion service (Matthew 26:26-29).

Mark’s version is similar, which I’ve also heard when partaking of the Lord’s Supper (Mark 14:22-25).

However, Luke’s version is different, with a pre-dinner sacrament for the wine and bread, along with a post dinner salute with wine. At the beginning of the meal, he gives thanks and reminds them to share the wine with one another.

Then he breaks the bread, referencing his body, which is about to be broken for their benefit. However, it’s not until the second use of wine, after the meal, when Jesus refers to the cup as a new covenant signified by his death (his spilt blood), which is for them.

With Luke’s version, we can’t miss the fact that an actual meal occurs between the two acts with the wine. I think that’s what most of us miss today in the Eucharist.

The celebration of communion isn’t so much about a tiny cracker and sip of wine, it’s a meal shared in the community—all in the name of Jesus.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 22-24, and today’s post is on Luke 22:17-20.]

Read more about the book of Luke in Dear Theophilus: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

Bookends to the Desert Experience

Bookends to the Desert Experience

After the Israelites left Egypt, God gave them a 40-year timeout in the desert. This was because of their lack of trust in his pledge to provide for them as they entered into the land he promised.

This meant that what should have been an eleven-day journey, ended up being a 40-year desert experience—which for most, literally lasted a lifetime.

While their desert sojourn was marked by complaining and disobedience, there were a couple of significant bookend events to their time of waiting.

First, they celebrated Passover for the first time just before they left Egypt to head to the desert. Then they celebrate it again, 40 years later after they leave the desert. The first Passover was marked by God’s provision for them to leave Egypt, while the subsequent ones were intended as a reminder of the first.

Second, two miracles occurred, allowing them to enter and later leave the desert. After leaving Egypt, and being pursued by its army, God parted the sea so they could escape the attack and enter into the desert.

Forty years later, when it was time to leave the desert, God parted the Jordan River—at flood stage—allowing them to leave.

So their desert experience began with Passover and the parting of the sea; it ended with the parting of another body of water and another Passover celebration.

[Leviticus 23, Joshua 5:10, Exodus 14:21, Joshua 4:18]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

More on the Spirituality of Margery Kempe

More on the Spirituality of Margery Kempe

In addition to enjoying a dalliance with God, Margery Kempe’s intimate prayer time with the almighty God sometimes resulted in imagining herself participating in Biblical events.

I do not know if this was a Holy Spirit inspired meditation or more akin to a vision. As one blessed with a vivid imagination, I can certainly understand the former, but having an occasional vision, I see great power in the later.

Either way, be it through our mind or through our spirit, having a personal and present connection with past events can provide fresh perspectives and new insights that cannot be gleaned merely from a passive reading of scripture.

Although sometimes movies (I’m thinking of “The Ten Commandments” or “The Passion of the Christ”) can aptly aid us in “experiencing” the past, they can also serve to misinform or under represent. Even so, movie watching is a passive activity.

Margery didn’t watch Biblical events unfold, she participated in them.

Can you imagine helping to distribute the food when Jesus fed the 5,000?  Or been a servant waiting on Joseph when he was reunited with his brothers? Or been in the army of Israel when young David slung a stone into Goliath’s forehead?

Or been the person who felt strangely compelled to prepare a room for the Passover meal for no particular reason, only to have Jesus’ disciples later request to use it?

Rather we go there in our minds or in our spirits, our spiritual heritage is a great place to visit—drawing us closer to God in the process.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.