There is nothing as precious in worship as the Eucharist. I admit that I don’t have a full bodied understanding of this event, but I know that when I walk away from it I feel changed. When I was in Pentecostal circles we celebrated Eucharist (or “Communion” or “the Lord’s Supper”) on special events like New Year’s Eve. In retrospect, this seems gnostic. Eucharist reminds us that Christ has redeemed the material world in his death, burial, and resurrection. To participate in a physical rite is to honor that reality.
Currently, I am part of an assembly that does Eucharist once a month. I have been part of communities that do it weekly. I have been part of communities that do it a few times a year. After this breadth of experience I wish I could have it every week (though once a month is good)!
There are two things about Eucharist that seem (to me) to make it a perfect element to every Sunday. First, it causes every gathering to end with Christ at the center. For instance, this morning my pastor preached on Samson, but he ended with Christ. Something seems very, very right about this. There is nothing that makes a sermon as great as returning to our Lord and Messiah. Even if there are aspects of the text read or the exposition given that frustrate or concern the listener ending with Christ makes the main thing the main thing. The Eucharist following the sermon makes Christ physical.
Second, I think it brings the people of God into unity. We Christians can be fickle. We may be distracted by our distaste for the songs selected. We may be upset with a point made in the sermon. We may have someone in the room who said something harsh to us beforehand. When we come to Eucharist at the end of the gathering we are forced to embrace the death that brings us together. In Christ’s death all our sins of selfish religion are absolved. We are invited to leave as one in our Lord.
I know some do not like a sacrament that celebrates the breaking of a human body and the shedding of human blood. I do. Our world is violent. I have no qualm with atonement theories that emphasize death and sacrifice. I know why some do, but I don’t. I don’t struggle with the idea that I deserve death for my sinful deeds. Maybe some think they do more good than evil. I know that is not true of me. I have evil thoughts and do evil deeds daily. While I don’t know how Christ’s death satisfied the Father I affirm that it did and I come to the table in thankfulness for Christ, my sacrifice and my high priest.
Evil is violent. Death is violent. It makes all the sense in the world that Christ swallowed evil and death by being trampled upon in violence. Only in Christ conquering violence as he did can I find reason to abstain from using violence to obtain my own purposes. I can relax in the will of the Father because he gave his son to violence to conquer violence so that violence does not have the final word.
Brian, I remember the first church I regularly attended outside the Pentecostal one I grew up in. It was a reformed (not Calvinistic), CMA (although emergent) church. We took part in the Eucharist every Sunday. Before anybody said anything to me, something resonated within me strongly: I love partaking in the Eucharist every Sunday! It surely is the richest spiritual experience I’ve ever partaken in.
@Daniel: You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see more Pentecostal/Charismatic churches include a robust Eucharist into their worship every week. I think would bring balance and health to a more free-style form while preserving their unique elements.
I agree. When I church plant in the future, I want it to be with the A/G. With that said, something I want to emphasize and work at building with this church community is liturgy. I think a Pentecostal community with it’s freedom and practiced liturgy would be something beautiful.
On top of that, it would refocus the individualistic propensity within Pentecostal circles and make us more of an ecclesiastic community participating in divine koinonia!
Very good thoughts. As I come to try to understand the many facets of what it means to live with Christ, the Father and the Spirit, this is something good to ponder. I appreciate that communion is given at the church I attend every week, as well. One thing I would love, and I have to see if this done at my church, is to have a space (like a chapel, I suppose) that is open every day and every hour for those who want to come and pray and take of communion. I think many (or all?) Catholic parishes have their place of worship open for this purpose. I have found this very freeing and comforting.
@Daniel: You’re 100% correct that it would combat that tendency in Pentecostal worship. One of the major downsides to Pentecostal worship is how anti-sacramental it has become. For the Eucharist to suffer shows that it has gone too far. A major corrective is needed.
@Mitra: I don’t know if the RC have a place open every day, but it makes sense. I see JohnDave posting frequently that he is at Mass and so I know that Mass occurs several times a week.
In my last church, where I participated in the worship planning, we had a period of time when we did eucharist weekly. But because of a lack of teaching around the eucharist and some anti-sacramental feelings we went back to monthly. I was pretty disappointed about that. One of the main things I miss about my current church is that we only do eucharist quarterly and not during Sunday morning worship. It is always during a week night special service. While I appreciate the concept of setting aside the eucharist as important, the many people don’t or can’t come to the weeknight services and so only a relatively small subset of the church participate in the eucharist even quarterly.
@Brian, these days I feast on it every Sunday. I’m totally in full agreement with you, man. The common objection by some that regularity takes away it’s value is really a failure to understand the Table as a means of grace.
There’s a beautiful irony in the violence of the Cross as portrayed in the Eucharist. Violence becomes beautiful.
@Adam: I’ve come to see traditions that rarely do Eucharist as not seeing it as important. I know the logic behind making it occasional, but I think the same can be said of singing or homilies. Few churches would do four sermons a year in fear of it becoming common place.
Most Catholic parishes have Mass everyday. Some will also have a Eucharistic Adoration chapel as well, which is typically open 24 hours. There, the faithful are able to come a pray before the Eucharist (either in the Tabernacle or exposed in a Monstrance) at any hour of the day. Also, people will sign up and commit to praying there during a particular hour each week, thus the chapel would never be left empty.
“I know some do not like a sacrament that celebrates the breaking of a human body and the shedding of human blood.”
This in fact is the point. It speaks first of death … then of life, for life is in the blood!
New Living Translation (NLT)
11 for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible.
@Timothy : Thank you for the update on the frequency of the Catholic mass.
@Nancy : Agreed.
oi vey-“the breaking of a human body”-thinking the body is “given for you.” but anyway…communion doesn’t happen without “examination/confession” (! Cor 11:28) of the heart if done biblically as I recollect. That examination creates a space for restoration and forgiveness in the body as church before God as self. Communion saves us as members of the body in the sense that the individual reflection and encounter with Christ in the bread and cup is sanctifying-a setting of ourselves aside to Christ in purity. The more often the practice the more often the confession, penance, and sanctification from sinful habits of the heart. So it is indeed the more the better. It seems difficult to have communion 1x/month and properly examine the heart for ill habits over 30 days. I forget my sins almost as fast as I commit them but it could be my age.
We partake in the Eucharist the first Sunday of every month at my (Pentecostal) church and then whenever else it suits us. E.g., we partook last Thursday evening at corporate prayer. I had the pleasure of teaching on the Eucharist the night before and then two weeks before that. A few months back I also had an opportunity to preach a Sunday service with the topic being the Eucharist, of which we partook. I’m happy to say that nearly my entire church is convinced of the real presence of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine (well, juice for us). Most of the members (especially my pastor) will testify that the experience has been so much more personal and intense since coming to view the Eucharist in this way.
@Jerome: I forget my sins as fast as I commit them at my age as well…and I’m only twenty-nine. I like your insight here. The Eucharist does draw us into a place of repentance before God in Christ.
@Nick: I find it exciting that a Pentecostal congregation has come to see Eucharist this way!
Comments are closed.