Lord's Supper Service • September 19, 2021

Series: Special Occasions

September 19, 2021
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

Lord’s Supper Service

Those watching from home grab some juice and crackers


Since the pandemic began I think everyone in the country if not the civilized world has spent more time watching TV than ever before. I wouldn’t call myself a movie buff and it’s rare for me to get into TV shows, but I can say in the last year or so I’ve spent some time in front of our flatscreen.

You know what, though? Even though there is so much new stuff out with streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, and Disney+, I have found myself revisiting classic older movies these days because so few contemporary  ones are good. No, not Citizen Kane, black-and-white older movies (Rob’s generation), but awesome classics like LOTR, Star Wars (original), Stargate, Alien, Predator. I’ve even rewatched some classic comedies like Napoleon Dynamite and Don Verdean.

It’s the same with books. I’ve read more books than ever as well with a few new ones impacting me (like Gentle and Lowly) but most stuff coming out whether secular or Christian is just the old stuff repackaged or plain fluff. Like the movies, I find myself rereading the classics. The Hobbit by Tolkein. Sherlock Holmes by Doyle. The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. I read those two through every year now.

Technology isn’t all bad because I can actually listen to audio books through my AirPods when I walk and run. Recently I’ve been listening to Mere Christianity. Again and again I come across things I didn’t catch before that give me insight into Christ and his kingdom from one of the most brilliant men ever to live.

The other day I was as the soccer field doing this very thing and I caught something Lewis said about communion and I hadn’t picked up on before. I’d like to share it with you…

There are three things that spread the Christ-life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names—Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper. At least, those are the three ordinary methods. I am not saying there may not be special cases where it is spread without one or more of these… And I am not saying anything about which of these three things is the most essential. My Methodist friend would like me to say more about belief and less (in proportion) about the other two. But I am not going into that. Anyone who professes to teach you Christian doctrine will, in fact, tell you to use all three, and that is enough for our present purpose.[1]

Obviously I had read this before, but this time I realized Lewis touched on something having to do with how Christians look at what we Baptists and Methodists call the ordinances and others in the faith call the sacraments (2 of seven to be exact).  Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (communion, the Eucharist) are practiced in any and every Christian community of faith, because Christ ordered it so and because the church from the ascension of Christ to the present has followed this.

What he said about The Lord’s Supper particularly made me think about my own beliefs. You see, all true Christians agree that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper must be observed, but not all agree on what they mean or what they do. Lewis himself saw things things from the perspective of an Anglican. Anglicans believe when Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper God mysteriously conveys grace into their lives. Anglicans don’t believe taking communion saves you. Like us Baptists, they know grace through faith does, but for them communion does impart to you in some way the Christ life; it’s an ongoing source of God’s grace that fuels your salvation. So it’s more than just an a remembrance ceremony.

Catholics and others like them go much further, believing the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist) not only imparts grace but also involves the bread and wine appearing to be bread and wine while at the same time actually literally becomes the body and blood of Jesus.

We Baptists are way on the other end of the spectrum. We see communion as nothing more than symbolism; a simple act of reflection and obedience to Christ’s commands.

Some dominations celebrate it every week and others hardly at all with everything in between. Kind of helps you to understand why some do it often and others don’t. If it somehow dispenses God’s grace into your ongoing salvation experience, having it often is necessary. If it’s nothing more than a token of God’s grace, you don’t really have to have it all.

Throughout the history of Christendom people have died and wars have been fought over these very things. That doesn’t generally happen these days, but within the worldwide community of faith there is still division and even derision depending on what side you take.

Being a Baptist, I’ve always looked down on our brothers and sisters who put more into communion (we Baptists look down on a lot of folks), especially the Catholics. Lewis, among others, has taught me not to judge so quickly. One thing about Lewis was when he touched on theology and doctrine in his writings, he wrote from the perspective of his denomination’s views but never tried to convert anyone over to Anglicanism. In the preface to Mere Christianity he wrote…

The reader should be warned that I offer no help to anyone who is hesitating between two Christian ‘denominations’. You will not learn from me whether you ought to become an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or a Roman Catholic. This omission is intentional (even in the list I have just given the order is alphabetical). There is no mystery about my own position. I am a very ordinary layman of the Church of England, not especially ‘high’, nor especially ‘low’, nor especially anything else. But in this book I am not trying to convert anyone to my own position. Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times. I had more than one reason for thinking this. In the first place, the questions which divide Christians from one another often involve points of high Theology or even of ecclesiastical history, which ought never to be treated except by real experts. I should have been out of my depth in such waters: more in need of help myself than able to help others. And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.[2]

That’s gold right there, ya’ll.

So back to listening on my AirPods that day at the soccer park. Lewis’ words made me ponder and mediate on the the Lord’s Supper. I knew what it meant for sure, but what does it do? Is Lewis right? Could it be more than mere symbolism? Please don’t tell any of my baptist brethren about this BTW.

This led me to think about the text I use for every Lord’s Supper. It’s not the actual account in one of the gospels but the words of Paul in one of his letters, his first letter to the Christians at Corinth. Paul founded the church at Corinth and from day one it was a heavy burden. Those folks loved Jesus but man did they have issues. Paul’s letters to them are basically corrections to all their problems. One big problem was abusing the Lord’s Supper. It may surprise you to know the context of the text I use for every Lord’s Supper comes from a troubling situation. Let’s look at it…

17 Your worship services do you more harm than good. I am certainly not going to praise you for this. 18 I am told that you can’t get along with each other when you worship, and I am sure that some of what I have heard is true. 19 You are bound to argue with each other, but it is easy to see which of you have God’s approval. 20 When you meet together, you don’t really celebrate the Lord’s Supper. 21 You even start eating before everyone gets to the meeting, and some of you go hungry, while others get drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes where you can eat and drink? Do you hate God’s church? Do you want to embarrass people who don’t have anything? What can I say to you? I certainly cannot praise you. 23 I have already told you what the Lord Jesus did on the night he was betrayed. And it came from the Lord himself. He took some bread in his hands. 24 Then after he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Eat this and remember me.” 25 After the meal, Jesus took a cup of wine in his hands and said, “This is my blood, and with it God makes his new agreement with you. Drink this and remember me.” 26 The Lord meant that when you eat this bread and drink from this cup, you tell about his death until he comes. 27 But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. 28 That’s why you must examine the way you eat and drink. 29 If you fail to understand that you are the body of the Lord, you will condemn yourselves by the way you eat and drink. 30 That’s why many of you are sick and weak and why a lot of others have died. 31 If we carefully judge ourselves, we won’t be punished. 32 But when the Lord judges and punishes us, he does it to keep us from being condemned with the rest of the world. 33 My dear friends, you should wait until everyone gets there before you start eating. 34 If you really are hungry, you can eat at home. Then you won’t condemn yourselves when you meet together. After I arrive, I will instruct you about the other matters.  1 Corinthians 11:17–34 (CEV)

There’s a lot here we don’t have time to go into, bu what Paul said in verses 27-30 really sticks out…

27 But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. 28 That’s why you must examine the way you eat and drink. 29 If you fail to understand that you are the body of the Lord, you will condemn yourselves by the way you eat and drink. 30 That’s why many of you are sick and weak and why a lot of others have died. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (CEV)

If communion is nothing more than symbolism, then why did Paul and God take it so seriously? Paul commanded them to check their hearts before they participated in the Lord’s Supper. And not only that, some were sick and had died because their hearts weren’t right, which was an act of love and discipline on God’s part because they were his children BTW.

Here’s something else I realized. Communion was so important to the early church they celebrated it as often as they could. In one of those little snapshots Luke gives in Acts we see…

43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.  Acts 2:43–47 (ESV)

By the time Paul founded the church at Corinth, it had become customary to celebrate communion every Sunday as they came together on the first day of the week, so let’s not judge those Christians who celebrate communion every Sunday at their church. However, God will have to deal with me on those churches who do foot washings all the time.

I am not ready to abandon the traditional Baptist understanding of the Lord’s Supper. I do believe it’s a symbol that points us to what Jesus did in living the life we should have lived and dying the death we should have died. But I am also now convinced that it’s more than that. It has to be. I’m not sure in what way, to be honest. But I do know that we are blessed, edified, built up in some way as we come together to celebrate it.

We might learn something from those who see it as actually a means of God imparting grace into their lives or as actually becoming the Lord’s body and blood, those who need it so badly because they view it so highly.

I’m not saying they are right, just that we might learn something. In the end it’s best to heed what CS Lewis well said, “The command, after all, was Take, eat: not Take, understand.”[3] And that’s what we are going to do today even if we don’t fully understand.

Conclusion: We celebrate communion because Jesus said…

19 … Do this in remembrance of me.”  Luke 22:19 (ESV)

But before we do, know that it is reserved for Christians. For those who’ve had their sins forgiven and forgotten by coming to God through Jesus. For those who took God up on his offer…

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Romans 10:13 (ESV)

That’s not meant to sound mean or exclusionary, I promise. You see, the Lord’s Supper represents something so special and precious — the crucifixion of Jesus, his resurrection, the new covenant sealed by his blood, and his return —  it would be inappropriate for people who haven’t become a part of that to participate.

If you can’t participate because you’re not a Christ-follower yet, please don’t feel bad or awkward. We are so glad you’re with us! You can just observe. But why wouldn’t you take care of that? Why wouldn’t you take God up on his offer? In just a minute we’ll have a time of reflection. You can pray right then. Or you can slip up to the front row and I can pray with you.

Christian, make where you are an altar and get your heart ready. Examine yourself as Paul told the Corinthians. This doesn’t mean you’re perfect just that you are aware and sorry.

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–24 ESV)

In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25 ESV)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26 ESV)

[1] Lewis, C. S. (2001). Mere Christianity (pp. 60–61). New York: HarperOne.

[2] Lewis, C. S. (2001). Mere Christianity (pp. viii–ix). New York: HarperOne.

[3] Lewis, C. S.. Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer (p. 141). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

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