Tuesday, December 10, 2013
How Often The Meal?
“Throughout church history, Christians have celebrated the Lord’s Table in many different ways and with varying frequency,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals. “Right now, the trend among evangelicals is once a month, which seems to balance taking communion regularly while not replacing the central role of the sermon in most evangelical worship services.”All fair enough, but where is the discussion of sacrament, practice, and even habit formation? It is as if now that literacy is relatively widespread and people can consume scripture fore themselves, they do not need liturgy. But we do - badly.
Ron Hamilton, Conference Minister for the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, said, “The communion service is always a special time. The annual Maundy Thursday communion service is one of the best of the year.”
With the exception of one leader whose church serves communion several times per week and another who is a member of The Salvation Army, a denomination that does not practice communion, the other options (every other month, quarterly and weekly) received equal shares of the remaining 30 percent, according to the survey.
One leader whose church practices weekly communion is David Neff, Editorial Vice President for Christianity Today. Neff emphasizes the link to the early church. “As early as the mid-second century, descriptions of Christian worship treat the Eucharist as the basic form of weekly worship. Recovering this has been one of the achievements of worship renewal in the second half of the 20th century,” he said.
Anderson said, “In practicing communion, evangelical Christians remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many, it is a special and reverent experience they share regularly with their Christian community. The Scripture does not address the specifics of how to celebrate the Lord’s Table, so there is considerable variety in how the practice is understood and expressed in evangelical churches.”
There is something about the liturgical that is deeper than mere understanding, or simply reminder. That which e repeat and do with out bodies becomes not just habit, but deeply ingrained in our make-up.
A a student of chemistry, that which I learned is school is readily divisible into to parts - that which I studied and that which I did in the lab. The stuff that I studied, but have not continued to use on a regular basis is long gone. That which I did in the lab is with me now some 30 years later, even if I never again have had to extract caffeine from tea leaves and make my own personal "no-doze."
The liturgical is a means of doing that which we must more than merely study. It is a form of "church lab." It is vital to our maturity.