Thursday, October 8, 2009

Woah... Statement about Communion Shocks Me...

So... a professor at my husband's seminary is a fantastic teacher, and I have audited his class and follow his blog, Sviegland. I have a very high respect for him. This is a clip of his blog today:

Not long ago a young man contacted me with concerns over his church’s apparent teaching and practice of communion. He reported that the pastor of their church taught that the biblical Lord’s Supper was never intended to hold a special place in church worship. Rather, the Lord’s Supper, he said, was any meal that believers enjoyed together. In fact, that Bible Church pastor boldly asserted that the traditional in-church observance of the Lord’s Supper is a “bastardization” of its original intent (these are his words, not mine!). And he added that he partook of the Lord’s Supper three times a day—whenever he broke bread with fellow believers at breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

This radical teaching sounded strange to my friend. And rightly so! All his life he had been taught that the Lord’s Supper was a special, solemn rite of the covenanted church community—an integral and special part of Christian worship. So, unsure of how to handle the situation at his church, he called me for advice. My response to him was simple: confirm that this was really what the pastor taught . . . then leave that “church” and bring as many people with him as he could.

For those of you who know my view on local church commitment, this may sound shocking. I can count on one hand the times in my life I’ve recommended that people actually leave their local churches. (See my essay, “Leaving Church” here.) However, when a church’s leadership intentionally tampers with a foundational Mark of the local church, that organization comes dangerously close to losing its legitimacy as a true biblical church.

I agree with Dr. Sviegel that this pastor has an incorrect view of communion. Thing is, that view sounds similar to things I think I've heard my pastor say, though the official view of the church is solid in the importance of communion. My pastor's comments about communion and the fact that I can't go to the communion service because I work at the youth group has bothered me for a long time. The advice to leave the church is rather striking and sobering to me.

I will be thinking on this and pondering it today. Your thoughts?


Amy said...

Wow, thought provoking! My views on the Lord's Supper are sort of all over the place these days.

Coming from the Catholic Church, Holy Communion was something that not only had to be done in the context of corporate worship, it could only be done in the context of Holy Mass, by an ordained priest in good standing, having used all the proper words and actions such that the bread and wine were validly and legitimately changed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. Phew!

Having moved to a Presbyterian church, I still believe that the bread and wine are really the body and blood, and I am troubled by trying to make Communion a merely symbolic act. But beyond that, I am no longer sure of how it all works. It's mysterious to me.

I don't think it is right to say that ANY meal we share with believers is the Lord's Supper, because it is clear that Jesus is intending this ritual to be a special remembering of that particular night.

However, once you get away from the sacerdotal hierarchy of the Catholic and Orthodox churches wherein ordination is in iteslf a sacrament that confers special abilities, I begin to question why the Lord's Supper can only be done in church by an ordained pastor. What is it about the theology of the Lord's Supper that prevents believers from celebrating together in their own home? I think bread and wine must be present, but why can it not be in the context of a larger meal?

I don't know the answers to these questions, so insights from you and from other people would be helpful. :)

Lauren R said...

Hey Kacie,
I'm pretty sure that's not Watermark's stance on the Lord's Supper. I wasn't certain, so I went to the website and here's what it says: "We believe the Lord's supper is a memorial of Christ's death, the elements being symbols of His body and blood. We believe every Christian has a right to partake of the elements of the Lord's Supper but that participation must always be preceded by solemn self-examination."

How would you interpret that? The end part makes me think they would not consider it an everyday type event, like that pastor said. I'm not sure though.

Kacie said...

Yeah, Lauren, I feel like I hear two things from church - one is the actual practice and stated belief of the church, and the other is what Todd says. I'm pretty sure I've heard Todd say something very close to what is written above, which is why this post from Dr. Sviegel stunned me so much.

I guess as I thought about it over the last couple of hours I would say - that's exactly WHY we don't have just a pastor - we have pastors, elders, etc. When one person is perhaps a little off on a point of theology, the body should counteract. And - if this is what Todd thinks (and I could be wrong!), then I'm glad the defined church view isn't quite so extreme!

Amy - yeah, I don't know exactly how to pin down what I think either, but I DO know that it's important, very important, and that remembering the death of Christ with repentance and worship is a responsibility of the Church - and that's with the very minimum definition of the eucharist. I guess I'd say, like you, that it could possibly be done outside of the church - but it's not the same as just any other meal! Hmm..