A Case for the WEEKLY observance of the Lord’s Supper
by Randy Bushey, originally published June 2016
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Anything done too often can lose its character of being special, distinct, uncommon.
Would you enjoy ice cream and a walk along the waterfront quite as much if you did it every day?
People you enjoy but see seldom, can become a little less exciting when you spend much more regular time in their company.
Rare, exotic vacations somehow become less sensational when they become a part of your normal routine.
You get the point: something enjoyable, fresh, and novel can become stale, usual, even flat with constant repetition.
The communion service has been almost universally held among Protestants as being one of the 2 essential sacraments – sacred observances – the other being baptism.
Throughout the history of the church, the frequency of celebrating the Lord’s Supper has been debated, in part to keep the experience fresh without becoming rote, repetitive, mundane.
How often is communion to be scheduled so as to maintain its distinctiveness, and yet benefit from the mystical experience in obedience to Christ?
Some have argued that just as the Passover – the context of that first Lord’s Supper – was observed annually by Israel, the remembrance of Christ with the bread and wine representing His body and blood should be relatively rare: annually, or at most 3 or 4 times per year.
Others, seeing the essential place of the death of the Lord Jesus in the Christian faith, have sought to observe the Breaking of Bread with greater frequency, even daily in some traditions.
Calvin, the great Reformation thinker suggested that the Lord’s Supper be celebrated at least weekly to “frequently call to mind the sufferings of Christ”.
The early Brethren, the tradition from which I come, chose to remember the Lord Jesus in the manner He instructed, weekly on each Lord’s Day. In fact, at the beginning of the movement in the U.K. in around 1830, in addition to weekly Bible study, it was the primary – sometimes only – reason for their gatherings.
Coming together – often from the familiar liturgical structure of the state-approved Anglican establishment – the meetings were simple, often in an “upper room” above a storefront. Eyewitnesses observed the surroundings as austere, with chairs circling a central table – bordering on ugly by the ostentatious Anglican standards of the era.
But the early Brethren saw this modest assembly as the pattern of the apostolic church of the New Testament: simple, weekly, and deliberately Cross-centred.
In our practice, so it continues: simple, weekly, with spontaneous participation and a cappella singing – declaring the death of Christ as central to the Gospel; anticipating His promised return.
The 19th century Swiss theologian Godet said of the Lord’s Supper: “the link between His two comings, the monument of the one, the pledge of the other.”
The Lord’s Supper as practiced in this Brethren tradition often is something that believers have to learn to love – particularly those who come to Christ as adults, or those from other Christian traditions; but many valuable experiences in life are those that we learn to love. We may not recognize the value, the worth or importance of celebrating the Breaking of Bread in this way at first exposure; but as we experience the focused worship on the Person, the Work of Christ, we incrementally reach the realization that this can be used by the Spirit of God as an essential component of spiritual vitality and health in our lives.
Takeaway: After a lifetime of heading to church early each Sunday morning for the Lord’s Supper, that which as a child was a test of endurance has now become a joyful privilege, a method by which to maintain cross-centred thinking.
And as I’ve habitually attended, I’ve realized something more of the reconciliation dimension of the Gospel that Paul talked frequently about: the constant reminder of my reconciliation to God through the death of Christ demonstrates the immensity of God’s grace toward me, toward us.
How then can we not be dispensing more grace, more forgiveness, more tolerance of difference of preference to each other? Isn’t that at the heart of – and essential to – the observance of the Lord’s Supper?