More Than Food on my Lips

Maybe this time
The bread and the wine
Will be more than food on my lips

I’m tasting forgiveness
And drinking of mercy
I feast on redemption
Tasting forgiveness

— “Tasting Forgiveness” by Robbie Seay Band

One of the things different about Sojourn from my typical church experience is they do communion every week. David had told me about this way back when — bread and two chalices, one with wine and one with grape juice. You leave your seat, walk to the front, dip your bread in the grape-based drink of your choice and go back to your seat to take communion alone.

Initially that doesn’t sound very communion-like to me, doing it by yourself in your seat as opposed to corporately, because I’m accustomed to the traditional Baptist way — “this do ye as oft as ye eat …” and everyone eats the cracker together followed by “this do ye as oft as ye drink …” and everyone drinks.

I wrote last year my thoughts on communion, that the rite has several purposes, one of those being a personal time of interaction and reflection and, um, communion with Him. I knew this and even wrote about it, yet the idea of taking communion “alone” still seemed so foreign to me. Old habits die hard, I suppose.

So with that on the table, my Sojourn communion experience a few weeks ago taught me a few things. I initially debated whether or not to do it. If I partook, I wanted it to be for the right reason, because my heart was in it, not because of the peer pressure of everyone else around me doing it. As I sat there contemplating it though, I realized that I am more likely to succumb to the peer pressure of taking it when the Baptist church passes the plate full of crackers and juice in front of me and everyone else on the pew is doing it than I was here, where people were randomly going to the front and if I went or not probably wouldn’t even be noticed. Taking communion is not about show, so in either situation the decision to take or not should be personal and not because everyone else is doing it.

Making the choice that I want to observe His supper by getting up, walking to the front and taking it, required me to desire it and to desire it bad enough to move, vs. sitting passively in the pew while the platter was brought to me. It is, perhaps, a sweeter communion that is chosen versus compelled.

In my experience, the pastor typically decides when communion is offered. Sometimes it is scheduled maybe once a quarter or every fifth Sunday, etc. Occasionally it is random at the pastor’s bidding (assumedly because God is directing him to do it). But why should the pastor decide for believers when they can or should take communion with their Savior? Salvation is personal, therefore shouldn’t its rituals also be personal? I imagine if I attended Sojourn regularly I might not take communion weekly but only when I felt moved to or desired to or was beckoned to by the Spirit, not by the pastor.

I remember one time David was down in Florida for a shuttle launch and mentioned to me that he had done communion that morning in his hotel room. I thought that was strange that one would do communion on their own and that they would “administer” it to themselves. But the bread and the wine do not have to be “administered.” Jesus already gave them; they are ours for the taking when we choose. The way Sojourn handles communion is more conducive to that. Believers could also do, as David did, and participate in cooperate communion when the church offers it, but then if they want to do it other times do it on their own.

One potential risk with having the Lord’s supper offered so frequently is that it could become routine and some meaning is then lost that way too. Regardless of whether it’s offered quarterly or weekly or daily, it’s ultimately the believer’s responsibility to make sure that whenever or however we do it, our heart is in the right place.

The point is as simple as Jesus’ own words: “… do this in remembrance of me.”


One thought on “More Than Food on my Lips

  1. Johnny says:

    Been running into the same issues myself. The church we’re attending now has three services on Sunday morning. They have communion once a month at each service. I felt this was a good balance between my previous experiences, where it was done willy nilly a few times a year, and the other extreme, where it’s at every service. I, too, fear making it a routine.

    But lately they’ve started having communion every week in the third service, since the associate pastor and some of the members felt very strongly about having that option. Since I attend the third service primarily, this has made me uncomfortable. Unlike Baptists, they feel it’s not “merely” symbolic. They feel there is a special presence of Christ in taking communion and they want to have that experience on a regular basis. While they don’t believe it literally is Jesus’ body, they think it’s more than a metaphor, that it’s a tangible way for Him to interact with us and be present with us.

    I think Baptists threw out the baby with the bathwater on some of the physical aspects of worship. In a commendable attempt to avoid empty gestures and superstitious sacramentalism, they’ve often marginalized gesture and sacrament altogether. They’ve veered very close to Gnosticism on some points, treating the physical as inferior to the spiritual and sometimes antagonistic toward it.

    But God made us of both. Jesus became both. He made a whole universe full of physical materials and forces. Matter matters. And I’m beginning to learn it must be part of my worship experience if I want to do it with my whole being.

    Any part of worship can become mere ritual. I can sing words I know by heart while thinking about work, for example. Another person can drop a check in the plate every two weeks without actually pausing to be thankful for his income. For some reason, that hasn’t stopped us from singing or taking up offerings every week for fear of their becoming dry ritual.

    I am thankful that the Baptists have taught me to enter communion with the right attitude and in repentance. And that there’s no shame in letting the tray pass. In fact, I’ve heard Pastor Steve say that very thing. Yes, taking communion every week has the danger of making people take that readiness lightly. But it can also force me to really examine myself at least once a week if i know it’s coming up on Sunday. Again, whether it is a dry exercise or not is up to me. Maybe that’s why I’ve been uncomfortable about the change at our church!

    We’ll see how it goes.

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