"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting."

- The Apostle's Creed
The Church: The Lord's Supper

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 [4] you. Do this in remembrance of me.' 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.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

- 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)
This is the seventh post in this continuing survey/series on church methods and practices. This one concerns communion, or what we call the Lord's supper.

My understanding is that in the early centuries of the church, celebrants took the Lord's supper every Sunday. Catholics still do. I am not versed enough in church history (although I'm attempting to remedy that) to know when this practice changed, but my guess is that if you are a protestant, you probably don't receive communion at every church service. Why did the practice change? Was it part of the Reformation, and if so why?

How does your church do communion? Do you use wine or grape juice (or just a wafer and no drink)? Is there anything special or unique your church does regarding communion that you'd like to share? What restrictions do you have on who can partake?

What does partaking in the Lord's supper mean to you?

Leave your responses in the comments thread. And have a great Sunday!

Previous posts in this series:
The Church: Worship Style
The Church: Benevolence
The Church: Governance and Democracy
The Church: Governance
The Church: Small Group Format
The Church: Preaching Style

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Comments on "The Church: The Lord's Supper":
1. Kansas Bob - 01/29/2006 2:41 am CST

On Good Friday in 1976 I took communion in my living room in Houston at the urging of a televangelist and my life has never been the same. With my wife I partook of a broken hamburger bun and some apple juice. This was not my first communion ... I was raised in the Episcopal tradition and took communion many times ... but this was a heart sacrament unlike any I had ever taken ... it changed my life. So, I guess my thinking is that, when the heart is open, communion can change your life ... there is healing for the soul in this most holy communion ... even when the bread and wine are a bit unorthodox.

2. Milly - 01/29/2006 7:42 am CST

The Church Of Christ have it every Sunday. My church home uses grape juice and a very small cracker. You are to be baptized first. I don't agree with that completly, is it actually spelled out in the bible? I also feel that you can take it when ever and where ever you feel it is needed. We had it at a Christmas Eve service and then again Christmas morning.

3. Ellen - 01/29/2006 7:56 am CST

At our church (a close-to-mega-size) the elders and pastors stand at the intersections of seating with a loaf and tray of the little cups. It's normal bread and we each break off a little piece, take a cup (of juice) and go back to our seats so that we can eat together.

The topic of communion is one that I've been looking at a lot lately. (Sounding like a commercial again) - "Paedofaith" raised a lot of questions for mequestions for me.

I believe that paedobaptism is correct - but then what about communion? Do we welcome a child into the covenant family - but then refuse to let him(orher) eat at the table?

At this point I believe that a child that has been baptized into the covenant family should have the right to eat at the table (take communion).

;-)

4. Manders - 01/29/2006 8:06 am CST

We go up to the front one row at a time, break off a piece of bread, and get a little thimble cup of wine. Kind of an interesting system, but it works (so far). We don't do paedocommunion, but you do have to be a baptized Christian (it doesn't matter which denomination, though).

5. Manders - 01/29/2006 8:07 am CST

Oh, yeah, De: That passage gets quoted by our pastor every week before we do Communion--I've almost got it memorized. ;)

6. De - 01/29/2006 8:24 am CST

Thanks Manders - what church do you go to?

And is it real wine? You're back in the U.S. now, I believe - do you have to be of age to receive the wine, or is it somehow protected because it's such a small amount.

Intrigued.

Kansas Bob - that's a great story! Thanks!

7. Daniel - 01/29/2006 8:43 am CST

How does your church do communion?
Every sunday, mostly in the middle of the service.

Do you use wine or grape juice (or just a wafer and no drink)?
Grape juice and cracker-type bread.

What restrictions do you have on who can partake?
Anyone who has accepted Christ as Savior can partake.

What does partaking in the Lord's supper mean to you?
Remembering that Christ was bloodied and killed because of my sins (as i eat the bread) and then remembering that His blood has forgiven me (as I drink the juice.)

8. dbd - 01/29/2006 8:46 am CST

This is something else the church I attend does very strangely. They almost always hold communion, but then sometimes they don't, and whenever they don't the pastor allows as how he wishes he could but they're not allowed to on that particular day.

I'm usually too shy to talk to anybody there, but I did ask about this, and Jeff (the pastor) only increased my bewilderment by saying they could do it all they time if they wanted to, and they do want to, but it would cause some kind of trouble.

The whole thing is opaque to me. But I wish they did it all the time because I've always found communion very powerful, even when I was just a ten-year-old dumped in a Catholic school.

9. Lars Walker - 01/29/2006 11:34 am CST

I have been told (I haven't researched it) that American churches went to monthly Communion during pioneer days. Back then ministers on the frontier rode circuits, and were not available to officiate every Sunday. So Americans got into the habit of only having it about once a month, and many have retained that pattern.

10. Kevin - 01/29/2006 1:14 pm CST

Current church: Crackers and thimbles of grape juice monthly.

Favorite church: One loaf and one cup of wine. As each was passed around the room, each person made a declaration remembering the Lord as He is, as He was on earth, or as we will know Him in the new earth. It was very "alive". That kind of service takes too long to do very often, but we did do it almost monthly.

11. Weekend Fisher - 01/29/2006 3:43 pm CST

My church does closed communion (members and those in full doctrinal agreement). We kneel at the rail and have those annoying little stamped wafers and a sip of wine from our choice of the little glass thimble-cups or the common cup. I liked the communion practice better at a previous church where we actually shared a common loaf which was broken and we each received a piece.

Somebody asked about the legalities of children having wine in the U.S. I don't know the details of the law but I know it's not a legal problem, forget whether that rides on the parent's consent or the tiny amount or what.

I've heard one church allow young children at communion. The criteria I've heard discussed were 1) recognition of Christ's body, and 2) ability to self-examine in at least some basic way.

12. Suz - 01/30/2006 1:40 am CST

We have communion every Sunday, with 2 Eucharists on Wednesdays. Real wine, communion wafers. I prefer real bread, so long as it is fresh. I've received bread at communion that was stale enough to distract me from the Sacrament in a significant way!

We offer communion to all who are baptized, including children. God can effect His work in all kinds (speaking both in terms of humanity and of the sacramental elements ).

My personal understanding of the Sacrament is that it is both a memorial and a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. In receiving the Body and Blood, physically and spiritually, I am transformed by mystical union with Christ and with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church which is Body.

13. RobS - 01/30/2006 2:08 am CST

In the two Evangelical churches I have been a member of (in Britain, one from a Congregational tradition, the other Baptist) Communion is held twice monthly after a main service, one in the morning and the other in the evening. The only qualification for receiving communion is a profession of trust in Jesus as Saviour (i.e. recognizing the body of the Lord). The bread is an ordinary loaf, the "wine" (grape juice) is served in thimble glasses. The elements are served by stewards, with the partakers remaining seated.

At my current chuch, the bread is always eaten as soon as it is recieved, but we wait until everyone has been served with the wine and drink together. I've never understood why; I'm not aware of any spiritual symbolism. In some ways, it could be more symbolic to receive the wine individually (as we are individually saved through faith in Jesus' blood) and eat the bread together (as we are together members of Christ's body). At the previous church, it was sometimes one way round and sometimes the other, as the leader felt led, which kept everyone on their toes.

14. Danny Kaye - 01/30/2006 2:22 am CST

Two things to say:
1) My congregation has communion every Sunday by having someone share a thought about the cross of Christ, after which he would pray for the bread, and the trays, each with a few pieces of homemade bread (usually just a basic pie dough) would be passed around. And then he will pray for the cup, after which the trays with thimble-sized cups of grape juice are passed around.

2) (You learned ones are gonna have a feild day with this...)

I find nothing biblical about the way communion is taken these days.

I believe communion is one of the greatest bits of wisdom the Lord ever shared with us. Its purpose is to keep us fully before the cross.

Going before the cross of Jesus will do nothing but help us regain a potentially lost focus on, and gratitude for, our saviors' sacrifice. And Scripture states that it must be done with all of our hearts so as not to have this happen to us:
"That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep." (1 Cor. 11:30)

I find nothing in the scriptures that tells me that I should only take communion once a week. But I find a couple which mention that some seemed to have done that. So not being convinced there's a standard specifically laying out as to how often, then at least once a week is a good start. But feel free to take a communion whenever you feel you are losing focus!

And I find nothing in the scriptures that teaches that the Bread has to be unleavened. Sure, the OT was specific. But the NT is silent about it.

And I find nothing in the scriptures about having this tiny little piece of bread to break off and eat. Scriptures leads me to believe that communion was taken as part of a full meal, sometimes at someone's house.

I am not saying that we are doing it wrong. I believe with all my heart that the only part the Lord cares about is our focus on the cross. God never takes His focus off of it. It is the center of everything He has ever done for us. He expects us to be imitators of Him in that way. Don't get caught up in the nitty-gritty how-tos. Just keep focused on the cross and we'll never loose our gratitude or humility.

OK...go ahead. :-)

15. Danny Kaye - 01/30/2006 2:24 am CST

that should be field day...
[walks away thinking "stupid, stupid stupid"]

16. jen - 01/30/2006 2:24 am CST

My church does communion once a month and it also includes an opportunity to be annointed with oil in prayer at the back of the sanctuary.

We have many "servers" at the heads of each aisle, holding a plate with wafers and a goblet of juice. Partakers come up at they feel led, take a wafer and dip it in the goblet.

It is for true Christians only and our pastor explains it clearly and well.

I love the Lord's Supper and we made sure to have corporate communion as a part of our wedding service. We wanted it as our first act of worship after we said our vows.

17. Milly - 01/30/2006 3:27 am CST

Danny Kaye,
Thank you. I think you're right keep the focus on the cross. Forget what man has decided on. It's about the cross.

18. Lee Anne Millinger - 01/30/2006 5:41 am CST

Currently my church (PCUSA) has communion about every 6 weeks (9 dates this year). As chairman of Worship & Music Committee, I managed to get Session to go along with monthly communion in 2005. Can you believe I had people asking me why I wanted to have it so often? Old habits are hard to break. I was astonished that these older Christians were so ignorant of the spiritual nourishment received at the Lord's Supper.

Most times, we have regular bread, cubed, served with thimble cups of grape juice. It is served to people in the pews. We hold the elements until all are served and take them together. Only elders and deacons may serve (they may be active, or currently off Session.)

Anyone who professes faith in Christ as Lord and Savior may take Communion.

I LOVE Communion. To me, it is remembering the Lord's death, a foretaste of the marriage feast of the Lamb, a sharing with all those believers in all places and all times at the same table, it is also spiritual nourishment by way of Christ's Presence at the table and in the elements.

19. Shrode - 01/30/2006 6:20 am CST

Every now and then, just to get my wife's goat, I say, "I'm thinking that we'll do a common cup for the Lord's Supper this Sunday." And she says...
"Are you kidding? That's gross!" And you know, having seen people take cups from their lips with a string of saliva still connected...it kind of is.

20. Tim - 01/30/2006 7:07 am CST

I am a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Lutherans have a view of the Supper as a sacrament, meaning that it (1) was instituted by Christ, (2) involves physical element(s), and (3) provides God's grace. We view the Supper, among other things, as God's way of being in actual contact with us. As such, we tend to celebrate it every Sunday, although not necessarily at every service.

Lutherans believe in the real presence of the body and blood of Christ "in, with, and under" the bread and wine. This is not the Catholic transubstantiation, in which the elements are believed to actually change into the physical body and blood. It is also not, as sometimes wrongly understood, consubstantiation, the idea of which is that the physical body and blood are commingled with the bread and wine. Rather, Lutherans believe that through a miracle, those participating actually take the body and blood orally, although not necessarily in a normally understood physical sense. The bread and wine remain bread and wine, yet are also the body and blood.

Lutherans believe that the Supper is one of God's ways of nurturing our faith and that it provides forgiveness of sins.

Lutherans in America did not commune every week in many places. This was due to the understanding that a pastor is needed to preside at the sacrament, and many were available only once per month in more rural areas. Thus, monthly, or even quarterly, communion became traditional in many congregations. This tradition is fading away now that Lutherans are again recognizing the importance of the Supper in the life of the church and the Christian.

As for my congregation's physical elements, we use wine (with an option of grape juice) and unleavened bread. The exact nature of the elements is not restricted by the ELCA, except that some type of bread and some type of wine or grape juice are required.

The ELCA allows any baptized Christian to partake in the sacrament. Most congregations require children to receive instruction on the meaning and nature of the Supper before partaking (in our congregation this usually happens around age 10), but the ELCA recognizes infant communion as a biblical alternative. Both of these are controversial concepts among American Lutherans.

21. Andi - 01/30/2006 7:31 am CST

I am taking a Church History class right now and we just talked about the Lord's supper today. According to the letters of many of the early church leaders in the first and second centuries there was no question about the Lord's supper. I mean it was encouraged and stressed but on the whole there seems to be no real problem concerning the Lord's supper. Also there seems to be no question concerning the bread and wine being the actual body and blood of Christ, the leaders never fully bring up the issue and the ones that do imply that it is not a symbol.

Now, in the reformation that was one of the dividing factors behind the various protestant groups, whether the food was only symbolic or not. And since there were few written records left on the subject by the early Church fathers they could come to no standard agreement.

As for my church, it usually happens on Sunday night once a month I guess, I never keep count. The deacons pass around a plate with crackers (I think they taste good) much like they do with the offering and then once everybody has been served who ever is officiating reads scripture and we all eat. Then comes the thimble sized grape juice on a tray which the deacons...It is open for any believer. I do wish that they would talk about what communion means a little bit more-like talk about why we do it besides in rememberance of Him.

22. Manders - 01/30/2006 8:17 am CST

Thanks Manders - what church do you go to?
Redeemer Presbyterian, Waco, TX. Now, when I'm in Houston, I'm still looking around, but for the time being I go to a Reformed Baptist church that does communion once a quarter with grape juice.

And is it real wine? You're back in the U.S. now, I believe - do you have to be of age to receive the wine, or is it somehow protected because it's such a small amount.
It is indeed real wine and I've been taking it since I was eighteen--I think that, under the law, it's legit because it's part of a religious ceremony and it's not an intoxicating amount, anyway. I've heard of some churches who do paedocommunion giving wine to two-year-olds (bizarre, right).

Ironically, my church in the UK used grape juice. :)

23. Jeff the Baptist - 01/30/2006 8:26 am CST

I'm Baptist (Baptist General Conference). We serve Communion on the first Sunday of each month. We use a small piece of matzoh and a bit of grape juice. Usually the bread is prayed for, served, and everyone eats at once. Then the same is done with the cup. Only christians are allowed to partake, but it is up to the individual to determine if they are qualified. We don't fence the communion table, as it were.

However our artsy fartsy contemporary services sometimes do it a little differently. In those services the articles of communion are set up on tables at the front of the church. Everyone qualified is invited to come forward at their own pace. A minister or other church leader serves the sacrement to the first person in line at each table. The first person then serves the second (there is a small notecard with what to say on the podium). So it goes until the ministers themselves are served last. I'm normally a traditionalist, but I really like this type of communion service a lot. Unfortunately I have to sit through interpretive dance to do it...

24. Clay (in CO) - 01/30/2006 8:54 am CST

Better late in the list than never. That's what I get for not turning on the computer on Sunday (a communion Sunday, no less)!

Current: Mega-church of 12,000 (conservative, evangelical, charismatic)
Fifth Sundays only. Micro-mini wafer of something akin to dried white Playdough, and a thimble cup of grape juice. Rows exit to pass by serving stations, pick up elements, and return to seats. Hold and partake together. Open to all Christians. Very informal, with contemporary P&W during "serving." I like the prayers by the pastor that are passionate and "apply" the elements to our lives as a body, but there is very little time for or emphasis on personal confession.

Recent: Episcopal church of 200 (conservative, evangelical, contemporary)
Weekly. Loaf of doughy, foul-tasting bread, and common cup of real wine (slightly fruity red--not bad). Eucharist served at altar by the clergy (tear off bread; sip or dip at cup). Open to all Christians. Pretty formal, but much more reverential than standard evangelical communion. I liked the quiet worship, the serving of the elements, and to some degree the liturgy which takes the body through the entire process of confession and forgivness.

Ideal for me: Body of around 200
Weekly. Unleavened loaf (flat bread), and real wine in a common cup. Body serves one another. Open to all Christians. Structured, but informal. Treated as a "visual sermon" and "acting out" of our redemption rather than as just an added activity. Acoustic music and Scripture readings. Meditative and cross-centered.

I thought Danny Kaye had some good points. We have made communion much more formal as a "sacrament" than the NT appears to treat it. It sounds like communion in Corinth may have been part of a meal, much like it was when Jesus instituted it. Scripture just doesn't really tell us what "as often" means, which leaves frequency as a matter of freedom for each body of believers. It does, though, appear to be for the church gathered, not for the church scattered. And, although the NT does not insist on unleavened bread, and Jesus used the symbol both as a bad thing and a good thing, the symbolism of the sinless body of Christ being broken for our sins is just too strong to pass over casually. I vote for unleavened flat bread. I agree with DK that the purpose of communion is to put us at the foot of the cross to consider afresh the cost of our redemption. And if personal and corporate confession and repentance is not a big part of communion, it seems to me we're just missing the whole point.

And one last point. In 1Cor11:27-32, I believe Paul is addressing the Christian who partakes while harboring unconfessed sin, and therefore feels the weight of judgment for those sins that he knows caused the death of Christ. That kind of guilt will make one weak and sick. I would argue these comments apply to believers only, and not to unbelievers. I've heard this passage used to "scare" unbelievers away from taking communion, which is nonsense. To them, it's just bread and wine, nothing more.

25. Candide - 01/30/2006 9:26 am CST

And one last point. In 1Cor11:27-32, I believe Paul is addressing the Christian who partakes while harboring unconfessed sin, and therefore feels the weight of judgment for those sins that he knows caused the death of Christ. That kind of guilt will make one weak and sick. I would argue these comments apply to believers only, and not to unbelievers. I've heard this passage used to "scare" unbelievers away from taking communion, which is nonsense. To them, it's just bread and wine, nothing more.


Which we should know, beacause meat sanctified to other gods is just meat to us -- 1Cor 8.

Now, the issue of taking Communion with nonbelievers is kind of a tricky one if you view Communion as a community-building exercise. Specifically, I think there's a whole series of issues that I (at least) haven't really gotten my head wrapped around when you consider that Communion is reaffirming community identity.

26. Clay (in CO) - 01/30/2006 10:14 am CST

Candide: Good points.

I agree that communion pretty much defies dogmatism. There is just not enough "prescriptive" meat in Scripture to put a lot on the "descriptive" bones about the Lord's Supper. It leaves us holding all things communion fairly loosely.

One aspect of communion is definitely, as you suggest, that of "reaffirming community identity." I think baptism is the entry ritual to the community, and communion is the continuing ritual. However, communion is also much more than that. It is a sacrament instituted by Christ, and though I view the elements as symbolic, they are nonetheless a means of God's grace in some way.

I don't want to be misunderstood about non-Christians. Communion is not for them, and should always be presented as a sacrament for the body of Christ, for those who have been born again. However, we don't need to be paranoid about non-Christians who might partake. Does anyone doubt that countless unregenerate people partake alongside believers every Sunday?! This only becomes a critical issue if one believes in some form of transubstantiationalism. That was not Paul's point in 1Cor11.

27. Don Curtis - 01/30/2006 1:31 pm CST

At Cobb Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Kennesaw, GA we celebrate communion every Sunday. We also invite any of the emen among our members to prepare a 3 minute devotional to introduce the elements.

28. Ellen - 01/30/2006 1:54 pm CST

I've heard of some churches who do paedocommunion giving wine to two-year-olds (bizarre, right).

why?

29. Manders - 01/30/2006 5:49 pm CST

Ellen: That was meant to be slightly tongue-in-cheek, sorry! I was just thinking that it might seem bizarre to some folks to give toddlers alcohol in any context, not that I particularly find it weird. :)

30. Ellen - 01/31/2006 12:05 am CST

The only reason I asked is because many would consider it weird that you'd give a toddler communion at all, much less alcohol.

At any rate, I think you could probably tell them that it's only been a few years since they stopped putting alcohol in kids' cold medicine.

Many churches are so "alcohol-phobic" it's just kind of silly.

;-)

31. Danny Kaye - 01/31/2006 1:20 am CST

Actually, Ellen, many churches have gone the way of "alcolhol phobia" because of the struggle it causes to a recovering alcoholic. I went to a poker party the other night. We knew there were going to be recovering alcoholics there so we made sure no one was bringing any beer.

My biblical conviction is that a glass of wine or a beer is just fine. But if it will cause a brother or sister to stumble back into alcoholism, it seems to defeat the purpose of communion.

Is that "silly"?

32. blestwithsons - 01/31/2006 2:21 am CST

Thanks Danny Kaye - you beat me to it by seconds...
I was just going to say how glad I am that the recovered alcoholic near and dear to my heart, who is a deacon in his church, doesn't have to serve alcohol during communion. Or that my children, who have a genetic heritage of alcoholism on both sides of the family, don't have to get their first taste at church.

I'm silly too.

33. Ellen - 01/31/2006 3:12 am CST

Read my words again - carefully, please

It is the the choice of no-alcohol/or not alcohol (take your choice) that is silly.

Many churches are so "alcohol-phobic" it's just kind of silly

"phobic" indicates a whole-sale, none whatsoever, "even a glass of wine once a week is a sin" mentality.

I know churches that let you take a choice - a thimble full of wine or a thimble full of juice; this is not silly.

I know churches that have only grape juice because using alcohol in any form at all is a sin; this is silly.

k?

34. Clay (in CO) - 01/31/2006 4:12 am CST

About the wine:

Good points. I am free to enjoy wine personally, but I would hate to make it a stumbling block for others, especially with communion. It doesn't seem to me that anything in the Scriptures mandates fermented over non-fermented fruit juice of the vine for remembering Christ's death. Fermentation happened in those days, so it's not like the alcohol content had anything to do with the sacrament. In fact, there is a good historical case that the common "wine" of the day was a diluted grape mash that probably was not much more than 2% alcohol. They had "good" wines, too, of course, but we just don't know what Jesus and His disciples were drinking. And even if we did, it was the nature of the juice, not its alcohol content, that He emphasized. Unfermented grape juice carries all the symbolism necessary for the "blood."

About the paedo-communion thing:

I think giving an infant or toddler communion is silly, wine or no wine. It sounds to me like just another example of a dogma creating the logical (not biblical) necessity for a tradition that has no doctrinal foundation.

35. Manders - 01/31/2006 6:36 am CST

Yeah, I'm not a big fan of paedocommunion, either. I'm just saying, I don't think it's nearly as weird as some others would, is all.

Oh, and we have grape juice available, too, for reasons people have already stated.

36. Ellen - 01/31/2006 7:20 am CST

If God dropped another baby (or more) into my life, I would absolutely have him/her/them baptized and do my best to have them participate at the table as soon as possible.

37. Rong - 01/31/2006 7:28 am CST

We used to have it on the first Sunday of the month, but 2 years ago we changed it to every Sunday.

The pastor explains the significance of the bread and wine (grape juice) and explains that for an unbeliever to partake is to desecrate the sacrament. Anyone who is a professing Christian can partake, you don't need to be a member of our church. (Associate Reformed Presbytery)

Broken matzah is passed out with little cups of Welch's grape juice. We take of the bread individually but we all drink the cup together at the same time - kinda kewl in that respect.

38. Scott - 01/31/2006 8:35 am CST

We do it twice a month. Great bread (leavened) which each breaks off to their liking (I usually get big hunks*) and takes back to their seats with a little cup o' juice. Sometimes the baskets will get handed out, sometimes we all go up. I prefer the latter.

Regarding paedo-communion, the children in our church can't partake until they have completed catechism classes and made a confession of faith. Makes sense to me. (We're PCA and so we do paedo-baptism) My daughter, who's five, is itching to partake, but we explained to her that she's not ready yet. That was hard to do.

Regarding wine vs. grape juice, not a big deal for me. I can see not using the high octane stuff out of respect for those that struggle with alcoholism. I don't think that the nature of the elements are that important. At one summer camp I worked at we used bug juice (knock-off kool aid) and wonder bread.

*A former pastor told a story where one of his parishoners broke off a piece that was too big and layed it on the altar. He made a connection that sometimes Jesus is too much for us to handle and we're tempted to leave what we can't take behind.

39. Ellen - 01/31/2006 8:52 am CST

(We're PCA and so we do paedo-baptism) My daughter, who's five, is itching to partake, but we explained to her that she's not ready yet. That was hard to do.

Here is a post I wrote after I read Paedofaith.

Rich Lusk made the point that if we baptize our children into a covenant family - are they saved, or are they lost? If we believe they are not saved, we have no business baptising them - if we believe that they are saved, we have no business denying them communion.

It made me think.

40. Scott - 01/31/2006 9:41 am CST

Awesome Ellen! Thanks. I'll be sending that to some friends.

41. Clay (in CO) - 01/31/2006 11:52 am CST

Wow, I never ceased to be absolutely amazed at the lengths to which Reformed theology will go to button down every dogma trail, no matter where it leads.

In the parable of the sower, I think Jesus said plainly how we are to see our children. "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance" (Luke 8:15).

The "seed is the word of God" which the hearer will either reject, or will "believe and be saved" (8:12). In other words, the seed is the gospel, the invitation to salvation. When it falls on "an honest and good heart," it finds root and bears fruit. Now, please note this carefully: Jesus said that there is such a thing as an "honest and good heart" BEFORE salvation, and He considers it a good thing. The two Greek words for "good" that He uses are probably a kind of Hebrew parallelism meaning good in every sense (ethically and aesthetically good).

Our role as parents is to prepare the soil of our children's hearts to receive the word of God. That's what we do--cultivate our children's hearts to be ready to receive the gospel. As children, though they have a sin nature, I believer they are innocent in regards to the Law, not knowing good or evil (don't have time to give the texts on this one). When they turn the corner from childhood to young adulthood, and they become aware of their sin (re: Romans 7), then they are culpable before God. If the soil has been prepared by a godly family, the message of salvation will take root. This is the testimony of Timothy (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

What about before that time? How about trusting the God of love, mercy and justice? I know not having everything explained and buttoned down worries Reformed theologians, but it doesn't me. I know the character of the God I serve, and trust Him with my children's lives and souls.

I know that most of the people who post here are probably Reformed, or sympathetic to the TRs, and I'm sure I'll get blasted from every side, but I just wanted to get my thoughts in on this one. Thanks for your patience.

42. Danny Kaye - 01/31/2006 1:12 pm CST

I don't get it. Something is definitely missing, here.

The purpose of this comment is point out the fact that hardly anyone is talking about the cross of Christ. I don't care about sacraments. I don't care about procedures. I don't care about who takes it and who doesn't. None of those are focused on or pinned down in the scriptures. The only thing that is biblically for certain is that it is a time to refocus.

It's about you and I going before the cross to focus on Jesus and His broken body and His precious blood. It's about you and I taking the time to humble ourselves and examine our lives. It's about you and I becoming more and more grateful (hopefully) each time we take Communion.

Well, I guess I'll refrain from getting all preachy here. I am very passionate about Communion. I believe it is the best "tool" God gave us to help us stay focused on the cross and thereby remain in a humble state of gratitude. So if I seem a little "too much" or over the top, I don't apologize. I only hope I grow in my focus on the cross as the weeks and years go by.

ok...i'm done...

43. De - 01/31/2006 1:49 pm CST

"I know that most of the people who post here are probably Reformed, or sympathetic to the TRs, and I'm sure I'll get blasted from every side, but I just wanted to get my thoughts in on this one."

Clay, do we really come across that way? I hope not.

The Thinklings themselves are almost evenly split on our view of Reformed theology. [De tightens his grip on the fencepost].

And if you think there's a lot of sympathy for the TR side of the blogosphere here, you are very mistaken! :-) And that stance has not much to do with theology, and a lot more to do with just valuing respect, honor, and Christian kindness.

I hope we haven't made you feel that you will be flamed for what you say. I enjoy reading what you write.

Keep it positive, everyone. We are, after all, discussing communion. Thanks.

44. Jared - 01/31/2006 1:49 pm CST

Of the 7 Thinklings, only 2 would self-classify as "Reformed," although none of us is a part of a traditionally Reformed denomination. If you extend to honorary Thinklings who post, the number of Reformed theology subscribers grows to a whopping 4.

As far as I know, none of us are sympathetic about TR-ism, such as I understand the label. If it means what I think it means (as the iMonk, who I think invented the label, means it), I am one Calvinist who is not "down" with it.

I'm also a Calvinist who believes God has predestined children who die and mental deficients for salvation.
So we're not all heartless doctrine Nazis. ;-)

45. Ellen - 01/31/2006 2:45 pm CST

Clay,

I have no need to use pejorative terms such as "dogma" and "button down" and "TR" (which I am not) to make my point.

(In terms of history) I spent the first 42 years of my life as a dyed in the wool Arminian. I was baptised into a baptist church, then was a member for a Wesleyan Christian Church and then I was in a Nazarene Church for 10 years.

I came to understand Reformed theology only after I came to a point where I wanted to study Scripture with an open mind - willing to go wherever the Bible took me. And I am still going to where it's taking me.

In Luke 8, Jesus in no way said that He was talking about children - He was talking about the Gospel and those who were new to it.

In another place in the Bible, covenant language is used to describe our children:
Acts 2:39
"For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him."

As far as how we are supposed to see our children, the Bible specifically tells us that even with only one believing parent, our children are sanctified:
1 Corinthians 7:14
"...else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."

Now, please note this carefully: Jesus said that there is such a thing as an "honest and good heart" BEFORE salvation, and He considers it a good thing.

"And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience."

Now, you tell me - when did salvation happen? These are the ones that were not DEAD in trespasses and sin? These are the ones with hearts that were not desperately wicked?

Or are they the ones that were drawn by the Holy Spirit - prepared (not by humans) by the Holy Spirit?

(shrugs) All I know is that when I approached the questions with a teachable heart and open mind, I began to change.

;-)

46. Ellen - 01/31/2006 3:08 pm CST

The purpose of this comment is point out the fact that hardly anyone is talking about the cross of Christ.

I answered the way I did because the first question was about how our church performs communion.

;-)

47. Raindream - 01/31/2006 3:54 pm CST

I don't think the iMonk coined the term TR, which means Totally Reformed. I've heard that term for a long while to describe Hyper Calvinists, by whom I mean those deny the Lord called us to witness or evangelize the nations b/c salvation is of the Holy Spirit and we need to get out of His way to do it. One of my associate pastors told a story of presenting his vision for outreach to a small church in the mountains (N Carolina, I think). An isolated village had been receptive to his initial witnessing, so he told his church about it to rally their support. One of the elders told him not to bother with it all because if God wanted them saved, he would save them Himself.

That's what a TR says.

As for the Lord's Supper, it's a wonderful experience. My church has always warned us against eating at the Lord's table while harboring sin or without reverence. The passage from 1 Corinthians is read, and we always sing four verses of Amazing Grace afterward.

We are a PCA church, so we baptist our infants and unbelieving children according to the Scripture. I've heard my pastor say he personally favors or sees support for giving covenant children the bread and juice. It does follow the Old Testament pattern; but we don't b/c of the warnings in Corinthians against eating while in sin.

I'm in an uncomfortable position with my children now b/c my wife and I believe both our five and six year old have surrendered to the Lord, but we aren't sure of it, so we haven't allowed them to take it yet. I believe they would need to speak to an elder about their faith before receiving communion for the first time. First communions are special occasions for our church body.

Bill, I think I remember correctly that Calvin wanted to serve communion in his Geneva church every week, but they thought that was too radical and restricted it to once a month. Before they invited Calvin to lead them, I believe they took communion once a year or so.

Calvin had similar trouble at another of his congregations.

48. Clay (in CO) - 01/31/2006 5:21 pm CST

I'm sorry. I recant. And, really, I wasn't trying to be mean or unkind or anything. It was just a moment of passion in presenting a view of childhood that I never hear. Perhaps I was too "preachy," for which I apologize. Although "buttoned down" was a bit snarky, I meant "dogma" in a neutral sense simply as a strongly held belief. I promise, I'm not a bad person most of the time.

Also, De, I really wasn't talking about this site, and didn't mean to suggest that The Thinklings is a Reformed outpost. I honestly wouldn't know. I only meant that I seem to see what seems like a lot of reformed comments and views, so I expected to get a lot of comments in response to an un-reformed view. Guess I was wrong. And BTW, I have used TR (truly reformed) and VR (veddy reformed) for at least ten years.

As to the relevance of the post, I was reacting to the paedo-communion ideas of covenant that were being presented, and the idea of what we think we must do to save our children, and whether it's a derivative or direct teaching of Scripture. It was just a stream-of-thought reaction to the notion that God is waiting for us to do certain things so we can be sure our children are saved. Frankly, Scripture says so little about childhood that it's amazing to me how much "dogma" we (myself included) can all mine out of so little direct revelation.

I'm really sorry for creating conflict unnecessarily. It's a weakness of my wordiness (where there are many words, and all that), and I've never been able to be pithy and pointed. De, for the record, I've greatly enjoyed this site, and especially the spirit of your posts and thoughts. I'll study you more.

49. De - 02/01/2006 12:22 am CST

Clay - no need to recant. All is well. :-)

50. Jared - 02/01/2006 1:05 am CST

On the origin of TR:
My bad. The first I heard of it was iMonk's using it (standing for the "Truly Reformed" in reference to a certain circle of Reformed Baptist types who think they've cornered the market on what Reformed "really" means, ironic given that they tend to be dispensational and, um, Baptist).

Clay, no worries.

51. Danny Kaye - 02/01/2006 1:36 am CST

Yeah, Clay. No sweat here either. Most of what you say flies so far over my uneducated head that I walk away with a qizzical look on my face. ;-)

52. Scott - 02/01/2006 5:04 am CST

Okay, too much love n humility up in this joint! ;-)

This discussion (and Ellen's blog) got me to emailing one of our pastors and he too is conflicted about the issue with communion and "covenant children".

53. Raindream - 02/01/2006 5:21 am CST

A good book on a covenant view of children and baptism is written by a Baptist pastor, Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism, by Robert Booth

54. Ivi - 03/20/2006 6:57 am CST

I am doing a diploma work on the Lord's Supper. Our church is celebrating the Lord's Supper every first week of the month. We wait for each other and take the bread and the wine together as a simbol of unity. The children are having separate mini-bread as a preparation for the time when they will be able to partake along with the adults.We sing happy songs during the Lord's Supper because we believe that this is a celebration, not a funeral procession. A celebration and preparation for the heavenly Wedding Feast of the Lamb-when all christians will celebrate it in heaven!
I am interested if you have some on-line sources to help my study on the Lord's Supper.

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