Blessed Are the Hungry

Faith Is A Burden

CC Photo by mike_tn

Check out Kim Riddlebarger’s essay on the frequency of the Lord’s Supper in churches.

I’m not a Reformed fanboy anymore, but if I were, I would print this out and give it to my pastor immediately (assuming my church has an infrequent celebration of the Eucharist). In fact, even though my eucharistic theology has been more shaped by Peter Leithart, NT Wright, and Martin Luther, I think Riddlebarger makes an excellent biblical and historical case for the frequent observance of the Lord’s Supper.

The two most common objections to frequent celebration is that it diminishes the importance of the eucharist and that it takes away time from the rest of the service (this is why many Baptist churches do it in lieu of a sermon on a Sunday evening). The latter is a specious argument; if the eucharist doesn’t fit in with your existing liturgy, then perhaps your liturgy should change. I’m sure the church can bear to sing one less song or hear one less special or, heavens forbid, sit through a slightly shorter sermon. If the eucharist is important, and it is, then time can be made to celebrate it, even on a frequent basis.

The former argument, however, is even more insidious. The line of reasoning goes like this: the Lord’s Supper is special, but if you observed it every week, it would lose something of its “specialness”; people would celebrate (!) without having examined themselves thoroughly enough, and it would become rote. Of course, we take a collection up every week and rarely is it said we should not for fear of it becoming a mere ritual. We sing songs every week, we hear a sermon every week, we hear a benediction, and we shake each other’s hands every week all without a word as to how it may lose something because we frequently do it. Can you imagine someone arguing we couldn’t have a baptism every single week because the people might take it for granted? Absurd.

In a lot of the churches I have been involved with, I think it comes down to not believing in the promises of the eucharist. To many people it is simply something you do every once in a while that has little, if any, connection to the Gospel and the life of discipleship Jesus has called us to. It is most certainly not a means of grace, as least not like the sermon is, and therefore somewhat unimportant. Lip-service might be paid to its importance, but in practice it is largely ignored.

(Lest I be accused of raising a straw-man, I would point out this is related to my experiences only; your miles may vary. In fact, I would love to hear about your experiences in evangelical churches.)

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4 thoughts on “Blessed Are the Hungry

  1. Without opening a Pandora’s box, let me just comment on the current Baptist church that I belong to. Baptisms and communion both take place on Sunday mornings. When we have a baptism, it happens at 11:00, before anything else in the service begins. We take the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of each month, and do so after a regular worship service. It has happened that in a single service we started with a baptism, heard the choir, special music, took up collection, listened to a sermon and then shared in communion. We have also been known to dismiss at 12:30 or later. Some pastors would get fired for that.

  2. To put it another way: How would you feel if your wife said to you that she wanted to have sex infrequently because otherwise it would diminish the importance and “special-ness” of the act? Now, how do you think Christ feels when His bride (the Church–that would be us) says that it does not want to have communion frequently, in order to not lose the “special-ness” of it?

    I think that the main reason why much of evangelicalism insists on celebrating communion infrequently is to not be like the Catholics, who celebrate it weekly. (We all know that the Catholic Church is wrong, so whatever they do we will do the opposite.) This is a very poor reason.

  3. I was thinking the same thing as Joe, just didn’t want to come out and say it: Perhaps the Baptist are simply trying to be as opposite from Catholic as possible. Go into a Baptist church sometime and try lighting a candle, for any reason. Some churches probably get a little nervous using candles on Christmas Eve, even if that’s the one time they ever do it.

    On a related note, my wife and I started keeping our own Advent wreath a couple of years ago. We collect all the things ourself from right around here to put it together with.

  4. It’s good to know there are others who have had different experiences than me. (I guess I should also point out that I have pretty much zero experience with Southern Baptists; except for a single service I went to a few years ago.) My current church, a sovereign grace Baptist church celebrates the Supper about once a year, and it hurts my heart.

    I think Joe’s analogy is right, it’s like telling your wife you love her and then being intimate every year around your anniversary, and then complaining when you don’t have any children.

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