The Lord’s Supper / Communion
Every time we do something at Sandbox that every other church does (Christmas programs, baby dedications, communion, etc.), we must always ask ourselves and the Lord, are we doing this because of what church tradition/culture has taught us, or are we doing this because it is inspired by God's Word and led by his Holy Spirit? And if we are doing it because it is according to His Word, then are we actually doing it actually according to His Word? Or is it a watered-down version that has been influenced by outside sources?
The way that Sandbox Church did what we called “Communion” consisted of miniature cups and little wafers, and we would partake of it sometimes during our Sunday meetings as the gathered church. But is the way that we were doing it biblically prescribed? Our biblical references to “Communion” or "The Lord's Supper" is 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 in which Paul refers to that supper as what he "received from the Lord" about "the night when he was betrayed" [the last supper, in which Judas is revealed as Jesus' betrayer]. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and in the last supper referenced in the gospels (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19, 20) we do not have passing wafers and tiny cups of grape juice. In churches throughout America however, this is what we have. We are missing the hugeness of this memorial meal that we call “Communion”.
What the Bible Says
So what is the purpose of participating in “The Lord’s Supper”?
As stated above, it is to remember the Passover meal that Jesus had with the 12 the night he was betrayed.
It is to live out Acts 2:42-47, and literally break bread with each other, and to have that communion with the Lord and among each other over a meal. This is not intended to just eat and discuss trivial things, but testimonies of what Jesus is doing in their lives, meaningful conversations about the things we've been talking about the past few in our meetings, real life things.
And of course, it is to celebrate and remember the New Covenant we have in Jesus. Paul refers to this, in which Jesus says, "Take, eat; this is my body...Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." - This is the ushering in of the new covenant! It is the covenant meal, with the 12 disciples. Reminds you of the covenant meal in Exodus 24 where Moses, Aaron & his sons, and the elders of Israel have a meal with God just after the covenant is confirmed among the Israelites. Because of the new covenant that Jesus put into place for us we get to have communion with the Father at all times, so this “Lord's Supper” or “Communion” that we have together, we get to have in the presence of each other, who all contain the Holy Spirit. We're on Holy Ground in this aspect, and in the presence of God, let's treat it as such! In Exodus 24 they also had a covenant meal in the presence of God on Mount Sinai and it was amazing, "they beheld God, and ate and drank" (Exo. 24:11); "the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel" (Exo. 24:17). It is actually the same thing here, as we are in the presence of God when two or more are gathered (Matthew 18:20) according to Jesus!
Paul says that "as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." so we proclaim this new covenant that was ushered in by Jesus' death on the cross. Paul says "until he comes" because when Jesus comes back, we will have a different meal - with Jesus - see Revelation 19). Jesus says "Do this in remembrance of me". The supper that the early church was having was the church's memorial dinner, the way of remembering this new covenant that Jesus had enacted.
When Jesus says “the blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” - what does this mean? Atonement? Yes, atonement. But the church today tends to leave out the many benefits that the blood of the covenant bought for us.
Remember the curse because of the fall, and because of the apostasy of the Israelites: death, sickness, disease, etc. - Jesus took that sin on as well. Galatians 3:13 says “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” We are the new Israel according to the Bible (Gal. 3:26, 3:29, Rom. 9:6-9) and we have inherited the blessings as opposed to the curses because Jesus took on the curse and punishment. It is a NEW thing, a NEW covenant (Isaiah 43:19-21, Ezek. 36:25-32).
Application for Us as the Local Church
So back to us as the local church - is our memorial dinner really watered down to wafers and cups? Or should we do as the early churches that Paul started did, and have actual meals. At Sandbox Church, we have changed the way we have “Communion” or “The Lord’s Supper” to be feasts instead of wafers and grape juice - "love feasts" is what Jude called it (Jude 1:12). Also, we have it in a Life Group setting, so smaller groups, sitting around a table together. But at every feast the intention is stated clearly, that it is for the remembrance of the Lord's Supper, and at the end, we must have a breaking of bread and drinking of the cup moment, just like Jesus and the 12 did. Practically speaking, this is held monthly during Life Group meeting.
At Sandbox Church, we would rather err on the side of looking like the early churches than looking like the present-day churches.
Speaking of the early church, in Saint Ignatius of Antioch's Letter to the Smyrnaeans (ca. 110 AD), the term "agape" (for love/agape feast) is used. Also, in a letter from Pliny the Younger to Trajan (ca. 112 AD), he reported that the Christians, after having met "on a stated day" in the early morning (Sunday morning church meeting) to "address a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity", and later in the day would "reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal". Similar communal meals are attested also in the "Apostolic Tradition" (ca. 220 AD) often attributed to Hippolytus of Rome, who does not use the term "agape", and by Tertullian (died 240 AD), who does. The connection between such substantial meals and the Eucharist had virtually ceased by the time of Cyprian (died 258), when the Eucharist was celebrated with fasting in the morning and the agape in the evening. And somewhere between then and now, the familial love feast had all but died out.
In Matthew 26, at the Last Supper, after they finished this they sung a hymn (Matt. 26:30) and then they went to the Mount of Olives and we all know that Jesus pulled an all-nighter praying afterwards (Matt. 26:36-46). So after we finish, we sing songs of praise and worship, we pray together as the Spirit leads each one. What a way to spend a night together!