Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reader participation

How would my (faithful) readers answer the following questions about Communion:

  1. If you had to choose one theological word to describe communion which one would you choose?
  2. What do you think happens during the Lord's Supper, above the surface (tangibly) and what happens below the surface (intangibly)?
  3. Pretend that, all things considered, you were a faithful Christian for a year, but didn't have the Lord's Supper during that time, what would be the negative consequences?
  4. Which bit of the gospel is being primarily focused on during communion?

(I'm trying to conceptually pull what I believe together into a coherent explanation so your answers would help me think this through!)


Jon said...

OK then, off the top of my head.

1. I'm not sure what makes a workd "theological" but I'd go for "fellowship".

2. Above the surface, we eat together and use that to remember what Jesus did for us. Below the surface, our full person is engaged in fellowship with Jesus and each other - our minds through thinking about the words, our emotions through our reaction to a critical event, our bodies through tasting and digesting the bread and wine.

3. Theoretically, none. In practice, in the absence of the "whole person" experience some aspect of my faith would probably start to fade - for me, probably the more emotional, visceral bits of it.

4. The gospel has bits? For the sake of playing the game - God's love for us, expressed in his willingness to die for us. But really, I don't think the gospel has discreet bits like this, so it also focuses on our unity as Christ's people, and on his presence with us here and now, and...and...

Jill said...

I'm not sure that a sacrament (i.e. an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace) is really ammenable to this sort of analysis. The grace of God is, like God's self, beyond human analysis in so many ways. But here's my take on it:

1. The theological word that describes communion IS communion - that, union with Christ, and participation in the salvific benefits of that union.
On the other hand, if you want a theology-of-communion label, mine would be receptionist - vide Cranmer.

2.Again, with Cranmer "Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your heart, by faith, with thanksgiving." We set apart (consecrate) bread and wine to be the means whereby God's grace is mediated to God's people. We receive them in trusting that in so obeying Christ's command we open ourselves to be nourished by God's Spirit and strengthened to live lives of faithful service (as articulated in the post-communion prayer of self-offering).

3. I struggle to imagine going without communion for a year. The longest I have gone without is a month, after which I feel a distinct imbalance in my spiritual equilibrium, and will actively seek out a context where I can participate in the celebration of the Lord's Supper. This is not to say that I would be less of a Christian, or less aware of God's presence with me if I didn't receive commmunion.

4. What Jon said. the gospel doesn't come in bits, and taking it to bits is not edifying. Celebrating the Lord's Supper affirms the extraordinary sacrifice made by God in the death of Jesus, celebrates His resurrection, and proclaims the hope of eternal life made ours when we are made one with him by faith. As I understand it, that IS the gospel.

Sorry if that's a bit long-winded - all those years of teaching liturgy and sacramental theology, I guess.

Harden said...

I really havent thought anywhere near enough about communion but thought i would answer your question to help me think about it.

1. I'm kinda with Jon on this one, a word that meant 'Mutual-affirmation'

2.On the surface Christians eat and drink all together, and visitors feel awkward and confused, below we remember that Jesus was sacrificed so that we could be saved, We also observe all of the other people who also are remembering it.

3. not sure.

4. Probably Christs death as a substitute.

Marion said...


2.Being the creatures we are, we forget things, so God says "Do this action & it will remind you of what happened." So on the surface we eat & drink, & below the surface we remember Messiah taking the place of Passover Lamb.

3.I don't think I would have negative consequences after a year. There would have been other reminders (Bible reading, hymns, prayer,sermons) during that time.

4.Loving your neighbor because God first loved you.

Mikey Lynch said...

1. Means of grace
2. Prayerfully eat bread and wine together which is interpreted for us. Meanwhile... beneath the surface God is powerfully at work through his (visible) word to do us spiritual good, as with Bible reading or sermon
3. Pretty similar to if I went without singing for a year, perhaps? ie nothing (and yet...)
4. Death of Christ primarily... but Christ himself secondarily

Radagast said...

1. One word: sacrament.

2. What happens? Above the surface: the church eats and drinks bread and wine together. Below the surface: "we also do as certainly receive by faith (which is the hand and mouth of our soul) the true body and blood of Christ our only Savior in our souls, for the support of our spiritual life" (Belgic Confession).

3. Consequence of no Communion? Spiritual dryness, I think.

4. Which bit of the Gospel? All of it -- in the sense that a Communion homily can focus on any aspect of the Gospel, including the Incarnation, the death of Jesus, the miracles that displayed His power (e.g. Cana), the work of the Holy Spirit, the restored relationship with God, the restored relationship between people within the Church, etc.

Andrew Bowles said...

I confess that I am an unfaithful reader...I've been looking at other blogs! Still...

1. Communion.

2. Tangibly, the church eats bread and wine after an exposition of the Last Supper and the Gospel. Intangibly, our participation in the life of Christ (and the realisation of our own eschatological destiny) is strengthened by our collective 'anamnesis'.

3. Probably become more disconnected from the fellowship of the church and become more of an intellectual (in the bad sense).

4. The eschatological feast.

Rhys Bezzant said...

I love these questions!

1. Participation
2. Tangibly: community is encouraged
Intangibly: individuals are assured
3. Negative consequence of going without: just the same as not hearing the Gospel preached for a year - missing out on being assured of God's love and forgiveness
4. The objective reality of Christ's offer to us in his death, resurrection, ascension, and promise of return

Jereth said...

I understand the Bible to teach that communion is a time when the gathered church celebrates and remembers the death and resurrection of Jesus for our sins, and Jesus is present through the Holy Spirit strengthening our hearts and our faith. It is a time when we can reach out spiritually and "touch" the sacrifice made on the cross 2000 years ago.

If you don't have communion for a whole year it will be like not reading the Bible for a whole year. You'll still be a Christian but your faith will go a bit soggy.