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Communion Meditations (2015)

Show Stopper

Originally scheduled for August 16

It seems like a minor point at first. The debate comes up at meetings of some church board on the subject of exactly when during the service should we have communion? There are many opinions; here are three of the most common.

·         Some prefer to have it at the end of the sermon. This certainly emphasizes its importance, but may impose some awkwardness on the preacher. Imagine trying to make a graceful transition between a sermon on, say, adultery into the Lord’s Supper.

·         Others would put it right before the sermon. In this way the seriousness of the Lord’s Supper settles down the congregation, and puts them in the right frame of mind to hear a serious sermon.

·         Sometimes all that is desired is to separate the Lord’s Supper as much as possible from the sermon. The idea is that you don’t want to distract people’s attention from the sermon, so you put communion at one end of the service and the sermon at the other.

You might see a pattern there. Often enough, we think of the sermon as the most important part of a worship service. But is that really true?

One of the early church fathers, Ignatius, wrote about the importance of communion to the early church.

·         He said it was the focus of the church’s life and order. It occupied a central place and not just in the worship but in the thinking of the church. This implies that the early church thought and talked about communion much more than we do. It is a magnificent source of clear doctrine.

·         Also, he said, it is the source of unity in the church. When it comes right down to it, you either partake of communion or you don’t. You are either in the church, or not. Remember, this is at a time when the persecution of the church, to the point of death, was quite common. Communion marked those who really were in the church.

·         It is also the source of fellowship in the church. Think of it this way; our use of the word “fellowship” usually implies some sort of community dinner. If a physical meal means so much to fellowship, how much more should a spiritual meal means to fellowship?

Your author must leave the timing of communion to others. But I would have you remember three things about communion.

·         First, remember that communion is the core of worship. At no other point do you do something which is so high and so solemn.

·         Remember that “we” take communion. That’s a plural pronoun; communion is for the church, not just for individual members.

·         Remember that you do this as a sign of the unity of the church — not just your local members, but the entire church, both those who live and those who sleep in Christ.

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