What was the Lord's Supper in the early church could better be described as the Lord's Snack in today's church. A lady whose institutional church observes communion every Sunday morning recently shared with me that her four year old granddaughter was sitting with her in church and asked, "When are we having snack?"
The Lord's supper, also known as communion, has changed dramatically from that of the early church. In the early church the Lord's Supper was a festive meal shared together. Instead of a solemn mood, this meal was one of celebration and joy. It was essentially a Christian banquet. On top of that, there was no clergyman to officiate it. Can you believe that?
That's a far cry from the way we observe the Lord's supper in our day. Instead of a meal its more of a snack - a thimble of grape juice and a piece of cracker. Today the Lord's Supper is observed in a somber atmosphere. We are told to remember the horrors of Jesus' death and to reflect on our sins. Today many would not consider taking Communion without a minister present.
Most of the time 1 Corinthians 11:27-33 is read as part of the communion service. I have used this passage most every time myself. A warning is given not to participate in the Lord's Supper "unworthily". In this passage Paul appears to have been speaking to church folks who were dishonoring the Lord's Supper by not waiting for their poor brothers and sisters to eat with them. There were also those who were apparently getting drunk on the wine.
As one scholar so eloquently put it, "It is not in doubt that the Lord's Supper began as a family meal or a meal of friends in a private house. The Lord's supper moved from being a real meal to a symbolic meal...the Lord's Supper moved from bare simplicity to elaborate splendor. The celebration of the Lord's Supper moved from being a lay function to a priestly function. In the New Testament itself, there was no indication that it was the special privilege or duty of anyone to lead the worshiping fellowship in the Lord's Supper" (Barclay, Lord's Supper, 99-102).
The early church celebrated communion as a meal with an attitude of joy and celebration. In doing so, they proclaimed Jesus' great sacrifice, His victory over death and His future return. You talk about a "This do in remembrance of Me" moment! Wow!
In their book "Pagan Christianity?", authors Frank Viola and George Barna said of the Lord's Supper, "They [early Christians] also took it as a full meal in fellowship with the body of Christ, the church. This is the way it was handed down to us by Jesus and the apostles. Therefore we ought to ask ourselves: Is stripping the Lord's Supper from the meal and making it a somber occasion a development or a departure? Have we improved upon what Jesus and the apostles passed down to us, or have we strayed from it?"
For additional thoughts on the Lord's supper I encourage you to check out the following links:
What would happen if we went back to the early church's way of doing the Lord's Supper? What would happen if we celebrated the Lord's Supper - truly celebrated it in festive style - as a full meal? I can see some Christians now getting all indignant on me. I wonder how many times someone will say, "Well, we've always done it this way!" How about we get back to Bible basics and New Testament Christianity instead of the way we've always done it? Perhaps then we'll begin seeing Jesus' church have the impact we were meant to have!
These things are certainly worth consideration at the very least.
Enjoy the journey!
This blog post is another in a series looking at the practices of churches today and how they line up with the New Testament. Perhaps this series could be better called, "Kicking Over Sacred Cows". For further reading and research, I recommend the book "Pagan Christianity?" by Frank Viola and George Barna.
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