My Thoughts. . .
Some churches partake of the Lord’s supper once each year. Some do so once each month. Some do it on special occasions, such as during a marriage ceremony. Some believe if it is taken each week, it will lose its significance and become common place. That may be the reason some refuse to attend services each week? That argument does not stop some from partaking each week since the church at Troas met upon the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). Different strokes for different folks.
When correcting the errors in the church at Corinth, Paul refers to it as “the Lord’s supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20). This was about twenty years after Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Out of the five accounts mentioning that meeting in the upper room, Luke and Paul are the only ones who record Jesus’ statement about remembering him. Neither Paul nor Luke were present in that upper room when Jesus made that statement. However they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. John mentions the upper room meeting but completely leaves out any reference of the communion. Matthew was there but does not include that particular statement in his book. The early church did not have the combined 27 documents which makes up the second covenant of our Bible. One would think that Matthew wrote his book first since it appears at the beginning of the New Testament. However, his book was number twenty to be produced. The last book to appear was John’s Revelation. Early commentators dated its production before the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Since the other twenty-six were written prior to Revelation, their date is earlier than 70 A.D. Later scholarship dates Revelation around the end of the first century. Yet, not one of the twenty-seven hints at Jerusalem or the Temple being destroyed by the Romans. For such an important event to be totally ignored would be unusual. Liberal scholarship gives a late date for the writing of all twenty-seven books. They attribute those books to pseudo authors in the second century rather than the actual apostles or prophets who wrote them.
Printing presses did not appear until after 1440. The combining of all 27 handwritten manuscripts is not known until the second or third century. Until the printing press, the average household did not have manuscripts of the New Testament. What they learned came from the clergy. Although the clergy may have read the passages on communion in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul, the traditional way of dispensing it would be more Catholic than biblical.
The universal (catholic) church developed its clergy system which in turn produced communion customs. When the Protestant movement was born in the fifteenth century, those customs changed to conform with Protestant beliefs. However, some carry-over practices from Catholicism were accepted. The clergy-laity system of observing communion continued with Protestantism but with some changes.
Church buildings were introduced in the third century. This ended the house to house style of partaking of communion. Tables surrendered to pews and the “supper” was replaced with bite size wafers. The “cup” contained less and less of the fruit of the vine. Time controlled the event and communion was assigned to its allotted schedule. With the downgrading of “supper” to a sip and eating a small piece of cracker, the expression “hungry” lost its meaning. Even if the fruit of the vine was wine, rather than Welch’s Grape Juice, today’s recipients would never be accused of gorging themselves or being drunk!
Paul warns against partaking by eating and drinking “damnation” (1 Corinthians 11:29). If one eats and drinks “unworthily” he participates in that damnation (v. 29). How does one avoid that sin? Some believe we must silently partake and in that silence remember Jesus’ death. Remember yes, but the word “silent” is not mentioned. The Lord’s supper finds its beginning in the Passover meal which contained scripture reading, questions, answers, and dialogue rather than silence. Is tradition demanded by scripture or condemned (Matthew 15:9)? Some have exhorted members to either pray, read their Bible, or contemplate Jesus’ suffering and death upon the cross. Although there is nothing wrong with the suggestion, scripture is silent about such a requirement. The church in Corinth was guilty of that damnation because they would not share. This caused some to not receive either the unleavened bread or the fruit of the vine. Therefore some went home hungry. Some would not share the wine but consumed it themselves and became drunk. The meaning of the communion was lost in their pettiness which digressed into damnation.
We partake in our air conditioned or heated buildings. Our pews are padded. The “supper” is decreased to small amounts which are quickly consumed in a few minutes under the canopy of silence. What if we met in secret, where the acrid smell of decaying flesh invaded our nostrils and upset our stomachs? Small candles offered dim lights because too much might bring the authorities down on us. Songs were softly sung. Prayers were just loud enough to hear. Scripture was memorized and quoted and the lesson of exhortation was simple and to the point. It was late at night. The catacombs reserved for the dead were visited by the living to encourage and strengthen one another. Christianity was punished by death if caught. A loaf was passed around and each pinched off a portion. A flask of wine was passed and each took a shallow taste. Comments of thanksgiving were made by most as each partook. Nothing was fancy. No one spoke above a whisper. The free and the slave fellowshiped together. Prayer was offered. Each gave the other a holy kiss. Each left singularly or in twos so they would not draw attention. Hopefully the smell of death on their clothing and bodies would disappear in the night air as they made their way home.