Friday, June 12, 2015

Why Is the Lord's Supper More Often Like a Funeral Than a Celebration?

Almost all of us have been through it before: the institutional Lord's Supper / Communion / Eucharist.

We know how it goes. Most of the folks sit somberly in pews. One person in the front leads a ceremony that feels like a funeral. Everybody is instructed to focus upon their sins and upon Christ's death. No one except the leader speaks. Everyone eats a small cracker or bite of bread. Everybody sips wine or juice. No fun is had.

The above, with small variations, occurs in almost all churches in the USA throughout the year. This would be fine if it was based in scripture. The problem is that it is not. Nothing like what I've described exists in the bible, especially not in the New Testament. If you search the New Covenant people to see what their Lord's Suppers looked like, you will find large family celebrations with full meals. Now that sounds like fun.

So how did we get to this point? Why would the church trade in a family celebration for a funeral-like ceremony?

(This post stems from an earlier piece entitled Sorry, But I Can't Stop Asking Questions.)

To answer these questions we must turn back the clock of church history.

As with much that is wrong with the church, the Constantinian change played a large role. When Emperor Constantine made Christianity the preferred religion of the Roman Empire (in the early 300's A.D.), many pagans flocked into the church institution. They brought their pagan sacrifices with them. In order to keep some semblance of these practices in place, the Mass was developed. Thus we have the "re-sacrificing of Christ" each time the Mass takes place.

In order for a sacrifice to happen, a priest has to be involved. Additionally, the people present must be somber in nature. After all, you cannot celebrate when someone is being sacrificed. The Roman church knew that the bread and wine had to be involved; therefore, they kept them as part of the sacrifice.

When the Reformers came along they did some things to change this. They got rid of the Mass and the priest. However, they put the sermon and the pastor in those spots. Additionally, they kept the funeral-like atmosphere. Ugh. They did not do what they should have: reverted back to the family celebrations we read about in the New Testament.

When we realize that church history and not scripture has led to the current situation, we see what we must do. Scripture must trump tradition. Family celebrations it is!

3 comments:

Aussie John said...

Eric,

"Why would the church trade in a family celebration for a funeral-like ceremony?"

Because they have never been taught regarding the meaning of Jesus words,"It is finished!" They still live under the Old Covenant as if Christ never existed.

Eric said...

John,

It is so true that while Christians rely on Christ for salvation, when it comes to church life many act as if they are still waiting for Him to come the first time. It is bizarre.

Peter Horvatin said...

Eric,

I believe that we have been trained this way. As I have studied the church over the years and from first hand experience, I know that it is truly hard to understand. Why is there such a somber tone when we should be celebrating wholeheartedly? It is hard to take the institution out of the christian.