Communion

The things pastors stress about…

Pastors shouldn’t stress out about whether or not they are going to commune on any given Sunday, but for the last six months I have.

My congregation and church body practices “close communion” (also called closed communion, depending which aspect you want to stress). Basically, God tells us that all those who commune should be “one loaf” – not just in word, but in fact. He writes that communion can actually be detrimental if taken in the wrong way (I Corinthians 10 and 11). He also tells us to mark those who teach differently and to keep away from such people (Romans 16:17). For those reasons, we invite only members of our church body to commune with us. It’s not a snobby thing; we do it because we don’t want to hurt anyone, even by accident.

I announce close communion and explain it every single week we have communion. If someone comes up and I know they’re not in fellowship with us, I withhold the bread and wine. I’ve announced what we do; if someone chooses to ignore that, it’s on them. (Incidentally, if I don’t know and they come up, I will commune them.)

Now all that is out of the way, I can get back to the story. (more…)

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I Know Why She Swallowed That Fly

…but don’t tell her she swallowed it.

So, Communion! At my congregation, we celebrate it using both individual cups and a chalice, a large silver “communal” cup. The little individual cups are offered first, and if someone wants one, they take it. If someone prefers the common cup, I pass by second and give them a sip. I prefer the chalice myself, as it reminds me that we all drink from the same source (Christ) and also, because the pastor lifts it to my lips, I receive without even raising a hand to help myself.

Last summer, we had some issues with bugs. Gnats and fruitflies would be attracted to the sweet wine we’d use. The little individual cups have a cover; no bugs got in there. However, the larger chalice had no such cover… and we ended up with bugs in the wine. It wasn’t very appealing. Now, the alcohol content of the wine prevents any kind of germs, so no one was going to get sick, but it’s still… well, it’s at the least distracting, and can be taken to be very disrespectful of the sacrament.

We problem-solved; one of the ladies brought a nice doily that sufficiently covered the cup’s mouth. No more problems.

Until today. (more…)

“Pastor, are you OK?”

It’s hard to distribute Communion when you can’t see because of tears in your eyes.

She came up for Communion. She came to participate in the Lord’s Supper, the body and the blood in, with, and under the bread and the wine. She had lingered at the outskirts of the church. She had been away. She had been hurt. I spent a lot of time with her, comforting, listening, simply being with her. She had returned… but had not joined our family at the Lord’s Table. For months now she’s lingered, watching. I told her she was welcome. I invited her up.

Today. I turned around from retrieving the platter of bread. And there she was, in line with the other communicants. And I cried.

This wasn’t bawling. This wasn’t sudden unseemly behavior. This was simply sudden tears of joy.

A member of our Christian  family was finally coming back to feast with us.

I actually had a hard time getting the words out. “Take and eat. This is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the same body he gave to death for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.” I heard my voice quiver. I don’t know if she knew how awesome it was giving her Communion.

My assistant asked if I was alright. I nodded with a smile.

How awesome it is to give forgiveness! How awesome it is to be used to show others — so that they may taste and see that the Lord is good!

I needed today. I needed to gather together with family around our Father. It’s been another hard week. I feared today; the sermon was very personal and not everyone enjoys that kind of sermon. After the service, as I hung up my robe, a woman came and said, “Pastor, you made me cry again today. And that’s not a bad thing!” And she burst into tears. We held each other for a long moment.

A man, after the service: “Pastor, you got me with that sermon.”

Another: “Pastor, that’s what I needed to hear today.”

I needed to hear this encouragement from my members. I needed to know that God was actually using me in their lives. And today, seeing a woman receive Communion for the first time in years… hearing that God was using me in others’ lives… and later on, visiting on a hospital call and sharing Jesus with a woman who’d never even heard of him…

Yeah. I’m not ok. I’m tearing up again.

I’m not ok. And that’s ok. I’m a broken man. I such a stupid, silly, useless man… and that God would use me? That he would do such amazing things through me? That I could accomplish his wonders as he works through his Word in my mouth, as he dwells in wafers my hands distribute, that he would create faith through something I would do?

If you’ve read here any amount of time, you’ve heard this sentiment from me before. And I apologize if it’s a repeat. But… it still just amazes me.

I’m not ok… and God uses me anyway.

Will you honor Jesus’ last will and testament?

Mark 14:22-26 22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.

24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”

26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

 

Will you honor Jesus’ last will and testament?

  1. Do you honor it for what it is?
  2. Do you honor it in what you do?

(more…)

…Wait for it…

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is wait.

We recently began using both common and individual cups for Communion. That means that every week that we offer the Sacrament (usually twice a month), I pass by each communicant three times: once with the bread, once with individual cups, and once with the common cup. I’ve stressed the importance of having both “forms” of wine available: many are uncomfortable with the common cup, and there are a few members of the congregation with “shaky hands” that want nothing to do with holding a little cup and possibly spilling it. Before my arrival, I understand there were several members that refused to take the wine because only the individual cups were offered and they were afraid of spilling!

We’ve done this dual offering for a while… and frankly, it makes communion rather a long process. I’ve considered asking one of the councilmen to help me with distribution, but the men of the council much prefer taking a back seat. They’ll help in any number of ways, as long as it doesn’t put them in front of people. They are faithful servants, though their gifts tend to skew in one direction.

Until this past week.

One of the councilmen asked me, “Pastor, we had a lot of people at communion last week. It sure took a while, didn’t it?”

I agreed with a smile. I don’t mind taking time for communion so every member can partake of the feast!

“Pastor, would it help if I helped you with handing out the communion stuff?”

Well, this coming Sunday, I get to have an assistant at distribution! How awesome is that? A member of Christ’s body saw a need and wants to help fulfill that need. If I had pushed or mentioned it ahead of time, the need wouldn’t be seen. Some in the council would likely had thought that pastor was just seeing problems where there weren’t any. Because I waited, the need was seen.

…now I just need to work on timing and presenting problems so they already know the problems exist!

“Rather, I should be baptized by you…”

It’s a silly, stupid thing. The power is in Christ’s promise, and that should hold all my awe. We are all the same. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. We are all sinners, and we should all be amazed at what Christ offers in the Sacrament of the Altar — that is, Holy Communion.

Saturday night, four churches had a combined New Year’s Eve service. I got to be one of those pastors involved, bringing the total up to seven ministers involved in the service. I was given the privilege of being presiding minister, meaning I got to do everything except the sermon. That also means I presided over the Lord’s Supper portion of the service. That means… I was honored to deliver Christ’s body and blood to six other pastors. Men I respect. Men I have gone to for advice. Men who have served me and looked out for me.

To top that off, a former professor of mine was in attendance — a man I have known and respected far longer than my brothers in the ministry here. (After the service, he asked how long I’d been here… I found out later that members from the other churches had assumed I’d been in the ministry far longer than my six months. What a compliment!)

I have to admit, I felt a bit like John the Baptizer and Jesus. “No, you should be the one giving me communion, not the other way around.” And it’s silly. Those other pastors aren’t Jesus. They’re fallen men, just like me. They desperately need and desire what Jesus gives in the Sacrament, just like me. (more…)