Monday, March 7, 2016

This Do in Remembrance of... Self?

    I've sat through a lot of communion services in my life. Baptist ones, non-denominational ones, Presbyterian ones... But the common thread I see running through the vast majority of these services I've been in has left me frustrated. After getting a frustrated email from a friend last night pointing out the same thing in her church, I thought I should address this issue yet again.

     The pastor somberly reads Lk. 22 or 1 Cor. 7, then every head bows to silently pray after a somber warning to examine yourselves for your worthiness to approach the table and the dire warnings against partaking unworthily. With heads bowed and somber warnings flickering through our minds, the piano softly begins to play hymns that speak to us about the pain and sorrow of the cross, the sorrow of Christ in the grace, while we rush through the list of our sins of the week and frantically repent, then finish with a blanket repentance for any we may have missed. The ushers quietly pass the plate, and each of us silently takes our cracker with straight faces and sad looks.

     Holding the cracker, the pastor leads us in a serious prayer, pointing us to reflection on how great our unworthiness is before God and the greatness of His pain on our behalf. Then, if you're anything like I was, you finished communion with yet another promise to God and challenge to yourself to work just a little harder this week and be a little more holy.

     Now, there are several issues with what I just listed above. Two blatantly stick out to me as the two I'll address today. First of all, why did I just make it through two paragraphs describing our communion suppers and only mention the name of Christ once? Sadly, this is becoming more and more common in our communion services. It is becoming entirely possible in our church to come together to celebrate our Lord's death and leave having celebrated ourselves.

     Ourselves? Is that too blunt? Maybe we're not Christ-focused, Taylor, but surely that's not the same as coming together to celebrate ourselves! I disagree. I would like to yield that our communion suppers have become more and more self-focused examinations than Christ-exalting worship. At the very time we are called together to come in remembrance of Him, we instead come together in remembrance of ourselves.

     Why do I say this? Very simple really... if you spend more time on the point to examine yourselves than to rejoice in the atonement that's ours, the focus of the table has become ourselves instead of Christ. When we are examining our sins more than we are rejoicing in Christ's payment for those sins, we have replaced the true purpose of the table with an improper focus.

     Our self-examination should remind us of our sin... in order to put our eyes back on Christ as my Savior and my atonement! The self-examination's purpose is not to resolve my sin issues before coming to the table; that is the antithesis of what the Lord's Supper does represent. Christ's atonement comes to us while in our sin, not waiting for us to resolve it. We come to our Father's table as saved sinners, saints who still sin and still have sin in our lives, and we come to the table to rejoice in the resolution of the sin in the blood of my Savior, not by my continued penitent prayers!

     Secondly, we lack one of the things we most should desire at communion: joy! Communion, while I can understand a degree of seriousness and somberness as we remember the pain and agony of our Lord, is a proclamation of Christ's victory over the sin in my life and a celebration of my freedom in Him! What is symbolized by the table and is recalled to my memory by it is the greatest victory and the greatest joy of my life! This is not a time for sadness or somber guilt and shame. It's a time for reckless joy and unadulterated amazement and awe in the greatness of my God's grace!

     Communion is not a time of guilty examination in order to clean up my life in order to make myself worth of the table. We examine ourselves, an examination that points us on to Christ, and then rejoice in His perfection and imparted righteousness for me! We do this in remembrance of Christ, with Him as our aim and our glory, not in remembrance of myself and my guilt. Any examination of my own failure simply becomes impetus to thrust me further into fascination with God's incredible grace and thankfulness for His death on my behalf.

     Communion is about Him. It's not about my short-comings. It's not about my sin. It's all about Christ. My sin and my shortcoming's only purpose is to drive me further into recognize how great my Savior is! Let the Lord's table be a joyful celebration of His goodness, not a laborious exercise in self-improvement.


  1. This is *so* perfect!! Just, yes, yes, and yes. If only all churches could see it like this... How is it that we can let ourselves fall for this? I'm thinking out loud... Is it just that we go with the crowd and do what we think others are doing/expect us to do, like to please man? Is it simply because it's how we're taught straight from the pulpit, and we don't bother to question where the *Lord* is in "the Lord's supper" and mindlessly go along with what we're told? If we had our eyes on Christ in the first place, then wouldn't we end up avoiding turning our eyes on ourselves... Yeah, anyway, this was great!

    1. I think you meant it as a rhetorical question, but I'm going to answer. :) Yes, it is because the gospel we believe has become more about sin resolution than Christ glorification. When sin resolution becomes the impetus for Christ's glorification rather than vice versa, we become the emphasis, rather than Christ. So the heart of this problem is a false gospel, pure and simple. It's a popular false gospel, but it is indeed a false gospel.

  2. Hmm, I honestly never thought about this but that describes communion really really well at our church...