This morning I ran into an article by Dr. Peter Leithart, a pastor from Moscow, Idaho, which put forth the idea that the greatest threat to Evangelicalism is from within. With a cursory glance at all of the other problems we face, he places the central difficulty in how we address the Lord’s Supper. While he picked at a number of things, and there’s plenty to pick at, I want to target one specific aspect of the problem: frequency.
To begin with, in American Evangelicalism there is often a hesitancy when it comes to making the Supper important, since it smacks of Catholic excesses. But, whatever the nitty-gritty of your theology, it has to be admitted that in some sense, “this is my body, broken for you,” and “this is the new covenant in my blood.” The Lord’s Supper is holy. So we can’t just relegate it to some neglected corner of our mind, trotting it out once or twice every year or so, to the great confusion of kids too young to remember when we did it last. We are told to do this in remembrance of Christ.
Now, there is another reason Evangelicals like to reduce the frequency of the Lord’s Supper, and that’s to increase its holiness. The reasoning is that if you do it less, it’s a bigger deal the few times you actually do it. That may be the case, but let me ask this: is the point to recognize that a particular ritual (a living, righteous ritual) is holy, or to shape a way of life?
Let me expand on that. When we sit down at the Lord’s table, it is just that: a table. At its head is our Father, and we are brought to it by our Elder Brother by the power of the Spirit. It’s a family table, and like all family tables, it brings those around it closer together. It also forms habits, teaching us how to relate to one another, and teaching us table manners. In the same way Communion, and it is a form of communion, teaches us how we relate to God and to each other.
So when we come to the Lord’s Table on a weekly basis, as a congregation, we begin to form a rhythm that teaches us about our Lord, the Father, and the Christ who is the Bread of Life. We also learn about the Spirit that drew us there, that draws us closer with every common meal. In weekly communion we see the rhythm of sanctification, a rhythm which gets the whole Church dancing in step together. That rhythm is far more important than one mildly effective way of setting apart something which is already set apart.
I think Pastor Leithart is right. In modern Evangelicalism, we have set aside a practice which plays out the Gospel before our very eyes, and on our own tongues. We’ve severed a form of communion which unites individuals and congregations to each other and their Lord. And we’ve set aside a form of fellowship with God that has a powerful effect on self-conscious sanctification. After all, it’s hard to be at odds with someone who shares His table with you. If we can get this back, I have a feeling many other things will fall into place.