Monday, June 11, 2007

Thoughts on Weekly Communion...So What?


Why bother talking about the frequency of Communion at all? Here are a few reasons:

"Without the word, the sacrament is merely an empty sign. Without the sacrament, the word is not properly sealed and does not have its full, intended effect. [emphasis added]…neither the preaching of the word nor the observance of the sacrament is superfluous or optional in regular Christian worship (cf. Acts 2:42). Biblical worship includes both."[1]

"Or is Communion more like a meal, a frequent event that is special because of its necessity?…What will we say when our Lord asks us why we deliberately neglected a primary means of grace in most Lord’s Day worship services?…Is it truly good stewardship to hide the Communion cup more Sundays than we use it?"[2]


Other writers do not make such bold claims, but offer their ideas, suggesting some benefits (that are not used to excuse weak sermons):

"On the other hand, even if I fall short and preach do’s and don’ts rather than the gospel, the Lord’s Supper helps to remind the congregation of the gospel basics…"
"...it [weekly Supper] might even contribute toward revival and reformation in lives, families, and in congregations
."[3]

Some have used weekly Communion to degrade Communion preparation (LCQ 171ff.)
"Since we have weekly communion, we don't need to warn people about approaching the table in an unworthy manner. It would be awkward and repetitive."


Do you, dear reader, agree with these assertions? If so, why? If not, why? The issue is more involved than simply quoting verses or making theological assertions. That's what I found out when I studied the issue: hard work. My opinion shifted through this in-depth study. And at the end of it all I created a book, Words of Life: The Bible & Weekly Communion.

I urge people to read it. Many who have formulated opinions on the matter (especially those in favor of weekly practice) have taken little time to read up on the issue. In fact, being a conservative Presbyterian my starting position is the historical practice of the church. Thus, the burden of proof is on those against such practices. Weekly Communion has not been universally practiced in the Reformed faith. Period. Those acting on it should do so in dialogue with history not out of some private research that can easily miss illuminating arguments and perspectives.

This is only installment one.
Read on, dear reader.


[1] Ibid, 270. These statements were given in a short section on the relation of the Word and Sacrament. At best this is unclear language.

[2] Grover E. Gunn, III, “Weekly Communion,” The Counsel of Chalcedon, December 1986, 20.

[3] Larry Wilson, “On Weekly Communion—Some Pastoral Reflections”, Ordained Servant 14, no. 1, (March 2005): 17, 20 , he continues: "I shouldn’t gloss over this, as if weekly communion somehow excuses failure to preach Christ."



7 comments:

Larry Wilson said...

Wow! Dear brother, I can't even agree with my own statement when it's two separate statements taken out of their context and put together to appear like one statement! These statements may or may not be wrong, but I hope your readers will at least read them in context before deciding. Then iron can truly sharpen iron and we can truly help one another grow in our faithfulness to God. Blessings in our Savior. Larry Wilson

James said...

Shawn:

Your assertion, "Weekly Communion has not been practiced in the Reformed faith. Period." is misleading at best. Getting past how you uncharitably quoted Larry Wilson out of context, one might assume by this comment that no great thinker has ever in the Reformed faith pushed for weekly communion.

Since Calvin himself believed that the Lord's Supper ought to be celebrated at least weekly making bold statements like this is misleading at best, brother.

We disagree on this issue and you know it but making arguments in this manner is beneath your level of scholarship my friend.

James said...

One other thought, "In fact, being a conservative Presbyterian my starting position is the historical practice of the church."

Really?

Wasn't the Reformation about the tradition of the Church vs. the Word of God? Certainly the default position is to submit to the doctrines of the Church until one is bound by the Word and conscience to do otherwise. But I know of no historic document of the church that binds a local congregation to monthly or annual or quarterly or weekly communion. Do you?

The Directory for Worship from the Westminster Assembly leaves the frequency of Communion celebration to the local elders. You know, the guys that penned that larger catechism you quoted?

If the Word of God either allows or prescribes weekly communion then the historic practice of the reformed church is irrelevant.

Larry Wilson said...

Hi Shawn,

Just to clarify ... I don't detect any want of charity on your part. I've downloaded your monograph and I look forward to reading it. Please remember our General Assembly in your prayers.

Cordially, and charitably,
Larry

James said...

Shawn:

Uncharitable was a poor word choice. Please forgive me for that.

polymathis said...

You are forgiven.

polymathis said...

On a happier note: why does this firefox pop-up box (for the comments) not expand? The words almost cut off on the right side?