(of the Communion Service)
Give us day by day our daily bread.
Jesus said to His disciples, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of."
How relevant this verse is in this day of great apostasy and spiritual blindness! What the early church experienced and discovered through revelation, and lived as an everyday procedure or thing or occurrence. Which is a present reality for those who come under the blood covering of the Lord Jesus Christ and commune with God through the Spirit, and with one another in fellowship and hospitality.
Having taken part or observed over the years, Evangelical communion (Brethren/Baptist), High Church communion, Pentecostal communion, Charismatic communion, Ecumenical communion, and New Age communion (same platitude, but without reference to Jesus), I have witnessed the same rigmarole or extremes of the cold formal approach, to the emotionally charged ecstasy of "lives touched" and "hearts melted". However, at the end of the day, I have never witnessed lasting fruit or lives changed from these intense "solemn" experiences. From the aftermath of these "spiritual" highs and religious gestures, life has continued on just the same, where people may have confessed to an "attitude" towards someone, or been radiant for God while on top of Mount "Fuzzy", then neatly slipped back into their carnal everyday pattern of pretence or indifference.
Why ... ? Because religion in every shape and form may give some sense of emotional or intellectual elation, acting as a substitute for the life from above. However, this human "spiritual" endeavour (making a feast out of the yeast) will never fill or satisfy anyone on any lasting basis. Nor does it come in one shred of a light year away in pleasing God our Maker.
The master mystical lie
No, I am not going to mention the Roman Catholic Church at this stage and sandblast t r a n s u b s t a n t i a t i o n (phew, easier to type than say though!): The bread and wine BEING CHANGED to God by priestly magic. But I am going to look at the Protestant version, c o n s u b s t a n t i a t i o n (take note of the first three letters ... con, cause that's what it is): The bread and wine BEING LINKED to God mystically by consecration (where a 'spiritual professional' must also be in charge). Two versions of the same thing. One hard-line the other moderate.
Some may think I'm being a bit too hard here. However, some time back I attended a "Bible believing" home meeting where about 30 people, from various back grounds, both young and elderly, were present. During the meeting, when the subject of (traditional) "communion" came up, I felt it had to be made very clear the bread and wine in scripture were symbols only!
Question: Why did I take this diplomatic approach? Well, can't you imagine the reaction if I had of mentioned "Communion" in the traditional sense, was unbiblical? With all said and done, and to my surprise, the head of the home openly disagreed with me and made it plain they were far more than symbols. What was just as surprising (well, not really surprising) was the fact not one person present supported me or even refuted the counter claim made by our host.
"Wow", I exclaimed! ... "were all our past Bible believing church fathers martyred in vain? Had we forgotten the great price paid but mulititudes of saints during the Inquisition?":
Inquisitor: "Is this piece of bread the body of our Lord and Saviour?"
Believer on trial: "No it is just a symbol, that's all!"
Inquisitor: "To the flames with this heretic!!"
Read on please ...
A wee bit of history
Did you know there is something remarkably different about the Believers when they rubbed shoulders in the book of Acts compared to what is referred today as fellowship? It was a spontaneous, not compulsive, informal getting-it-together in peoples homes type of thing. Even breaking bread together was an ordinary thing, a meal, not an involuntary ritual as it has become today. In fact, there are only THREE places in Acts where the breaking of bread together is recorded and they are all to do with snack times. Proof ... ? Then here it comes:
Acts 2:42- 47 "... and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart."
Then there is Acts 20:7-11, a first day of one particular week. No, not a Sunday as previously taught. The Adventists have got this part right. It was a Saturday evening (after 6.00 pm), the first day of the Jewish/Biblical week just hours after the sabbath had ended, and not in accordance with the present R.C.C. calendar which was invented in the 16th century prophetically and partially fulfilling Daniel 7:25. The Believers got so caught up in what God was doing they put tea on-hold.
It wasn't till after midnight however, they finally did eat (remember the tired young lad previously falling asleep at the window while Paul was delivering the word?). It's amazing how we have justified a ceremony we esoterically call "communion" to be strictly observed on the commencement of the Day of the Sun. Whoops! ... Sunday morning that is!
Not convinced? Well ... please read on, coz there is only one last record left in Acts. Here it is ... Chapter 27:14- 44 this time:
Here Paul found himself on a ship being lashed about by violent storms for a couple of weeks. He and Luke appear to be the only believers on board as all the others come across as being superstitious, trying to appease their gods out of the anger situation by abstaining from food (I think they call it "fasting", or something). No, they were not on an organized detox session either. More than likely (if the truth beknown) they were too bloom'n worn out, or seasick, to handle anything that looked like kai anyway.
However, Paul, in touch with his Dad above, encouraged everyone on board (verse 33- 36) to cheer up and take a bite to eat, as he knew his God had everything under control. Then he gave thanks and broke bread with his pagan heathen friends. What!!?? Must be a translation error or something?? Relax ... this was a meal out of necessity, not religious habit, with ordinary people having a chance to see God work in this whole tricky situation.
So, the Acts have it ... an informal, not surprisingly meaningful get-together, with some tucker thrown in.
Still not convinced?
Beyond the show (biz) bread
How can folk taste something that's not tangible, or material? That's why religion is in great need. Along with all its trappings and adornments. To make something, and to turn something abstract (the way they view "God") into something we can feel, taste, touch and smell. Whether it be the eucharist, music, incense burning, or the laying on of hands by the clergy giving a nice "spiritual" massage; folk need something palpable. And decorative. Even crosses and doves, and silver chalices. Quite at home in evangelical circles!
Or is there another way? A better way! I think they call it the new covenant! Or is it the new and living way?
David took the show bread. No, he wasn't trying to be "spiritual". He was just plain bloom'n hungry. In other words ... desperate for some grub. Moreover, because of his plight, he wasn't worrying about any order of ceremony. Just think about it? If David had been out to impress or religiously comply, it may have cost him his life. This was far more important than things like tradition, ritual, and piety. It was time to give the touch not/taste not syndrome the boot. If it was either the 'doctrine of food' or divine provision. David chose the latter. He was now looking beyond the exhibit bread.
Meals and hospitality
Let's look at it this way: Many folk around the Mediterranean still use a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine as a basis for their staple diet, and usually are family orientated people who enjoy entertaining their guests and making them feel at home. Here in New Zealand we have seen a few documentaries over the last few years of ex-Kiwi servicemen who have gone back to places like Greece or Italy for WW2 reunions with families they befriended during the war. I can recall scenes of breaking bread together, toasting wine, embracing each other in song, and generally making merry around the table, in remembrance, of a special time gone by.
Now, is the penny beginning to drop!?
A meal - but more than a meal
To the Jewish folk the Passover still has both a significance and symbolic meaning (unfortunately they can't see past the ordinance). Their very existence and survival as a people has depended upon their sharing together. A meal typifying a common bond, as in many other cultures. With a false hope their Messiah will walk in on their banquet as an unannounced guest, at any given time, fuels this incentive to meet and be together.
However, two thousand years ago Messiah Jesus, as their passover lamb, did arrive into their midst, unrecognized, as the fulfilment of their passover meal, before this ordinance was nailed to the cross along with their prophet they rejected and handed over to the Romans. Here, Jesus was replacing the old system with something far better. He certainly was not replacing one form of Judaism with another. He was actually making a remarkable statement that could even be experienced if adhered to. He made a declaration about the bread at their passover meal being a representation of His flesh. No, not literally. Furthermore, the grape juice (fruit of the vine) was being a representative of His blood in the same way. He also said to His disciples, as often as you do this (having meals - the breaking of bread - fellowship) do this in remembrance of Me!
Sounds almost too simple eh! Like taking the Holy Bible for what it says. But never so easy. The cross was never supposed to be. That's why Jesus wanted to get through to His disciples (paraphrased):
"Are you able to partake and drink of what I'm about to taste and drink of?" "Are you willing to be baptized with My death. The death I am about to experience?"
Moreover, when He said ... do this in remembrance of Me, did He mean to duplicate a certain setting and format as a new form of ritual, over and over again, each time His followers met together, until He came back? Or did He mean to know Him in our eating, working, hospitality and sharing? In real life settings! Doing all for the glory of God! Only knowing and acknowledging ... in him we live, and move, and have our being. Without (Him) ye can do nothing!
There's nothing abstract or mystical about this. It's just a natural process of dying to self (laying your life down for the Lord and others) and living daily (acknowledging Him in all your ways) for Him. This way He gets total credit for everything. Plus our attitude is kept humble as we shy away from religious paraphernalia. Or being a "spiritual" exhibitionist. Or of a fear of appearing sacrilegious or too flippant. Making us grateful He has chosen the base and foolish things. This way, we actually begin to understnad what true worship is about also.
Instituting a substitute
However, today there is one big problem for our W.A.S.P. (Western Anglo-Saxon Protestant ) mentality, converted to a gospel which was to the Jew first. This is the fact that eating mashed spud is more of a staple diet now, just as breaking bread together was in the days of old, when a loaf of bread was the centrality of the meal. Bread is now usually a snack or a top-up, and since the advent of the sandwich late nineteenth century, it is nowadays pre-sliced and packaged for individual consumption and is not as 'family friendly' as yesteryear.
Also, a meal in bygone days generally took a lot more preparation than today. So there would have been a lot more appreciation and less taken for granted. The main meal (supper in biblical times) was the advent of the day ... not being a couch potato in front of the electronic altar namely the TV. When guests came the meal table was central. Not the tube or flat screen. People generally stayed for the duration of the banquet. Relaxed. No urgency to gulp down the grub. No hi-tech distractions. Simplicity. Taking your time as there was plenty to talk and be hospitable about.
Grab as many Bible dictionaries, commentaries, history books and encyclopaedias (as well as the word of God) you can get your hands on (oh ... and think about when you last went overseas). Put some hours in, and do some checking yourself, as the truth will still filter through and be confirmed by the Bible as final authority. This is quite hard for traditional Westerners to grasp. Along with us Kiwis and Aussies, as we are not generally as open, intimate and warm on making contact with friends and associates as Latinos or Asians or others (not knocking our friendliness - sometimes). In my neck of the woods, when you pass someone you know at a cafe or mall or something, it is usually with a nod or quick "gidday" (like two ships passing at night flashing their lights to make acknowledgement). In Latin and Mediterranean countries (I know -I've been there) folk go out of their way for one another. Even if they are sitting down (this will mean standing up in honour) they are accustomed to greet with a hug and a kiss to each side of the face (sometimes twice - depending on culture). This takes time, especially if you have to do the rounds when all are seated, then sometimes repeat it again at the next table. This shows how Mediterranean/Mid Eastern culture is very laid back, friendly and intimate, where the word communing (or communion) starts to mean more than just a phrase or a set ritual.
You will discover in biblical times (in context with scripture) when a guest arrived at someone's home he would be welcomed at the door by the head of the home with the greeting of a kiss. Next he would be shown in, then seated, and the servant of the home would attend to him by washing his feet (bearing in mind the footwear and dusty streets of that era) and anointing his hair and beard with oil. Then finally he would be shown to the table where he would be joined by other guests and family members. Everyone would wait for the head of the home who would come and offer thanks to God. He would then take a loaf and break it and share it out to the others gathered (not whispering in their ear - are you saved?), symbolizing the oneness of friends and family under the Headship of God.
Now metaphorically apply the above paragraph to the spiritual and you will see Jesus is now our all in all. He is the one we kiss (Ps. 2:12). He is the door, the door keeper, the servant, the house, the Head, the one who leads, the table for gathering, the anointer, the anointing, the bread, the new wine, as well as the one who points us to God. We are His guests, His friends, His children, His family, His gathering, His household, and the ones He communes with (as we commune with Him and one another).
There's much in the New Testament about believers banquets, also known as feasts of charity. This is just another term just for the Lord's table or breaking bread. No doubt with plenty of bread and grape beverage, along with other goodies. As Twenty First Century man has lost some qualities in living since "the good ole days" (after all, we are the sophisticated "instant" age) because of changes in lifestyle and culture (with the notion of staying "religious", or looking "biblical") we have packaged our meetings together into our own convenient liturgies to suit our own format, our own mid to upper class materialistic culture, and pigeonholed the truth in the process. F' instance ...
Stand/pray ... sit/listen ... stand/sing ... sit/read ... stand/collection ... sit/"communion" ... stand/sing ... sit/item (with song, dance or drama to spice things up) ... stand/benediction. Plus 'happy clappy' times thrown in, so we can show-off how free we are by breaking out of structure; etc. etc.:
"Oh, we are sooo di-verse!! Sooo sen-si-tive!! Sooo full of ex-pres-sion!! Sooo multi-cul-tural!! Sooo in-no-vative!! Sooo free of re-ligion and tra-di-tion!! Weee do every-thing in our church!! How weee must look sooo beau-ti-ful before God and the out-side world!!"
You see we compartmentalize parts of scripture and throw in a bit of Old Testament with the New (this way it looks "biblical"!), along with new ideas, to "enrich" our gatherings and call it "having church". Additionally, since we have left 'breaking bread' as a meal, yet are aware of its contents in the New Testament, we, in our human discretion, have replaced it with an invented (or reinvented) representation ritual we call the "Lords supper" or "communion". This consists of a "holy hush" ceremony, by hand to hand passing of crumbs and lolly water around (sometimes booze), under certain emotional criteria ... tears, confessions, solemn postures, predictable prayers, etc. Unscripturally with our eyes closed. Confusing reverence with austerity, holiness with sanctimony, and the presence of God with emotionalism. Moreover, turning inward to passivity we turn off true fellowship one to another.
However, if we are going to be strict about ceremony here, then we need to do it properly. Like the book of Galatians f 'instance; saying if we go back under one part of the Old then we are obligated to go back under every regulation belonging to that system. As James 2:10 puts it:
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
Which means (if we are going to look "scriptural" and "correct") we are constrained to literally and regularly attend the feasts and observe the days. Making sure the bread is unleavened as one loaf (uncut) from the twelve! Making sure there is one cup (not heaps of minis) with grape beverage as its content (not blackcurrent or raspberry ... this will make it lose its valued symbolic meaning). Also, eating paschal lamb, bitter herbs with sauce, each dipped in the one bowl ... all in the correct order of procedure.
Then there is the question of washing one another's feet ... literally and regularly!?
Forget it! As mentioned there is a more simple way. Let us repeat in reverse the only THREE witnesses (breaking of bread) recorded in Acts again:
Fact 1. Paul broke bread with non Christians. I'll repeat that ... with non Christians!!
Fact 2. Sunday's breakfast was Saturday's supper postponed because of Paul's extra long message. Not because they had to; or had planned to hold off for the Special Day.
Fact 3. Moreover, breaking bread was eating meat with gladness of heart (not glumness of art).
With no mention whatsoever of the so-called Communion Service in the book of the Acts of the apostles and churches. Simply because it was never there in the first place. Nor intended to be there. Simply because ... one cannot separate 1 Cor. 10, the book of Acts and John 6 from each other. They all complement one another in scripture and need rightly dividing not wrongly categorizing. Meaning, 1 Cor 10 is metaphoric also, with practical application as we see in Acts.
Christendom however (having its roots in Catholicism, which in turn has its roots in Babylonianism), separates 1 Cor 10 from John 6, merely because it is convenient and can be manipulated into presenting the "communion" as breaking bread in Acts.
"What about water baptism (immersion)?" some would say. "Is this not a similar New Testament ordinance?"
The practice of believer's baptism in water is repeatedly mentioned in the book of Acts whereas 'the Communion Service' is not! Nowhere is a 'set day' ritual found in Acts which involves an organized audience eating a large bread crumb in unison, followed by one gulp of fluid administered by a religious figurehead, aided by the fear you are not serving God if you don't follow suit. Plus ... "please make sure the guest participating in this holy ordinance next to you is a Christian, or else they're in real big trouble with God (and maybe you will be too)"!
There is a passion in believers, and genuine may I say, to get back to the true "roots"/"culture" of the New Testament church. Quite frankly this is impossible (and a so-called loop-hole for many movements to exploit with their own monopolized version) as we live in a totally different era, usually with a complete different culture, along with modern technology. Moreover, we must take in account and remember the early church did not have the complete Bible, just portions or copies of the apostles letters, along with books of the Old Testament. However, what we do have today is the spiritual bare essentials: God's complete package ... the same Holy Ghost and the same inspired scriptures preserved in a complete book as the written word of God, pointing us to the same historical complete work on the cross. Complete is the word! Yes, Jesus has paid the price! He has bought us back! And "it is written"! What more do we need?
Both practically and spiritually speaking, 'breaking bread' in our fellowshipping is now sharing a portion of scripture from the scriptures (the bread of life) with others gathered, with the purpose of building them up. Due to the Beast's head being wounded (that city on seven hills, who ruled the Roman Holy Empire), ushering in the end of the Dark Ages, and opening up a whole different era for the developing world; the Industrial Revolution; intellectual enlightenment and educating the common people, was now in full swing. This brand new trend allowed for the introduction of the printing press, and global travel, where a complete, full, open, and public Bible was made available to the man in the street for the first time. It is in this Book that individuals find, through revelation, where the Lord's table is. They also discover where we fellowship from in spirit and in truth (remember the table of devils is metaphorical also), and where communion is our deep intimacy with the Lord as we walk with Him, sharing in His suffering as well as in His resurrection life.
"But the scriptures can't be broken!" some will protest.
The true meaning is ... they can't be taken out of context; added to, or subtracted from. However, they are vital for collective individual contribution and consumption:
"When you come together, everyone of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation" ... All various aspects in bringing the word to each other; for edifying each other, as individuals and the Body in general.
"How can you say the bread, wine and the table are not literal?" some may question.
Coz in the same context the scriptures also say that Jesus was the rent veil (the way to the presence of God). Jesus also said He was the vine (where the juice comes from). As He was the door (where we pass through to sup). Are these literal or symbolic? The literal was the material copy under the Old Covenant acting as the mere shadow ... a type or copy of the spiritual in the New Testament. Who gave us the authority to compartmentalize or materialize what is holy and truly spiritual? When the scriptures say taste and see that the LORD is good, how should we respond? He has made a promise ...
"if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me."
This is true New Testament communion.
In conjunction with "Footwashing"
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