As I was standing in front of the church, my primary concern was not dropping the gold-covered bread and juice trays. As Pastor recounted the details from I Corinthians 11, however, my mind drifted to the early 16th century--or what I have heard about it. I thought of a young priest named Martin Luther conducting his first Communion, and I pictured him endeavoring to steady his trembling hands as he administered what he believed to be the literal body and blood of Christ. I thought of the ritualism that is so common in many of the older denominations, or, at least, the ritualism that I have heard is so common. (Sadly, I've have had very little actual interaction with any church experience other than the independent Baptist variety.) As I left the service, I thought of the typical Baptist observance of the Lord's Supper, and I thought of some questions.
Why do we (as in independent Baptists) administer Communion the way we do? These services (no matter how often a church holds them) are about as close as most Baptists get to being "high-churchy" or liturgical. It's kind of funny if you think about it. In the churches I have attended throughout my life, the service follows this basic progression: 1) The pastor will read I Corinthians 11; 2) Everyone will take a few moments of spiritual self-examination; 3) The pastor will explain the symbolism of the bread and wine (I mean juice!); 4) Everyone will sit very quietly and meditatively as the elements are distributed; and 5) On the pastor's cue, everyone ingests the elements.
Now, I must say that I don't think there is anything wrong or unbiblical about the conducting the service this way. In fact, I can see good reasons for several of these items. I guess my question is--why does the overall tone of the service always seem to be so solemn and formal? Why does the Lord's Supper Service seem to pull even the most fiercely independent of Baptists into a Catholic-like ritualism?
I understand that Communion is designed to be held in remembrance of Christ's death on the cross, and maybe that is why we tend to grow so somber on these occasions. I also understand that I Corinthians makes it clear that the Lord's Supper is not to be taken lightly. However, do these facts require us to remain so rigid and meditative? To be transparent, I often struggle during the "distribution time" of the service. I am never quite sure what to do. I try to think about Jesus and His sacrifice, but my mind tends to drift. Is there anything that would preclude us from singing a song of praise and thanksgiving or even giving testimonies about our salvation as the trays travel through the rows? Shouldn't these services have more of a celebratory feel to them? I guess I just feel as though we could pursue more of an atmosphere of realism rather than ritualism in our observances of Communion.
Not sure what the answers to these questions are. I guess I will have to give it some more thought.
What about you? What do you think?
By the way--I didn't drop any of the trays, so the solemnity of the service went uninterrupted.
In the meantime,
still looking for the genuine...