Starting this Sunday our church is going to take part in The Lord’s Supper every week. For the entire life of our church we have only partaken of the bread and cup on a monthly basis, so this is a fairly dramatic shift in practice for us.
Scripture speaks to the importance of Communion but there’s a multitude of approaches churches have in terms of how often to partake. Some don’t ever partake, some once a year, some for special events, some once a month, and others every week.
A book could easily be written on the subject of Communion and it’s other namesakes the Eucharist, the Lord’s Table, the Lord’s Supper, but today I want to summarize in brief why we’re putting The Lord’s Table into our weekly gatherings.
Here’s the 3 stand out reasons for our shift in practice:
Sacrament Over Sermon
In most churches, the sermon is given the greatest weight. Some of this is positive: it elevates God’s Word, it encourages us to submit ourselves to His Word and the messenger God has placed in our path. But there is something we need more than a sermon, it’s the sacrament of Communion.
I can’t break down what I mean by sacrament in depth, but let’s simply call a sacrament a visible sign of grace. Brian Zahnd builds on this emphasis by saying:
“Christian faith is more about connecting our lives with Christ than it is about gaining spiritual information. Making church more about the sermon than the sacrament is a move toward secularism…What the sacrament of Communion does that the sermon cannot do is offer the worshiper a direct encounter with the life of Christ” (Water to Wine, 147).
Many have brought the critique toward worship in church today by calling it passive. They see a band on stage in a dark room with loud music. While we do our best not to create a corporate worship environment like this, there’s no question that the stage vs. seats dynamic of a church gathering can create a disconnect. Coming forward to The Lord’s Table, however, is not passive, it is active.
By making it a weekly practice of responding to God’s Word by standing up, walking forward, partaking of the bread and cup, we begin to teach ourselves that the way of Jesus is found in taking up His life, surrendering our own.
Habitus is a sociology term meaning that we each have dispositions or tendencies that frame the way we engage the world around us. Put more simply, you make very few conscious, deliberate decisions in your daily life. Instead, you often do things a certain way because you have established a tendency in that direction. And in fact, this has everything to do with the importance of weekly partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
A weekly practice of sharing in the broken body and shed blood of Christ pushes the partaker toward a habit of living in light of Christ’s sacrifice instead pursuing life by their own merit, for their own gain. It’s a gospel-empowered habitus.
James K.A. Smith, in his exceptional book You Are What You Love, focuses on the importance of consistent practices that form our habitus. He says, “The church—the body of Christ—is the place where God invites us to renew our loves, reorient our desires, and retrain our appetites” (65).
By partaking in Communion each week we reframe our lives—we find our lives by laying them down, to take up what was broken on our behalf. The weekly practice helps us to form the habitus of being people who follow the way of Jesus even when we might not consciously choose that way.
I’m looking forward to watching this weekly practice become part of the ethos of our church.
I’m curious if you have a response to this. And also curious, how often does your church partake?