Thursday, 28 March 2013

Maundy Thursday And Communion Frequency

I remember when I was at St Andrews going a few times to the parish church. And by parish church I mean the Church of Scotland. And sometimes there would be white cloths decked over the backs of pews as the Kirk prepared for its Communion Sunday.

Getting on for 20 years ago now, I was a volunteer with Time For God, being placed with Methodist Homes for the Aged. At one of the conferences I heard about two previous volunteers.

For one lady, Connunion was so important and so sacred that she celebrated it only a few times a year.

For another lady, Communion was so important and so sacred that she aimed to celebrate it daily.

Two Christians, starting from the same principles, and wanting to honour God and coming to completely opposite conclusions.

Often, when we disagree, we have to see what the other person is actually saying, rather than assuming they don't love God as much as we do, or maybe they don't take the Bible as seriously as we do, are not as Spirit-filled as we are etc.

I am wondering with Communion, how frequently we should take it. I did try to find a Maundy Thursday Communion service - the local Anglican parish church does one, but by the time I got home from work today I had a pounding headache and had to rest. And even cooking lamb (I felt it was kind of appropriate for today) has been put off - no appetite.

In Judaism, the festivals were celebrated annually - no more frequently, no less frequently. And the first Maundy Thursday, when the sacrament of Communion was instituted, was a Passover celebration. Does this mean that Maundy Thursday isn't just a day when we celebrate Communion, but the day we celebrate it?

Sometimes Acts 20:7 is produced as the text that backs weekly Sunday Communion - it was the first day of the week, they were breaking bread. But in Acts 2:46 the believers were breaking bread daily in their homes. Hmm, so did the early church go from daily Communion to weekly, or does Luke mean something different when he refers to breaking bread? And just because in Troas they celebrated it one Sunday, does that mean it has to be celebrated every Sunday?

There is one danger, that of finding Bible passages, ignoring what that particular section is focussing on and then looking for the umbras and penumbras, assuming that when a writer mentions X, they are referring to Y, and using that as a legalistic stick to beat others with.

More importantly than how often we receive Communion is how we receive it. I don't mean posture or style. but our heart attitude. Are we eating the bread and drinking the wine in gratitude?

One final thought - this weekend marks something greater than Christmas, and the modern Anglican Christmas marks that. One trend is of the Christmas Eve "Midnight Mass", and years ago I heard it pointed out that as we are marking the start of Christmas Day, it is in a service where we, once again, eat bread and drink wine to remember Jesus Christ giving up His life for our redemption.

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