What have you really missed during the Corona Crisis? Time with friends? A vacation? Your normal job routine? Going to the gym? Getting your favorite meal at a restaurant? Speaking of food, one request that has recently surfaced is the desire to take the Lord’s Supper. In spiritual language, we’re realizing that we’ve had to fast from that meal.
For those who have never taken part in a fast, it’s interesting to note that Jesus said “WHEN you fast (Matt 6:16)”, not if you fast. It is intended to be a part of the Christian’s life. Fasting creates an awakening of hunger that heightens the value for something we typically take for granted. My 7-year old, Chloe, reflecting on how long we will have been away from corporate worship predicted, “Boy, everyone will be singing so loud when we get back together for church!” But it also calls us to a pause, sometimes extended, before we again satisfy that longing. The pause helps us to appreciate and NOT take for granted the blessing that has been provided to us in the normalcy of that previous activity.
When a family missed church on a Communion Sunday in the past, did they even register a tinge of regret for missing of a means of grace? Now this period of waiting can help as the ordinance receives its true weight. Our Lord often removes privileges to sanctify His people, and not just because of their sin. The lack felt can help us to ask, “How has my attendance been at gathered worship? What were my expectations, my habits and my priorities?
During this period of world history, many have pointed to the similarity of the influenza pandemic of 1918. We are not experiencing something new “under the sun”. Likewise, from a Redemptive-Historical perspective, the church has experienced similar eras, such as in Ezekiel 22. Israel had profaned the Sabbath and suffered exile. They would miss many temple rituals and routines, which seemed contrary to God’s will, but God was more interested in raising the conscious awareness of their heart and the needed relational repair. As a church, we are not experiencing the missing of ordinances for the first time in our story.
Fortunately, we can still take encouragement. Though we are not enjoying communion, a part of gathered worship, God resides among us. In Ezekiel 11:16, God says that “I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.” Thus, even in a time of crisis, we must ensure that the methods of our delivery of the Lord’s Supper should not skew the essential meaning of the Lord’s supper.
Though not intended to be exhaustive for all points around the Lord’s Supper, 1st Corinthians 12 does help to direct our attitudes towards partaking the Lord’s Supper. For instance, 1 Cor 11:22 challenges a selfishness where church members were utilizing the corporate gathering to satiate their appetites, rather than their own homes. This same chapter emphasizes the need to discern the body and the resulting judgment for not doing so correctly. Furthermore, elders are to oversee this distribution, and this can only happen when the body is gathered. As an example, elders are responsible to censure those who need to withhold from the Lord’s table for the sake of justified discipline. This would not be possible for those seeking to take private communion.
In conclusion, this is a challenging topic and many who have requested to take the Lord’s Supper on their own have done so out of a sincere desire to enjoy the Lord’s presence. Let us be patient to do so in the way that is most aptly described in Scripture. For now, we lament and grieve over our time apart, and specifically for our longing for the spiritual communion involved in the Lord’s Supper. Let us not be hasty in taking the meal in any unworthy manner that would miss the mark of its intention. The Lord has designed it to be in conjunction with the Preaching of the Word and as part of family meal. Let us wait to take it until we can gather again as a family and do so with great joy and thankfulness.