Monday, March 5, 2007

Communion

This morning on my way home from the doctor's office, I was listening to Joni and Friends
on the radio. I am not a big fan of Joni Eareckson Tada, but her program is sandwiched between Money Matters and Focus on the Family. Anyhow, Joni was talking about communion and how sometimes when she was taking communion she found herself distracted, and not really thinking about what she was doing. She also noted that sometimes when the plate of crackers is past for communion in her church, people try really hard not to touch crackers other than the one they were taking. I thought this sounded rather odd.

Here is a description on communion in my church. The pastor reads scriptures pertaining to the sacrament of The Lord's Supper and follows the ritual which is given in the Free Methodist Book of Discipline. The bread and cup (containing grape juice not wine) are uncovered. The pastor breaks the bread and says "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ given for you" and then he breaks a small piece from the bread, dips it in the cup and takes the sacrament. Generally there is an assistant who holds the cup (perhaps an associate pastor or elder). Then the pastor will say "Come as you feel led" (Or something like this). Meanwhile, in our pews we pray to make our hearts right with God. When a person feels ready, he approaches the pastor breaks a piece from the bread and dips it in the juice. (To each person the pastor says "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ given for you"). Then the person may proceed to the altar to pray before actually consuming the sacrament, or he may return to his seat and pray.

By the way: The method of communion by dipping bread into the juice/wine is called intinction.

Now you might see why the idea of not touching someone else's cracker might seem odd to me, since we are all taking from the same loaf of bread. Those people would probably be disturbed by us, I guess.

A couple of things that I appreciate about this method is that it makes taking the sacrament both very individual and very communal. I also like having the chance to pray and reflect (also repent) beforehand. Also anyone who has a personal belief in Christ is welcome to partake of the sacrament.

I know that different churches have different views on what the sacrament of Holy Communion truly is. We believe that the Real Presence of Christ is in the bread and juice. However, we do not believe that the bread and juice are literally the flesh and blood of Christ. I am not entirely sure how this is different from the Catholic view or not. I have been trying to read the official doctrine but I keep losing myself in it. (It was obviously written by someone much smarter than me).

I remember at one point hearing a science fiction story in which someone was going to take the sacrament after transubstantiation and use it to gather DNA and clone Jesus. Obviously this notion is absurd. However, if you wonder who told me this story, and then used it to mock Catholicism, perhaps he will remember himself when he reads this and fess up. (He is now devoutly Catholic).

Awhile back I was reading The Institutes of Elenctic Theology by Francis Turretin. In that book he argues that the communion is merely a symbolic undertaking. He reasons that if God is omnipresent he cannot be present in one place more others. This seems like baloney to me, since by this logic Christ could not have been a man and still a member of Our Omnipresent Father.

1 comment:

Dave said...

As far as the DNA cloning bit, I suppose you're referring to me, although I should give credit for the joke to Steve since I wouldn't have had any idea of Catholic doctrine on my own at that time.

The joke is offensive, but perhaps useful in how it helps one clarify what is meant by real presence. We Catholics are quite literal about these things--as far as I can understand the doctrine--but we cannot be so literal as to believe that the sacrament has an identifiable blood type and DNA sequence.

What then is meant by real presence? This is where those difficult parts of the Catechism come in, and I have not even attempted to read them. The best explanation I can make as an ignorant neophyte is that the blood of Christ exists in the form of wine in a way that does not diminish its essential bloodiness. Perhaps this mystery is never fully explained, being left in the category of those things we are asked to believe without understanding.