The Ordinances – Part 1; Body and Blood

I Corinthians 11

As good and faithful, Bible believing Baptists, we did not have the seven sacraments; we had the two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  It’s interesting how our Protestant rejection of “dead tradition” often evolved into staunch traditions of our own. For instance, we had the Lord’s Supper once a quarter; that’s four times a year, and only at night.  I remember one time when my father suggested including “communion” as part of the morning worship.  He ran afoul of the deacons who instructed him that “Those other denominations have communion. Baptists have the Lord’s Supper. If we have it in the morning, it can’t very well be the Lord’s Supper, can it. It would be the Lord’s breakfast!”

As a child, I remember thinking the whole thing was a little bit spooky. The trays were set on a long table with a white table cloth covering them.  The outline of the trays on that covered table almost looked like a body.  The deacons would silently lift the cloth and meticulously fold it, laying it aside.  My father would somberly quote the passage from I Corinthians 11.

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

After everyone ate and drank, the trays were placed back on the table and the cloth returned to its original place.  It wasn’t until I was grown that I realized it was purposefully intended to portray a body, Christ’s linen-covered body, on the rock-hewn table of the tomb borrowed from Joseph of Arimethea. (I’ve often mentally rehearsed a fictitious conversation between Jesus and Joseph. “Hey, Joseph, can I borrow your tomb? I’ll only need it for a couple of days. Then you can have it back.) At the end of the service, we would stand, hold hands, and sing “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”

As preacher’s kids, all that didn’t matter. What was really important was, after the service was over, we got to snack on the leftover crackers and juice. I don’t know if the mystique lay in the spiritual mysteries symbolized or simply the fun of tiny little crackers and tiny cups of juice. It was a quarterly treat, and we loved it.  I remember one particular Saturday in Balmorhea when my father prepared the trays for the next Lord’s Day.  My brother, sister, and I snuck over to the church and feasted on the bounty. We ate every cracker and drank every cup.

Communion_Baptist

I’m pretty sure that was a violation of St. Paul’s clear instructions in his letter to the Corinthians that we are to wait on each other and not struggle to be first to eat.  Well, we were by far the first. Daddy rarely got angry, but he was mad! Actually, he was frantic, then angry.  You see, in Balmorhea, Texas, the store (singular) closed at 6:00 pm on Saturday and did no open again until Monday morning at 8:00 am. The same was true for Pecos, the next town over.  After a couple of hours of frantic phone calls, he finally found a church member who had a box of Nabisco Saltines and a bottle of Welch’s grape juice: crisis averted.

When I became established in ministry, communion became my favorite observance.  Of course, by the time I had reached my first pastorate, most churches were willing to have the service once a month, in the morning, and call it communion.  Now that’s progressive! What made it my favorite service, though, was the way the deacons in that first congregation carefully and lovingly prepared it. They actually baked the bread and aged the juice (just a little). The care they took truly impressed me. More than that, they truly lived in Christian unity as they observed Christ’s sacrifice.

The ingredients of the elements and the frequency of the meal mean nothing if they don’t lead to one-ness in Christ.  My brother-in-law recently told me of a church member who refused to attend church because of some disagreement, but he insisted the deacons bring communion to him at his home, so he could take the elements without being around “those people.”  That attitude reminds me of the new trend in some mega-churches. By sheer necessity, they buy the all-in-one communion cups. Peel back the top layer to access the wafer, and peel back the next layer to access the juice. I don’t think it’s actually bread. It’s more like that silicon packet in the bottom of the box, the one that says “DO NOT EAT!” The juice tastes something like Pennzoil 10-40. Well, maybe we could just mail those tasteless little packets out to the contrary Christians who want to be one with the body, all alone.

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Published in: on April 7, 2016 at 10:52 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Wes, The first Lord’s Supper I partook in Seoul was in the little Baptist Church at the top of the hill above the Language School Compound. Each morning at 5:30 AM, the bells would ring calling the faithful to start the day at the 5:30 am prayer service. I don’t remember the bread, but the “juice” was fermented, probably rice wine, maybe grapes. Being eight and never having tasted anything fermented, I turned to Mother (men sat on the left side, women and children on the right) and made a face to convey my surprise and distaste. You do remember that first lesson all preacher’s kids learn, “Do not talk or whisper in Church! We can discuss it at lunch! ” Anyway, sitting on the floor in close proximity to the other women and children, my visual communication was observed not only by Mother, but also all the women behind us, who were greatly amused. MOTHER WAS NOT AMUSED! In United States vernacular, “She probably would have liked to take me out of the Church and given me a good whipping.” But she had at least two other children, one a toddler, and she was boxed in by the other women and children sitting in close proximity! I do not recall what was said at home, but I don’t know if I ever partook of the Lord’s Supper in a Korean Church even though I lived in South Korea for eight of the next eleven years until I returned to the USA for college, marriage, and an active membership in several Southern Baptist Churches.


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