This Sunday night at East Charlotte Pres we will be partaking together for the first time in the sacrament of The Lord’s Supper. In preparation for this upcoming service, I would like to share with you how our church’s vision of regularly feasting together applies to the Lord’s Supper and what that means for the church practically. I would also like to get us thinking more broadly about how to approach this sacrament in general.
In practice, we plan to celebrate this sacrament regularly and frequently by having it on the 1st, 3rd, & 5th Sundays of every month. For that, we have Biblical, ecclesiastical, and practical reasons…
Biblical. The Bible doesn’t specify how often this sacrament of the Lord’s Supper should be observed. In 1 Cor 11:25-26, Paul said “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” In that passage, Paul (and Jesus in the quotation) were getting at more of the manner of partaking in the sacrament, not so much the frequency. Elsewhere, Luke lays out an image of the early church in Acts 2:42 where they were devoted to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” They were devoted to the breaking of bread. The frequent breaking of bread should lead us to a frequent reminder of the broken Bread of Life, our Lord Jesus.
Ecclesiastical (pertaining to the church). Throughout church history, there has been much variance and debate about how often to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Broadly, frequency ranges from weekly observance to once or twice a year. The typical Reformed practice has been monthly (although there has been and continues to be quite a variance there). So, since we are a PCA church, what does the PCA require of us? Well, the PCA’s Book of Church Order 58-1 suggests frequent observance. By observing the sacrament 2-3 times per month, we hope to avoid the routine-ness of of weekly communion as well as the spiritual starvation of partaking too infrequently.
Practical. By observing the Lord’s Supper on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays, that leaves one Sunday a month (the 2nd) to observe the sacrament of Baptism and one Sunday a month (the 4th) for things like new member installations. This way, our services will generally be around the same length (roughly 75 minutes).
How Do I Prepare?
As we approach the Lord’s Table this week, and every time in the future, we should prepare ourselves to participate rightly. We should take seriously Paul’s warning:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Cor 11:27-29).
This is why our Book of Church Order suggests that there be a time of preparation for the church before we partake in the Lord’s Supper. This is the reason why PCA churches are required to announce their Lord’s Supper services beforehand. So, you will see on our schedule of events, both in the bulletin and in the Email of the Week, the days we are planning on celebrating the sacraments. Our hope is that the church will take this admonition seriously, to devote themselves to preparation for the sacraments.
So, when you prepare this week and in the future for the Lord’s Supper, examine yourself for your worthiness to partake. Have you had any conflict with a brother or sister in Christ that you need to bring to reconciliation? Do you have any un-confessed sin in your hearts? Have you considered your own worthiness to receive such a gracious gift from the Lord? The Lord’s table isn’t for those who are perfect, but for those who acknowledge their need for the cleansing blood of Christ. This sacrament does visibly what the preached Word does audibly, that is to minister to our hearts the grace of God.
What About My Children?
Finally, some of you may have questions about your children and their participation in this sacrament. Broadly, we will invite to the Lord’s Table only those children (and adults) who are able to “discern the body and blood of the Lord.” Practically, if your child has yet to be declared a “communing member”, then we would ask that you express to us (Tyler or Jason) your child’s desire and your willingness for them to participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. That will begin our process of prayerfully evaluating and discerning if your child is ready to partake, which will likely require a meeting with a pastor and finally an interview with two pastors or ruling elders (in our case, reputable Christian men since we don’t yet have ruling elders). We take seriously our admonition to shepherd the flock, for which we will be accountable (Heb 13:17). In the case of administering the Lord’s Supper, we will take great care to refrain from feeding our children the poison of eating and drinking judgment (1 Cor 11:29). Our hope is to invite them to the Table as soon as they are ready so that they can feed, along with their church family, on the Bread of Life.