What happens to the elements and the people who consume them? When we are talking about Communion, the answer is “it depends”. The options are listed below from “Why bother?” to “I’m seriously considering becoming a wafer-addict!”
Memorial: Nothing happens to the elements. Nothing happens to the people.
Calvin: Nothing happens to the elements. Something happens to the people (Jesus is present when faith is present).
Lutheran: Something happens (is added to) the elements (Jesus is “in, under, and through”). Something happens to those who eat (when faith is present).
Orthodox: Something happens to the elements (but that “something” is left undefined). Something happens to those who eat (when faith is present).
Roman: Something happens to the elements (a complex and nuanced “transubstantiation”) and something happens to those who eat (when faith is present).
Does what someone believes about communion matter? If you are a memorialist, since nothing changes and nothing happens, not really. However, if you believe Calvin’s position, it matters. And, if you believe the Lutheran, Orthodox or Catholic view, it matters even more.
Yes, the Eucharist can mean nothing if you do not approach the table with eyes of faith. But is Holy Communion, at its best, intended to be a “Happy Meal” (fun, but no real nutritional value) or a “Magic Cracker” (that will change you if you let it)? The issue isn’t really what you or I think it is or want it to be, but what the Scriptures say it is, and what the early and undivided church taught it to be.
Beyond the facts is the experience of being changed in a Eucharistic community. You can down a wheat chip cellophaned to the top of a disposable cup, or you can feast at the family meal of the Body of Christ. I am hard-pressed to understand why someone who could eat gourmet in their neighborhood bistro gratis would settle for a Happy Meal from the drive-through. “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)
Am I advocating wafer madness? Maybe a little.
While song is the worship language of memorialists and the megachurch, supper is the historic worship language of the church. This isn’t about preference, but about faithfully practicing what was given to us by Jesus, the New Testament authors, and the early and undivided church. For three-quarters of Christian history, Word and Sacrament was literally the ONLY paradigm for worship. This Sunday it will characterize the worship of more than two-thirds of the world’s Christians. I am not trying to be negative, or run down another’s “tradition.” But I do want to say that when you find yourself spiritually hungry, a meal awaits.
If song is your only worship language, consider experiencing the blessings of bi-lingual worship – add supper.
I’m Lovin’ it!
2 thoughts on “Wafer Madness: 500 years of communion arguments made simple”
I think many have not understood the meaning of COMMUNION!! Jesus said “do this in remembrance of Me”. It should be a time to communicate with Jesus. He is there as He is everywhere. Communication is 2 talking to each other. As one who has received healing at the ritual called all of the names mentioned above, I can only wish that anyone going to the altar worship Jesus our Savior and Lord. If one is not able to attend service, You can have communion with Jesus with the elements in remembrance of Him who loved you to give you His best, Salvation, His healing ( part of Salvation ) and life. Jesus is the bread of life which came down from Heaven. When Jesus said ( I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly), He was inviting you to have Him more abundantly. Have a communion with Jesus and find out for yourself.
Most excellent comments, Harold! Thank you for making a superb pastoral point out of my clowning.