Feb 23, 2007

the traditional lord's supper

When we follow the same traditional worship service formula for years without the slightest deviation in form, our worship service becomes etched in stone. Any changes, even slight variations, are often deemed unacceptable, even sinful, by those who have adopted as absolute truth, the traditions of men.

Man-made traditions are not always horrible monsters, but become monsters when some in the church insist only these traditions are acceptable to God. Often scripture is twisted to fit a particular belief system, then thrust on the rest of the church as gospel truth. Traditions, over time, take on an aura of respectability regardless of their merit.

Commenting on John Dobbs site recently I listed a few traditional habits we often follow when participating in the communion service. The following practices are easily recognized by many in the church, and are absolute prerequisites (tongue-in-cheek somewhat) when commemorating the Lord's supper:
  • Always place the little lacy tablecloth on the communion table properly.
  • Always center the trays on the communion table; bread to the left of course.
  • Wear a coat, shinny shoes, and a rag tied around your neck.
  • When walking to the front be sure to get in step so all things will be done decently and in order.
  • Use the little plastic cups that the older members can't grasp, and men with large hands can’t get out of the tray.
  • Use the same prayers week after week so there is no confusion about what is going on.
  • Women can pass the emblems horizontally (from side-to-side while seated) to men, but not vertically (while standing.)
  • When the communion service is completed, and just prior to the giving process, be sure to say, “this is not a part of the communion service, but is a convenient time to give of our means.”

The list can go on forever. Following these steps will ensure a robotic communion service that any unthinking Christian can participate in without the slightest need to think outside the box. Not that all these practices are inappropriate, but with no variations over the years they become so engraved in our mind as being the only acceptable methods that anyone guilty of changing the format in the slightest is considered a suspect Christian.

17 comments:

john dobbs said...

Hey Larry, thanks for that comment and for this post. Glad to see you surfacing again. You express many things that long for expression. Blessings to you.

JP Manzi said...

Great post and sadly funny Larry.
I am glad that I was able to find your blog again. I have not spoken to you in well over a year and its good to see your still blogging.
Adding you to my blogroll.

JP

laymond said...

I see you haven't lost your nack for getting to the point. T have referred to what you have described as the "ZOMBIE" church.

Larry said...

JP...
Thanks for dropping by and adding my name to your blogroll.

Occasionally I noticed your comments on other blogs, but didn't realize you were blogging again.

Your blog looks great, keep up the good work.

Milly said...

As you know Larry I’m CoC so I get it. It’s interesting not long ago some young women passed the communion plates. Yiks what an uproar that was. I have brought the plate up to our group and the men have no problem taking the Lords supper from me, I know that if some had realized it they would have had a cow. We changed it up a bit in our church I haven’t heard much about whether folks are complaining. I’d put money that a few are.

For some reason we fear change in the church. God might toss lightning in and send us to hell for allowing a young woman to hold a plate. Who prepared the actually last supper? Who put that meal on the table? Who passed the bread to those men? I’d bet it was a woman but I’d bet God doesn’t care who passes the plate.

Thanks for coming back to us!

Larry said...

Milly...
WOW!!! Some young women actually passed the communion plates. Unfortunately that is a definite no-no where I meet; can't have the women usurping the men ya know...

We will never be able to agree on every practice, but our old unwritten COC traditional creeds are quickly summoned as soon as the faintest whiff of change is in the air.

Larry said...

Laymond...
Your "zombie" church and my "robotic" church seem to have a lot in common. :)

Always appreciate your comments.

Larry said...

John...
Always appreciate your visits & comments.

This post is a result of your great post a few days ago. I get a lot of good insight when prowling through your blog. Thanks!

Milly said...

Unfortunately the young women were squashed rather quickly and one of out Shepherds was cornered. We won’t make that same mistake again anytime soon. We’ve tried to change up the order once in a while and it’s a rather casual dress. I wear jeans most of the time as do several others. The minister even dawns them on occasion. I know {{{{shocking!}}}}

Larry said...

Milly...
"Squashed women", and "cornered Shepherds" sounds like a great title for a novel. :)

Watch out for the dress code enforcers. Thank goodness dressing in black has lost favor.

Many churches I have observed have a silent dress code: Elders & preacher wear suits, deacons wear dress pants & sport coat, while the rest of the church enjoys everything from house slippers to tenny pucks.

If you ever visit our little church you will recognize me on the back row wearing my bib-overalls, red & yellow plaid flannel shirt, and bare feet; only wear my bow tie when passing the emblems. :)

timeless said...

I've attended services at a well-known CoC university and women DID participate vertically in communion! At my congregation, we have LONG ago eliminated the marching up the aisle bit and the lace thingys...our people come from the back where 4 people start at the front and back and meet in the center. We have also had the elder AND their wives located in various areas of the auditorium with the emblems and the congregation lined up to partake of the bread and wine together from whatever elder and his wife they choose. This is SUCH a moving experience...it creates a sense of sharing and unity and service, and also tears of love.

I am so fortunate to be part of a Christian family that isn't afraid to instill meaningful acts of worship. It's ALL about worshiping our God and Saviour with the Spirit moving through us abundantly. And every year, the congregation looks forward to the West Coast Zoe Conference where we embrace new and exciting ways to deepen and raise our worship to levels we never thought possible.

I shall look forward to the day where blogs on robotic, joyless, zombie acts of worship is no longer necessary! There are countless Christians who have a longing in their hearts for more meaningful worship services, and getting out of that "box" of seemingly safe but stale traditions can be achieved by sometimes just ONE person with the prayerful vision to get out of the box by taking that first step! That's the way it happened with our congregation, and that ONE person was a very talented woman.

God STILL moves in mysterious ways...

timeless said...

Whoops...I left off the "s" on the word "elders" in the first paragraph...hopefully people won't think that elders have more than ONE wife! :)

Larry said...

Carolyn...
How in the world can you have a scriptural communion service without the "Lace thingys!"

Perhaps it's the fear of change that causes many to hold fast to their man-made traditions. It's tough to reexamine our old beliefs and discover we just might be wrong...been there/done that.

Thanks for your comments.

laymond said...

Larry from the first time I saw your picture you looked strangly familar and then I realized you looked a little like a fellow I used to know "Alfred E. Newman" then you come out with a new profile picture and disclosed the clothes you ware to church "Bib overalls and a checkered shirt" and my imigination started to go to another friend I used to have "Howdy Doody" could you send us a picture of you dressed to go to church so we can deside just who you resemble.

timeless said...

I try not to pass judgement on various traditions, but I DO have an issue with the "one-cuppers"...it's all about that one person who is in the throes of a cold or the flu, or someone in the most infectious state of chicken pox or measles (before they break out) who is spreading their germs to everyone else! I don't care how many times someone wipes the cup, it's still infectious! It's also a great way to spread Hepatitis! Haven't they thought of that???

Larry said...

Carolyn...
It probably does little good to knock church traditions. It's often not so much the tradition itself that is the problem, but the thinking behind it.

When one group refuses to fellowship another group because they can't agree on their human based traditions, it becomes a major obstacle in uniting God's children.

I can't stand to touch the shopping cart handles, escalator rails, public restroom door knobs, etc., so that should tell you how I feel about drinking from the same cup; there's just not enough safe sipping edges on one cup. :)

Larry said...

Laymond...
It's hard to figure why anyone would think I look like Alfred E. Neuman. Especially since I just had another profile picture taken.

If I sent you a pic of myself all dressed up for church it might start a stampede of people trying to buy bib-overalls, and checkered flannel shirts.