It’s ironic how contentious things can get around understanding the Lord’s Supper. Whoops, I mean Communion. Whoops again, I mean the Eucharist. See my point? Even a cursory reading on this simple meal will introduce you to terms such as transubstantiation, consubstantiation, sacramental union, pneumatic presence, memorialism, closed and open services. Ministers have even been dismissed over communion conflicts (i. e., Jonathan Edwards).
Having presided over hundreds of communion services, I find my “sweet spot” is somewhere between the formal and informal. Since this is an act of worship of a righteous and holy God, there is no room for frivolity and foolishness. “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil” (Ecclesiastes 5:1).
But at the same time, since we are sinners living in a broken, fallen world, we are not going to understand everything correctly; so let’s make sure we love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind, and our neighbor as our self (Luke 10:27). Irrespective of where we come down on communion theologically, it’s critical to understand it as a coming together of God and his people.
In a letter dated March 19, 1963, C. S. Lewis writes quite a bit about sickness, that of his correspondent and of his own recent trip to the hospital. But at the very end of the letter, the last two sentences in fact, he brings up his communion practice during the final days of his wife Joy’s life. He writes,
“Yes, private communions (I shared many during Joy’s last days) are extraordinarily moving. I am in danger of preferring them to those in church.”1
I so understand what Lewis is saying. Though I have not done it often, I have served communion privately to the homebound. It can be “extraordinarily moving.” But I also appreciate his referring to such a practice as a “danger.” Even Jesus didn’t eat it alone.
“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat” – 1 Corinthians 11:33.
- Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 1416.