5 Reasons to Celebrate Communion Every Sunday
Before joining the Presbyterian church where my wife and I are presently members, I had only ever belonged to churches across a few denominations that celebrated Communion—or the Lord’s Supper—once a month. On top of those Sundays, we would also come to the table on Good Friday, owing to the tremendous significance of Christ’s death. Simultaneously, then, Communion was deemed indispensable to the high point of our liturgical calendar (at Easter), yet it was still only something the gathered church did 13 times a year. In hindsight, this practise is somewhat confusing.
It’s hard to say why this has happened—under a few of the points below I will make tentative suggestions. But that isn’t the purpose for this post. Instead, I want to make a positive case for celebrating Communion every Sunday.
1. Reformation Worship Centres on Word and Sacrament
Firstly, irregular or occasional Communion indicate how far we’ve shifted from the Reformation’s radically high view of the sacraments. Few of us believe about Communion what Calvin says, that it is “a spiritual banquet, wherein Christ attests himself to be the life-giving bread, upon which our souls feed unto true and blessed immortality” (4.17.1). We don’t view it as the invitation from “our heavenly Father…that, refreshed by partaking of Christ, we may repeatedly gather strength until we shall have reached heavenly immorality.”
Taking those quotes from Calvin together, perhaps we don’t care for Communion because we aren’t hungry for more of God and his grace; or we have grown dangerously overconfident in our own faith and ability to persevere. Either way, we need the reminder that “these benefits are to nourish, refresh, strengthen, and gladden” (4.17.3). We celebrate the Lord’s Supper because through it God graciously provides “food for our spiritual life.”
2. Faith Building Needs More than Great Sermons
Following from the previous point, central to my critique of ‘church at home’ was the modern overemphasis on preaching. This has reduced Sunday gatherings to a music concert followed by a Bible talk. Whatever one labels that sort of liturgy, it isn’t Reformed. For the liturgies birthed at the Reformation recognised, as Calvin says, that because we are creatures God graciously condescends and leads us to himself through earthly—or creaturely—elements and means (4.14.3). He says, “God’s provides first for ignorance and dullness, then for our weakness,” by making his promises both evident and visible to us in the sacraments. We are more than brains; we are embodied beings. Perhaps one of the reasons contemporary faith is so emaciated can be traced back to the erroneous idea that it’s enough to simply feed our minds.
3. Communion Prioritises Worshipping God over Pragmatic Consumerism
I once heard Francis Chan recount a conversation that took place after a worship service at Cornerstone Church. A congregant told Chan that they hadn’t really enjoyed worship that Sunday. To this, Chan replied: “That’s alright. We weren’t worshipping you.” My purpose in mentioning that anecdote is not to argue that Communion re-centres our faith and worship on Christ—though it does. My point is this: celebrating Communion regularly is inconvenient. Not only does it result in longer services, it’s also impractical. To use another word, having Communion every Sunday is costly. It’s an interruption to our Sunday plans and our consumeristic worship. The inconvenience of lengthening every Sunday worship service by 10 to 15 minutes to feed on Christ in our hearts by faith is perhaps one of the most important correctives to believing that church and worship is about me.
4. The Lord’s Supper Reminds Us that We’re Family
In King’s Cross, Timothy Keller writes: “The Jews celebrated each Passover by eating the feast with their families. The Passover is a family meal…He was creating an altogether new family…When you take the Lord’s Supper, you are doing it with brothers and sisters, with family. This bond is so life-transforming that it creates a basis for unity as strong as if people had been raised together.” When we regularly come to the table, participating together in the Lord’s Supper, it is harder to lose sight of the fact that God saves us into community, a new family created by God’s grace. Communion locates us within Christ’s body, both at a local church level and as members of the Church. In our age of individualism, the Lord’s Supper teaches us that Christ saves us so that we might belong to a community—expecting deliberate and selfless commitment to others.
5. Communion Promotes Reconciliation and Repentance
Finally, my wife and I fight—regularly. Sometimes, I wonder if the devil works especially hard on Sunday mornings so that I end up making a hypocrite of myself as I worship. We have warnings about this from both Jesus (Matthew 5:23-24) and Paul (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Regarding the first of those passages, I wrote: “Jesus calls on his followers to search their own hearts and minds—to assess their lives and identify sin.” This exhortation is pronounced when it comes to Communion. It forces me to pause and reflect. Sometimes that introspection will mean refraining from participating in the Lord’s Supper. But more often than not it leads to repentance and reconciliation. Celebrating Communion weekly makes it much harder to leave my own sin unchecked.
Make the Lord’s Supper Central
To conclude, in God Is Love Gerald Bray writes: “If the Lord’s Supper is central to our worshipping life as Christians, this is because it is one of the chief means by which God draws us closer to himself in the power of his Holy Spirit, whom he has sent to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Christ which the Supper so eloquently reveals to us. Distort that and we are lost; remember it and we shall find that the Lord’s Supper is a blessing given to us by God so that we can ponder and experience his love more deeply than mere words could ever allow.” If this is true, why would we only celebrate Communion a handful of times each year?