Give us day by day our daily bread.
Having taken part or observed Evangelical communion (Brethren/Baptist), High Church communion, Pentecostal communion, Charismatic communion, Ecumenical
communion, and New Age communion (same platitude, but without reference to Jesus) over the years, have I witnessed the same rigmarole or extremes of the cold
formal approach, to the emotionally charged ecstasy of "lives touched" and "hearts melted". However, at the end of the day, neither have I ever witnessed lasting
fruit or lives changed from these solemn experiences. From the aftermath of these "spiritual" highs and religious gestures, has life continued on just the same, where
people may have confessed to an "attitude" to someone, or been radiant for God while on top of Mount "Fuzzy", then neatly slipped back into their carnal everyday
pattern of pretence or indifference.
Why ... ?
No, am I not going to mention the Roman Catholic Church at this stage and sandblast t r a n s u b s t a n t i a t i o n (phew, easier to type than say though!), the
bread and wine BEING CHANGED to God by priestly magic. But I am going to look at the Protestant version, c o n s u b s t a n t i a t i o n (take note of the first
three letters ... con, cause that's what it is) the bread and wine BEING LINKED to God mystically by consecration. Two versions of the same thing. One
hard-line the other moderate.
Some may think I'm being a bit too hard here, however, some time back I attended a "Bible Believing" home meeting where about 30 people from various back
grounds, both young and elderly were present. During the meeting when the subject of (traditional) "communion" came up I felt it had to be made very clear the
bread and wine in scripture were symbols only! To my surprise the Head of the home openly disagreed with me and made it plain they were far more than symbols
. What was just as surprising was the fact not one person present supported me or even refuted the counter claim made by our Host.
"Wow", I thought! ... "were all our past bible believing Church fathers martyred in vain? Had we forgotten the great price paid during the Inquisition?":
Inquisitor: "Is this piece of bread the body of our Lord and Saviour?"
Believer on trial: "No it is just a symbol, that's all!"
Inquisitor: "To the flames with this Heretic!!"
Read on please ...
A wee bit of history:
Did you know there is something remarkably different about the Believers when they rubbed shoulders in the book of Acts compared to what is referred today as
fellowship. It was a spontaneous, not compulsive, informal getting-it-together in peoples homes. Even breaking bread together was an ordinary thing, a meal, not
an involuntary ritual as it has become today.
In fact, there are only three places in Acts where the breaking of bread together is recorded and they are all to do with snack times. Proof ... ? Then here it
Acts 2:42- 47 ... and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.
Then there is Acts 20:7-11, a first day of one particular week. No, not a Sunday as previously taught. The Adventists have got this part right. It was a
Saturday evening (after 6.00 pm), the first day of the Jewish/Biblical week just hours after the sabbath had ended, and not in accordance with the present
R.C.C. calendar which was invented in the 16th century prophetically and partially fulfilling Daniel 7:25. The Believers got so caught up in what God was doing
they put tea on-hold.
It wasn't till after midnight however (remember the tired young lad falling asleep at the window while Paul was delivering the word), did they finally ate. It's amazing
how we have justified a ceremony we esoterically call "communion" to be strictly observed on the commencement of the Day of the Sun. Whoops! ... Sunday
morning that is!
Not convinced? Well ... please read on, because there is only one last record left in Acts. Chapter 27:14- 44:
Here Paul found himself on a ship being lashed about by violent storms for a couple of weeks. He and Luke appear to be the only Believers on board as all the
others come across as being superstitious, trying to appease their gods out of the anger situation by abstaining from food (I think they call it "fasting", or
something!). Or perhaps they were too bloom'n worn out, or seasick, to handle anything that looked like kai.
However, Paul, in touch with his Dad, encouraged everyone on board (verse 33- 36) to cheer up and have a bite to eat, as he knew his God had everything under
control. Then he gave thanks and broke the bread with his pagan heathen friends. What!!?? Must be a translation error or something?? Relax ... this was a meal
out of necessity, not religious habit, with ordinary people having a chance to see God work in this whole tricky situation.
So, the Acts have it ... an informal, not surprisingly meaningful get-together, with some tucker thrown in.
Beyond the show (biz) bread:
How can folk taste something that's not tangible, or material? That's why religion is in great need, along with all its trappings and adornments; to make something,
and to turn something abstract (the way they view "God") into something we can feel, taste, touch and smell. Whether it be the eucharist, music, incense burning, or
the laying on off hands by the clergy (a nice "spiritual" massage); folk need something palpable. And decorative. Even crosses and doves, and silver chalices!
Quite at home in evangelical circles!
Or is there another way? A better way!?
David took the show bread. No, he wasn't trying to be "spiritual". He was just plain bloom'n hungry. In other words ... desperate for some grub. And
because of his plight, he wasn't worrying about any order of ceremony. Just think about it? If David had been out to impress or religiously comply, it may have
cost him his life. Which was far more important than things like tradition, ritual, and piety. It was time to give the touch not/taste not syndrome the boot. If it was
either the 'doctrine of food' or divine provision; and David choose the latter. He was now looking beyond the exhibit bread.
Meals and hospitality:
Let's look at this: Many folk around the Mediterranean still use a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine as a basis for their staple diet, and usually are family orientated
people who enjoy entertaining their guests and making them feel at home. Here in New Zealand we have seen a few documentaries over the last few years of
ex-Kiwi servicemen who have gone back to places like Greece or Italy for WW2 reunions with families they befriended during the war. I can recall scenes of
breaking bread together, toasting wine, embracing each other in song, and generally making merry around the table, in remembrance, of a special time gone by.
Is the penny beginning to drop??
A meal - but more than a meal:
To the Jewish folk the Passover still has both a significance and symbolic meaning (unfortunately they can't see past the ordinance). Their very existence and
survival as a people has depended upon their sharing together. A meal typifying a common bond. With a hope their Messiah will walk in on their banquet as an
unannounced guest, at any given time, fuels this incentive to meet and be together.
However, two thousand years ago Jesus did arrive as Messiah into their midst, and as a lamb, unrecognized, as the fulfilment of their passover meal, before this
ordinance was nailed to the cross. Here, Jesus was replacing the Old System with something far better, as He certainly was not replacing one form of Judaism with
another. He was actually making a remarkable statement that could even be experienced if adhered to. He made a declaration about the bread at their passover
meal being a representation of His flesh. Not literally. And the grape juice being a representative of His blood in the same way. He also said to His disciples,
often as you do this (having meals - the breaking of bread - fellowship) do this in remembrance of Me.
Sounds almost too simple eh! Like taking the Holy Bible for what it says. But never so easy. The cross was never supposed to be. That's why Jesus wanted to
get through to His disciples:
"Are you able to partake and drink of what I'm about to taste?" "Are you willing to be baptized with My death?"
And when He said, do this in remembrance of Me, did He mean to duplicate a certain setting and format as a new form of ritual over and over again, each time
His followers met together, until He came back? Or did He mean to know Him in our eating, working, hospitality and sharing? In real life settings? Doing all for
the glory of God! Only knowing and acknowledging ... in him we live, and move, and have our being! Without me ye can do nothing!
There's nothing abstract or mystical about this. It's just a natural process of dying to self (laying your life down for the Lord and others) and living daily
(acknowledging Him in all your ways) for Him. This way He gets total credit for everything, and our attitude is kept humble as we shy away from religious
paraphernalia, or being a "spiritual" exhibitionist. Making us grateful He has chosen the base things.
Instituting a substitute:
However, today there is one big problem if you can be categorized a W.A.S.P. (Western/White Anglo-Saxon Protestant ) converted to a gospel which was to the
Jew first ... and that is eating mashed spud is more of a staple diet now just as breaking bread together was in the days of old. When a loaf of bread was the
centrality of the meal. Bread is now usually a snack or a top-up, and since the advent of the sandwich late nineteenth century, it is nowadays pre-sliced and
packaged for individual consumption and is not as 'family friendly' as yesteryear.
Also, a meal in bygone days generally took a lot more preparation than today, so there would have been a lot more appreciation and less taken for granted. The
main meal (supper in biblical times) was the advent of the day. Not being a couch potato in front of the electronic altar ... the TV. When guests came the meal
table was central, not the Tube. People generally stayed there for the duration of the stay. Relaxed. No urgency to gulp down the grub. No hi-tech distractions.
Taking your time as their was plenty to talk about.
Grab as many bible dictionaries, commentaries, history books and encyclopaedias (as well as the word of God) you can get your hands on, put some hours in, and
do some checking yourself, as the truth will still filter through. You will discover in biblical times when a guest arrived at someone's home he would be welcomed at
the door by the head of the home with the greeting of a kiss. Next he would be shown in, then seated, and the servant of the home would attend to him by washing
his feet (bearing in mind the footwear and dusty streets of that era) and anointing his hair and beard with oil. Then finally he would be shown to the table where he
would be joined by other guests and family members. Everyone would wait for the head of the home who would come and offer thanks to God. He would then
take the loaf and break it and share it out to the others gathered, symbolizing the oneness of friends and family under the Headship of God.
Now metaphorically apply the above paragraph to the spiritual and you will see Jesus is now our all in all. He is the one we kiss (Ps. 2:12). He is the door, the
door keeper, the servant, the House, the Head, the one who leads, the table for gathering, the anointer, the bread, the new wine, as well as the one who points us
God. We are His guests, His friends, His family, His gathering, His household.
There's much in the New Testament about believers banquets, also known as love feasts. No doubt with plenty of bread and grape beverage, along with other
goodies. And as we have lost some qualities in living (after all, we are the "instant" age) since "the good ole days" because of changes in life style and culture (with
the notion of staying "religious", or "biblical") we have packaged our meetings together into our own convenient liturgies to suit our own format, our own mid to
upper class materialistic culture. F' instance ...
Stand/pray ... sit/listen ... stand/sing ... sit/read ... stand/collection ... sit/"communion" ... stand/sing ... sit/item (song, dance or drama) ... stand/benediction.
With 'happy clappy' times thrown in (so we can show off how free we are by breaking out off structure); etc. etc.:
" Oh, we are so diverse!! So sensitive!! So expressive!! So multicultural!! We do everything in our church!! We must look beautiful before God!!"
You see we compartmentalize parts of scripture and throw in a bit of Old Testament with the New (this way it looks "biblical"!), along with new ideas, to spice up
our gatherings and call it "having church". And since we have left 'breaking bread' as a meal, yet are aware of its contents in the New Testament, we, in our human
discretion, have replaced it with an invented, representation ritual, we call the "Lords supper" or "communion". This consists of a "holy hush" ceremony, by hand
to hand passing of crumbs and lolly water (sometimes booze) around, under certain emotional criteria ... tears, confessions, solemn posture, predictable prayers
etc. Unscriptually with our eyes closed. Confusing reverence with austerity, holiness with sanctimony, and the presence of God with emotionalism. And turning
inward to passivity we turn off true fellowship one to another.
However, if we are going to be strict about ceremony here, then we need to do it properly. Like the book of Galatians f 'instance; saying if we go back under one
part of the Old then we are obligated to go back under every regulation belonging to that system. As James 2:10 puts it:
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
Which means (if we are going to look "scriptural" and "correct") are we constrained to literally and regularly attend the feasts and observe the days. Making sure
the bread is unleavened as one loaf (uncut) from the twelve! Making sure there is one cup (not heaps of minis) with the fruit of the vine, grape as its content (not
black current or raspberry ... this will make it loose its valued symbolic meaning). Eat paschal lamb, bitter herbs with sauce, each dipped in the one bowl. All in
the correct order of procedure.
Then there is the question of washing one anothers feet ... literally and regularly!!??
Forget it! As mentioned there is a more simple way. Let us repeat in reverse the only three witnesses (breaking of bread) recorded in Acts again:
Fact 1. Paul broke bread with non-christians. I'll repeat that ... with non-christians!!
Fact 2. Sunday's breakfast was Saturday's supper postponed because of Paul's extra long message.
Fact 3. And breaking bread was eating meat with gladness of heart (not glumness of art).
With no mention whatsoever of the Communion Service in the book of the Acts of the apostles and churches.
"What about water baptism (immersion)?" some would say. "Is this not a similar New Testament ordinance?"
The practice of believers baptism in water is repeatedly mentioned in the book of Acts. End of story!
There is a passion in believers, and genuine may I say, to get back to the true "roots"/"culture" of the New Testament Church. Quite frankly this is impossible (and
so-called loop-hole for many movements to exploit with their own monopolized version) as we live in a totally different era, with a different culture along with
modern technology. We must remember the early Church did not have the complete bible. Just portions or copies of the apostles letters, along with books of the
Old Testament. However, what we do have today is the spiritual bare essentials: God's complete package ... the same Holy Ghost and the same inspired
scriptures in a complete book, pointing us to the same historical complete work on the cross. Complete is the word! What more do we need?
Both practically and spiritually speaking, 'breaking bread' in our fellowshiping is now sharing a portion of scripture from the scriptures (the Bread of Life) with
gathered, with the purpose of building them up. Thanks to the Reformation (or me thinks the other way around) we now have a complete, full, open, public Bible.
The Lord's table is where we fellowship from in spirit and in truth (remember the table of devils is metaphorical also). Communion is our deep intimacy with the
Lord as we walk with Him, sharing in His suffering as well as in His resurrection life.
"But the scriptures can't be broken!" some will protest.
The true meaning is ... they can't be taken out of context; added to or subtracted from. But vital for collective individual contribution and consumption:
When you come together, everyone of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.
All various aspects in bringing the word to each other; for edifying each other as individuals and the Body in general.
"How can you say the bread, wine and table are not literal?" some may question.
Cause in the same context the scripture says also He was the rent veil (the way to the presence of God). Jesus also said He was the vine (where the juice
came from), as He was the door (where we pass through to sup). Are these literal or symbolic? The literal was the material copy under the Old Covenant as a
type or copy of the spiritual in the New Testament! Who gave us the authority to compartmentalize or materialize? When the scripture say taste and see that the
LORD is good, how should we respond?
He has made a promise ... if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.
This is true New Testament communion.