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Help Yourself

Creative Commons License photo credit: sashafatcat

Luke 22:14 (CEB) When the time came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles joined him.

I have been to church services who serve you Communion as well as churches that do the “self serve” style. And in neither experience did I think , “this feels forced” or “this feels unorthodox.” And yet there are a surprising number of traditionalists who are speaking out against the “self-led” style of Communion, here are just a few:

Perhaps Jesus should have had his disciples set up individual serving areas in the upper room that night before He went to the cross.I think churches who promote this individualized communion are not following the example of our Lord.  Churches using this method should also consider this - is there a time in the service when the communion is explained and the attenders told who may partake of communion?  After all, the communion is for believers and usually there are some non-Christians present in the service.

Why can’t they just do it the same way churches have been doing it for centuries in which the pastor or priest leads the congregation in the taking of communion?  Now, maybe people want to take it in their own time at their own pace but… it feels more… appropriate?…  to have the pastor lead the congregation in the prayer and scriptural readings so that what communion really is and means can be clearly defined.

Self-serve Communion feeds into the cultural misconception that “it’s all about me.” Jesus calls us to “die to ourselves.” These are competing concepts. When we instruct people to “help yourself when you feel like it,” we are implicitly teaching that faith is about me and my emotional disposition. The end of this thinking is that Jesus must fit into my plans, on my terms, and in my timing.

This Eucharist is no spectator sport. And when it comes to the distribution of the gifts of God it is clear that members of the congregation are expected to help.  There are words to say in giving the bread and wine to others, and there are words to say in response.  in other words, it takes a congregation to give us communion.

All in all, it was difficult to find any support for the “dine-n-dash” style or some positive theology behind it. What are your thoughts? What would you say to these critics? Do you think this form of Communion is not respectful, not worshipful etc? I’m curious.

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7 Responses

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  1. Amanda says

    I don’t know that it’s disrespectful….but it seems to me that the style of “communion” Jesus did the night before He went to the cross isn’t literally duplicated in either style…unless there is a very small gathering of church members sitting on pillows reclining around a table…actually eating a meal together…then it’s just nit-picky getting perturbed over the details that the quoted critic is pulling out. As always, I could be wrong. ;)

  2. David says

    My initial thought was the idea of the “table.” The self-serve style has everyone coming to the table (which carries the symbolism of family and community), but being “served” actually feels more impersonal and cold and more like a I’m at a restaurant than with my family.

  3. Jennifer says

    My first thought was that we still have to be willing to “take it” for ourselves. I’ve witnessed people pass it by when served as they should given their personal beliefs or lack thereof. When someone has to get up and get it for themselves, the effort is on their part and in my eyes seems like they have to want it rather than it just being passed to them. The Catholic church doesn’t pass it along the rows. It has always felt more personal when I’ve had to get up for it…just this non-theologians thoughts.

  4. David says

    ooh, I like that also… good points

  5. David J. Kenney says

    It sounds like your all making things up. Jesus would not talk or think like this: “self-serve or served by others”. This is working the metaphor far too much. This is the kind of discussion Pharisees had in the Temple. I know that Jesus is said to have argued with them at age twelve. But by the time of his ministry, he was well beyond the type of literalistic thinking your conversation is employing. Most organized religions make this mistake. So much blood and pain have been shed because people could not agree upon things like this: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    Jesus was about love and forgiveness. He simplified all the many many laws the religious elite had developed and placed upon the poor by their reasoning from the literal meaning of scripture. Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself, all the rest is summed up in these, is it not? Weren’t these the two most important laws to Jesus? I don’t think Jesus would care if communion were served through a drive up window if it meant that we would love and forgive each other more. To love and forgive is all that matters.

  6. Amanda says

    It also seems that both options might work together because God works in us differently depending on what he knows we need. For some I think He comes and literally picks us up and carries us to the next stage of the journey based on brokenness, for others, we need to show that willingness to accept what He is holding out and take a few steps the way we should go. Maybe it’s not an either/or, but a both/and. Maybe the church shouldn’t dictate the mode so much as teach people that “Whatever their bodies do affects their souls.” (C.S. Lewis)

  7. David says

    Great points David and Amanda!