Sunday, August 12, 2007

Solemn Joy

Our church did communion/Lord's supper today.

You've no idea how hard it was to write that sentence. What should be the verb? What verb was accurate?

We always "do" communion. It is ritual... and so solemn, almost grim.

I wanted to sing out, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!" We're not supposed to take the Lord's Supper unworthily, so we try to be reverent. I believe we can be reverently joyful. Joy is hard work. It's a command. And it can be reflective, and sober. Laughter can be about truth.

The sanctuary was silent except for the unnoticed jostle of passing the trays down each row. Deacons waited in the aisles to transfer the trays to the next row, but while helpful, they too were very quiet and solemn. The pastor stood at the front in prayer, and music played. Understanding that prayer was at least the expected activity of the moment, I resumed my conversation with God on the matter of communion. Is it true that no one will see if you don't take the bread? Is it true we don't care if our neighbor declines to partake? Shouldn't we care? What is with this secret surrender at the altar during invitations?

Scarlet juice glimmered in the tiny plastic cup I held in my hand, and I tried to focus on what it meant. Steve Green sang a song about ten years ago titled "My Soul Found Rest." My favorite line is "Pure white mingled with red as my Lord bled, and there my soul found rest." Without hearing the broken, sorrowful, glorious melody, you can't know how piercing the song is. And almost triumphant. It is praise. My soul found rest. I am redeemed.

We don't even know how to sing victory songs anymore. I don't mean taunting songs when you beat your best friend at Spoons. But real, serious victory. They're all over the Bible and premodern literature. Those were some sober, jubilant, and reflective songs. No flippancy could be allowed in them, for the cost had been too great. Yet they were glad songs.

That's part of what I wish our communion would be. Jesus died. He rose. Our sins are forgiven. We are part of a covenant so multi-faceted that is sealed with His blood. And we are one in Him. He loves us. We love each other. He is at work in us, purifying for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. We look forward to His return. He will return for His Bride, the Church. Then He will drink again the cup that last He drank at the Last Supper we celebrate during Communion. And after He made that promise, He asked us to remember Him.

I'm reading Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery just now. It is a tale of the families at home during World War I. They sent their sons, brothers, and beloveds to war, never knowing if they would return or what would be changed when they did. A young man visited his sweetheart on his last leave before going over the ocean to fight. "You won't forget me, will you?" he asked. "You'll wait for me?" And the sweetheart would always promise not only to wait, but to be deserving of the love of such a brave, selfless man.

I think that is another part of what Jesus was saying at the Last Supper.

To God be all glory.


ZJRamsli said...

I am curious as to what exactly you think should be different in the way we do communion. Like you pointed out the bible does say that we shouldn't take communion carelessly. It is a time to search our hearts and confess our sins. It is also a reverent and somber time. Joyful and sad a time to remember and give thanks. At our church there is usually a song or hymn played/sung during communion. Sometimes I don't sing and just talk to God. Sometimes I just cry for joy and thankfulness. Sometimes I just sing softly and others I sing all out. But no matter what. I would say it is solemn joy. SO again I'm curious it seems you think something should be different. Am I wrong?

Lisa of Longbourn said...

The Bible says nothing about Communion being a time of confession. And it doesn't say "carelessly;" it says "unworthily." Contextually (1 Corinthians 11), the topic was how believers were treating each other, and the service was a meal. There is some debate, but I believe the love feasts (in Jude, I think) were the same as Communion, or the context of Communion. The only thing solemn about it is that we do it in remembrance of Jesus, and His body being broken for us. But have you ever sung O the Wonderful Cross? The cross was sad, but it's all about life. It "bids me come and die! and find that I! can come and live!"

My take on the Lord's Supper agrees with (presently) (though I think the article I read isn't online), and and here is the article I wrote almost a year ago on basically the same subject:

You are right. The point of my post is that I think a lot of things should be different. But I don't think you understood solemn joy. I don't mean a subdued smile, or tearful gratefulness. I mean jubilance, dancing, singing out, laughing, and telling others - but without flippancy or irreverence or anything else unworthy of such a portent of the coming King.

To God be all glory,
Lady of Longbourn

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Oh, and the one thing that most bugs me is the ritual walking, passing, sitting, standing, getting back up, sitting, standing... whatever the deacons/elders do that is the same all the time. It's so formal. There were reasons originally that had good motives, but good intentions don't mean that what was done is right. I don't think it has place in the Lord's supper. But the perspective on Church in general changes our perspective on Communion and on life. If elders and pastors and staff and worship teams run church services for us, then it follows that they run Communion, and while they're doing all the spiritual stuff, we don't have much responsibility to follow Jesus and be an evangelist all the other days of our lives, either. Communion should be more communal and equal.

To God be all glory,
Lady of Longbourn

ZJRamsli said...

No I guess I didn't understand what you meant by 'solemn joy'; jubilant, dancing, singing out, laughing, really seem the opposite of solemn to me. There is a time and a place for everything jubilant joy and solemn joy.

Anyway; besides being generally more joyful what specific things would change.

ZJRamsli said...

Oh, by the way 1 Corinthians 11 does talk about examining yourself.
And in the context of the passage as well as the rest of scripture I think its talking about more than making sure you didn't take all the crackers or grape juice for yourself.

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Examine is the Greek dokimazo
which does not have to do with confession.

For specifics I would change, read articles to which I referred.

I would change almost everything.

I hope we can simply agree to disagree on the interpretation of the context of 1 Corinthians 11, because this blog is for the clear expression of my thoughts, not to persuade or be myself convinced.

"Solemn" I reluctantly recant, but please see the post explaining my retraction.
To God be all glory.