By Mark Krause
Why did the early church celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week?
The answer to this is very simple, but for some Christians it requires a different way of thinking. Most believers are well acquainted with the church tradition and expectation of meeting together on the first day of the week. This weekly gathering is reflected in a term we sometimes use for a particular, local church, the congregation. This word literally means “those who gather together.” Churches are made up of members who assemble, who come together.
But why? If you were to ask believers why they come to church on Sunday, you would receive many answers. Some might say they come out of habit, but don’t really understand why. Others might say it is a chance to see friends. Some might cite their enjoyment of the splendid music of the church. A few might even say they come because of the preaching. In most Protestant churches, there would be little mention of the Lord’s Supper.
Yet meeting for the Lord’s Supper is exactly what the congregants of the early churches did. Why did they assemble on Sunday? They came to participate in the great sacrament of fellowship, to commune together as they shared the Lord’s Supper. In so doing, they were remembering the core beliefs of their faith: that Jesus died for their sins and rose on the third day.
It was not a passive experience. They did more than hear the spoken word. Their fingers touched the bread as they remembered Christ’s body, broken for them. Their tongues tasted the wine as they recalled Christ’s blood, shed for them. They celebrated the new covenant, the gracious invitation of God to believe in his Son and thereby be saved.
This is why it takes a new way of thinking, a paradigm shift, to understand the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper for some Christians. The question is not, “Why do we have it every week?” The question is, “Why do we meet every week?” We come to meet around a table of fellowship offered by Christ to all believers. If we get to sing a little, that is good. If we can hear some Scripture read, that is good. If we are able to give our tithes and offerings, that is good. If we hear a helpful sermon, that is a bonus. None of these things takes the place of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, nor is any of these things more important than partaking in Holy Communion.
May we enjoy the blessings of this holy feast as we share together this morning.
Mark Krause serves as academic dean and professor of Bible with Nebraska Christian College in Papillion, Nebraska, and Crossroads College, Rochester, Minnesota.