There is a trend in the evangelical world today. It has gone for far too long unchallenged. It is the personalized and individualized practice of solo communion. As the words of the Eucharist are being said, evangelicals immediately curl up and enter into a mystical state of self-analysis. This continual introspection follows the common theme of most evangelical churches. It follows a form of worm theology. One feels “unworthy”–to use Paul’s words– of partaking of the Eucharist. a
This is manifested when the recipients contemplate their sins or manufacture images of the crucified Jesus in their mind during the passing of the elements. By interpreting Jesus’ words “remembering the Lord’s death” as a reference to silent meditation and contemplation of one’s sinfulness, evangelicals have by and large returned to 16th practice of private mass. As Jeff Meyers rightly observed:
But there’s another problem with the way modern Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper that might be labeled as “private mass” or maybe just “private communion.” The word “communion” refers not only to our communion with the resurrected Jesus through the bread and wine at the Supper. There’s also a horizontal dimension to the Table that flows from union with Jesus. We are united with one another. We commune with Jesus and with one another. “Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one loaf” (1 Cor. 10:17).
A proper evangelical liturgy will do well to include occasions for confession during the service, but the Lord’s Supper is not that place. If there is something that needs to be dealt with may it be done before the Supper or before the service (preferably). But do not let the Lord’s Supper become a time to catch up on your confessional account.
The Lord’s Supper, then, is to be a time of great enjoyment and relaxation. Jesus gives His Bride rest from her labors, so too we are to enjoy the rest given by our Lord. The Church needs to enjoy the company of one another; they need to one another one another with words of comfort and joy, rather than somber individualized contemplation.
The Table is for our enjoyment. The God of joy broke His Son, so that we might be one, and then He gave us His joy in wine that we might give thanks and embody that joy in the communion of saints. “Celebrating communion by myself” cannot exist in a community. Community exists so that we might esteem others better than ourselves. In the Lord’s Supper, introspection is not desired; rather, incarnational theology is lived out together.
- There is a theology of unworthiness at the Table, but this is certainly not it (back)