April 1, 2020
Communion During COVID-19?
In the regular rhythm of life at Bethlehem, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of each month. This Sunday (April 5, 2020) will be the first time in my tenure as a pastor that we will depart from that practice. I will miss it more than I can put into words. Why are we not going to celebrate the Lord’s Supper again until we can physically gather together as a church body?
I will give a longer answer in the sermon this Sunday, but let me share an abbreviated answer here.
In summary, the very meaning of the Lord’s Supper requires a gathered assembly, not a scattered one. In 1 Corinthians 11, the Greek word translated “when you come together” is used three times in verses 17–20 and two times in verses 33–34. The physical gathering is an indispensable part of the grace of the Lord’s Supper. In particular, the grace we receive in the Lord’s Supper is the grace at work in the physical gathering as a display or active embodiment of the truth that we are truly in fact one body. In other words, the grace of Communion as a shared supper is our shared identification in the gospel as members of one body. One of the key texts on the Lord’s Supper is 1 Corinthians 10:17, “Because there is one bread, we who are many, are one body, for we all share the one bread.” The apostle Paul applies this principle in 1 Corinthians 11:21 by rebuking the Corinthians for eating it separately and not together. We should confess and come to grips with the fact that in our scattered capacity right now, we simply cannot do what the text calls us to do.
So what do we do? Right now, we are in a season of forced fasting from the Lord’s Supper. May it drive us to prayer and stoke the fires of our longing even more for the time we can gather together. We lament that we cannot physically gather. Technology is a great blessing and the scattered church gathering in a virtual way can be a real blessing from the Lord, but it is not meant to be a replacement or substitute for the gathering of God’s people.
We heartily affirm the truth that Immanuel is with his scattered church. We know he will give us the grace we need until we can gather together again.