Rivers of blood have been shed at the hands of Protestant and Catholic Christians alike over the doctrinal intricacies related to Holy Communion.' The Lord's Supper, once precious and living, became the center of theological debate for centuries. Tragically, it moved from a dramatic and concrete picture of Christ's body and blood to a study in abstract and metaphysical thought.
We cannot concern ourselves with the theological minutiae that surround the Lord's Supper in this book. But clearly Protestants (as well as Catholics) do not practice the Supper the way it was observed in the first century. For the early Christians, the Lord's Supper was a festive communal meal.' The mood was one of celebration and joy. When believers first gathered for the meal, they broke the bread and passed it around. Then they ate their meal, which then concluded after the cup was passed around. The Lord's Supper was essentially a Christian banquet. And there was no clergyman to officiate.""
Today, tradition has forced us to take the Supper as a tongue-tickling thimble of grape juice and a tiny, tasteless bite-size cracker. The Supper is often taken in an atmosphere of solemnity. We are told to remember the horrors of our Lord's death and to reflect on our sins.
In addition, tradition has taught us that taking the Lord's Supper can be a dangerous thing. Thus many contemporary Christians would never take Communion without an ordained clergyman present. Often, they point to 1 Corinthians 11:27-33. In verse 27, the apostle Paul does warn believers not to participate in the Lord's Supper "unworthily." In this instance, however, he appears to have been speaking to church members who were dishonoring the Supper by
One of the better-known figures killed for his views on the Lord's Supper was Thomas Cranmer. Cranmer was named archbishop of Canterbury by Henry VII(, but his greatest influence was felt during the brief reign of Henry's son, Edward VI. Later, during the reign of Queen Mary, Cranmer was charged with sedition for defending Protestant sacramental theology. He was burned at the stake in March 1556 (Douglas, Who's Who in Christian History, 179-180).
See Eric Svendsen, The Table of the Lord (Atlanta: NTRF, 1996); F. F. Bruce, First and Second Corinthians. NCB (London: Oliphant, 1971),110; White, The Worldliness of Worship, 85: William Barclay, The Lord's Supper (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1967), 100-107; I. Howard Marshall, Last Supper and Lord's Supper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980); Vernard Eller, In Place of Sacraments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 9-15.
Barclay, Lord's Supper, 102-103. The Lord's Supper was once a "lay" function, but it eventually devolved into the special duty of a priestly class.
not waiting for their poor brethren to eat with them, as well as those who were getting drunk on the wine.
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