According to the church order, “The sacraments shall be administered upon the authority of the consistory in the public worship service…” and “The Lord’s Supper shall be administered at least once every three months in a manner conducive to building up the body of Christ and in keeping with the teachings of God’s Word.” While not providing details, there is some direction.
One thing is clear: the consistory is responsible. I suppose that could mean many things. Consistory could be responsible for setting the table by preparing the bread and wine. Consistory could ensure that those who participate are faithful members of the church of Christ (historically, we have sometimes called this fencing the table). Perhaps the consistory could be involved preparing the liturgies used for communion though I have seldom seen this.
Over the past few years the key question has been: can children participate? If they are members of the body of Christ, ought they not join at the table of the Lord? This conversation will continue leading up the consideration of the report on “Faith Formation” at Synod. And probably afterwards.
The mystery and wonder of the Lord’s Supper has grown on me over the years. When I was a child, Lord’s Supper meant an extra long service. Great emphasis – from my perspective – on who may come to the table of the Lord: the answer was simple – the people who trust in Jesus Christ to forgive their sins. The practices seemed more linked to variations of confession, penance and justification. I have not stopped being amazed at this gift of God.
But something new has entered into my experience. What is new is the wonder of entering into and living in the circle of divine love and fellowship of the triune God. I spend less time thinking about the door opened by Jesus and more time reflecting on sitting in the kitchen of God's house, where the warm embrace of divine hospitality refreshes my spirit, nourishing me for the life of mission. Who would not want to just stay there for a while as God gives nourishment for my soul, speaks words of divine encouragement and embraces me in love? An extra long service could be too short.
Consistory has responsibility to building up the body of Christ. Communion can be a central building block for experiencing the love of Christ and nourishing faith. Beyond liturgies (important as they are), beyond the ways of fencing and opening the table, we need to ask ourselves how we developing a church culture in which communion is welcomed as an experience of divine nourishment and divine love. Are there practices that deepen our experience of the community of Christ? Is sitting in the pew best or ought we come forward? Should we look each other in the eye and say “this is the body/ blood of Christ for you”? Should we practice communion in house groups or small groups?
Communion is practiced under the authority of the consistory. But the host of the meal is Christ. Our actions are ways we serve the purpose of Christ giving nourishment to the community of faith. Have a conversation not so much about the rules and practices of communion, but on the practices that deepen faith and encourage our walk in the fellowship of God.