Friday, April 03, 2009

Communion & Easter

In a recent post, I received this question/comment:

I have a question. My family has never celebrated Easter as the resurrection of Jesus because we take communion every Sunday, remembering His death, burial, and resurrection at that time. For that reason, every Sunday is somewhat of an Easter to us, so on Easter we just do the egg hunt and such. I am wondering how often you partake communion, and what your thoughts are about remembering His resurrection every week in a service verses the once a year holiday. I am not trying to be disrespectful in any way - I've simply been raised this way, and have never really thought about or understood anything else about the holiday, so I'd love your insight.

My first thought was that I'd never heard of this before. To me, Easter has always been about celebrating Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. And, while I certainly have always been in churches that partake of communion, we've never done it every week. I honestly do not know how often we have communion ~ I'm sure there is a schedule at our church, but I just know when I see it in the order of worship that it will be that morning. Sometimes it is announced a week ahead as well.

I appreciate the spirit in which this question is asked and in the same vein will share my thoughts. They are certainly not wrong or right - just my thoughts.

God's Word does say to partake of communion as a way to remember His death, remember the sacrifice He made for us and to proclaim His death until He comes. In that regard, I think it is wonderful to be able to say that each Sunday is like Easter to you because of the way you are remembering the sacrifice He made on our behalf and the fact that He has risen.

Personally, I wonder if it loses some of its specialness being celebrated every week though. You know how we get with things that are routine - forgetting to really focus on what they mean. When it is celebrated a little less often, I wonder if we really think about its meaning more and ponder why we do it a bit deeper. Please understand that I am not pointing the finger at anyone. Just, speaking from my own experience and sinful tendencies to get in routines and therefore not think about those things as much.

I'd also be quite sad to not celebrate around Easter even if I did take communion every week. It is a holy time and one surrounded with meaning as there is such a focus on His sacrifice and new life.

To me, this sounds like one of those things where there is not a wrong or a right, but how we were raised has a big influence on how we see this when we are grown and guiding our own children. Being raised to celebrate Easter at this time of year, it is hard for me to imagine any other way. But, if I'd known a different way - then this may seem strange.

Anyone who is questioning how they should view Easter or celebrate this, please look to God's Word and go to Him in prayer for His leading in what is right for you and your family. I'd love to hear your thoughts if they are offered in a constructive way and in a right spirit. Thanks to the commenter who left this as it really got me thinking about why we celebrate the ways we do.


Mary Ann said...

I was raised in a church that did communion twice a year-in the spring at Easter and in the fall. That was all. I'm not certain why, maybe so it didn't lose its specialness? I don't know. So when I grew up and realized that some people did it every week, I was quite surprised. You can imagine how I felt later when I was introduced to the notion that you could take communion at home with your family! I now know several couples who take communion together almost every day.

I agree with Monica that there is no right or wrong here. I really enjoy taking communion so any chance I get to do that with my church family is special. We generally do this several times a year. I think that it could become routine or meaningless if I took communion every week.

Easter is special because it is a day set aside to really focus on our Jesus being raised from the dead. Even if I celebrated communion every week, I would still rather celebrate the resurrection on Easter than egg hunts and the Easter bunny. But that is only my opinion.

But every day is a gift from God. A day to worship and celebrate that He is alive! So should my celebration be limited to Easter? I don't think so. But I also know that I get caught up in daily life so sometimes I don't focus on Him as I should. That's where a special holiday like Easter can be a special time of remembrance.

flyonthewall said...

Perhaps further study into what "communion" is should be done...Jesus was eating with His disciples when He said as often as you do this, remember me. He was having fellowship and a meal. Really looking deeply into God's Word and looking at the examples set forth in the Scriptures, not what has "always been done" in the church building, should lead to some eye opening conclusions. At least as much as one can conclude on this side of Heaven (-: It is an indepth study worth one's time. Just food for thought as each of us yearns for God's best in our lives and desires to please Him and be a blessing to others. Thank you, Monica, for always sharing so opening and honestly.

Tracey said...

In Catholic Churches they celebrate communion every week.

Anonymous said...

In many (most? all?) liturgical churches, every Sunday has always been regarded as a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. This is true from the very earliest times. Remember, as we can see in the book of Acts, the early Church began meeting on Sunday mornings because that was the day of Jesus’ resurrection. It was part of the commemoration of the most important event in the entire history of the entire world. If Christ is not raised, we are to be pitied above all men the book of 1 Corinthians tells us. Christians worship on Sundays because that is Jesus’ resurrection day. I know that many churches have lost sight of that fact, but it is the fact even if we don’t realize it or have forgotten it. We should be living in the wake of the resurrection every single day, but 52 times a year we have a strong reminder of it when we go to worship on Sunday. Christians are not commanded anywhere in the Bible to set aside a particular annual day (Easter) to remember Christ’s resurrection (though we are given the strong example to remember it each Sunday), but I don’t think it is wrong to have a yearly festival. I think we are permitted to do it. (Same with Christmas.) There are a lot of benefits to celebrating the big annual Easter, but every Sunday should be a “little Easter.” We should be remembering His resurrection regularly. It is so special that it ought to have frequent emphasis and recognition. It is our hope.

I’ve gone to a church with weekly communion for many years now, and I’ve found that my attitude has more to do with it remaining “special” than anything else. If I forget why we are celebrating the Lord’s Supper, then it becomes humdrum. But if I remind myself and am reminded by the pastor why I need communion weekly, then it remains fresh and meaningful. Frankly, I’m weak and sinful and I need the frequent reminder of what Christ has done for me in his sacrificial death on my behalf. Weekly communion has been a blessing to me above just about anything else I can think of. Maybe it tops the list. :-)
These are my thoughts and beliefs. I’m coming out of lurkdom to share them. :-)


Katy said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this issue Monica...and am in complete agreement with you! We take communion every few months at our church (but I am not quite sure of the "schedule" of it). However, in preparation for our big Easter Passion Play our church is doing (this weekend and next) we (the members and crew of the play)got together and prayed last night and took communion. It was a beautiful time. Me, being the emotional person that I am, cried a TON....seriously bawled. Sometimes it is so hard to feel worthy of partaking in something so important. Know what I mean?

Anyways...thank you for the post. I enjoyed reading it and i hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Wendi said...

One of the things I like about reading your post is that your kind and gentle spirit shine through. It would be so easy when challenged or questioned to say this is the way I believe and that is the only way. I appreciate the way you answered this question.

Anonymous said...

My husband was raised in the Catholic church, where holy communion is part of each Mass. I was raised as a Protestant in the Methodist church, where communion is taken the first Sunday of each month. We are now part of a Nazarene church, which follows the same schedule of a monthly communion service.

Having experienced both, I think holy communion is always a sacred and special experience...whether taken weekly or less often. We are all Christians, after all, and seekers of Him.

The ritual and routine of the Catholic church is lovely to witness. I imagine that for many, this weekly familiarity provides a glimpse of God's orderly, heavenly glory AND is a weekly "discipline" of worship that draws the believer ever closer to the Son and the Creator. Similarly, the order of worship and Wesleyan hymns of my Protestant faith are "home" to my heart, and a type of compass keeping my soul pointed to the one true north.

In my limited understanding, communion is sacred because it reminds me of the humanity (broken body) of Christ and his sacrifice.

Easter is sacred because of the deep sadness and the abounding joy...our Savior DIED and then he ROSE.

In our worship service, we say the following words each Sunday..."Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! And he is coming again...Amen." What a glorious reminder.

Jodie said...

I just wanted to leave a thought or two here on this subject, as I've had some experience with both ways of taking communion during corporate worship. You're right - the Bible doesn't tell us specifically how many times we should take communion. However, having experienced it both ways, I LONG for every church and believer in Christ to be able to share in it every week. 90% of the places we've worshipped (we move a lot!) have communion once a month. But there is no question that the three churches we've attended that took communion each and every week are where my heart grew and grew in depth of gratitude for the cross and what it means for me. We usually read the words, "As 'often' as you do this..." Once a month doesn't seem often to me, personally. It seems more like a ritual squeezed in quickly so people can get home before the game starts or the roast dries out. I often even hear pastors apologize for the service taking "so long."

The services in which we've celebrated the cross and resurrection each Sunday (in my experience), it has been just the opposite of losing its specialness, but in fact has given us more time to truly focus on what happened, what it means, etc. It was more than just a quick passing of the bread and cup like has been the norm in most evangelical churches I've attended. We actually sang multiple songs related, read additional Scriptures related, and had much more time each week to actually pause and reflect on it all in our hearts. I don't think I've ever been more humbled in corporate worship than in those places where we truly had a focus on communion. In two of those churches, the entire first hour was devoted to communion. It was incredibly powerful, and prepared us immensely for the teaching hour that followed! I miss that. In another, our services were simply extended at the end, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening, but it was every week at one of the services. It wasn't a rushed thing, going through it quickly like passing an offering plate. We paused and truly focused.

As I'm writing this, I realize that two of these churches were in other countries. I suppose that's not surprising, seeing as how our culture is often, in many ways, all about getting through things and moving on, and sticking to strict time schedules. The last time I visited the other country where we'd had the hour-long service of communion each week, I attended a different church. Because they followed a once/month schedule for communion there, we simply added it on our own. At home we would have a study and them take communion on the weeks that we didn't do it corporately. (In fact, this is reminding me that we've meant to add this to our normal routine now that we're back in the States again, but haven't done it yet. We need to. So...thanks for addressing the topic here!)

Whether in a corporate setting or personally, or at home with other believers, I can only say that from my own experience you cannot possibly take communion too often. My entire life was completely changed for eternity by the cross, and by Jesus' resurrection. This is true for anyone who believes in Christ. That being said, it was impossible for me to not be changed dramatically by each time that I focused on that Truth. I was humbled more and more each week, and the Lord worked in my heart a great deal of gratitude and awe that stayed with me each and every day of the week for what He's done for me and how I'd be seriously lost without Him. There simply wasn't time to not be affected by it, because we continually (OFTEN) remembered together and praised Him for it all.

My apologies for making this so long, and it is probably quite scattered from this pregnant brain, but...I just wanted to share the thoughts I've come to have on it, after experiencing many different styles or schedules of communion across this country and the globe. Hopefully it is helpful to some who might be thinking through this.

As for our Easter celebration, We've tried to shift the eggs, candy and all of that to a Spring celebration, and keep Easter to a focus on Jesus. I grew up having them combined, and never really even thought about it. But it's just what we've decided to do with our kids now - two separate celebrations. One for spring and new physical life, one for Easter and new spiritual life. I'm sure thankful for both!

Many blessings to you in His grace!

MrsCoach said...

We're Catholic and receive communion every week. We receive it as "the body of Christ". During Lent we prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus. We partake in The Stations of the Cross on Fridays, and from Holy Thursday, through Easter weekend it is a solemn time, with Good Friday as the death, and joyfully celebrating Easter Sunday as the holiest of days in our religion, with the resurrection. It is a joyous time. I've been receiving communion since the 2nd grade (since I made my holy communion) and I haven't ever heard the concept of "celebrating" Easter each week. I'm speaking for the Catholic religion that Easter is certainly the holiest of Religious Holidays (along with Christmas), and we celebrate it as such. The kids do receive an Easter basket, and we do have an annual egg hunt after mass as part of our Easter celebration, but at least in our family, growing up we knew the seriousness and joyfulness of the resurrection and celebrated in the events... starting on Good Friday so we had an actual concept of the holiday and why we were celebrating. We weren't ever allowed to have any playdates, go shopping, etc. when we were off school on Good Friday... we were to cherish that day as a day of reflection and solemnity. That is how we are raising our children as well.

Rachel Zimmerman said...

Just a little insight for you guys. In our church, we only observe communion once a year the week before Easter. It is a really big deal and there is a lot of spiritual preparation that goes into it. We are encouraged to really search our heart and make sure that we are spiritually ready to take communion to ensure that we don't take it with sin in our heart. It is an evening of a lot of reflection on our Lord and Savior's pain and suffering for us. And ends with so much hope, indicated by His resurrection.

Tracy said...

At our church we take communion every week, as well. We have a member of our eldership do a communion meditation (a small mini-sermon to remind us of why we are taking it.) This part changes every week. I think they started this practice based on the church in Acts, who "broke bread" when they met together. I think you are wise in saying that it can become routine- too "normal," and lose it's significance...and of course there is danger, since the word says that if one eats or drinks in an unworthy manner, they are guilty of sinning against the body of Christ (1cor11:27). However, this does encourage one to have a clean slate every week- to right wrongs, etc. If you are not right with the Lord, you are not to take communion, and there have been times where I have had to abstain. As a whole, though, I enjoy the practice- the weekly appreciation of His sacrifice for our salvation.
BUT I don't think that this practice keeps me from appreciating Easter! Your site, and others, have helped me focus more intently on the events leading up to the cross. Just like we specifically celebrate His birth at Christmas, we can still delve more deeply into the meaning of the Cross at Easter. As always, Monica, I love your blog, and find it encouraging, inspiring, and wonderful!

Jessica said...

Our church partakes of communion on the 1st Sunday of the month. Then we partake on Good Friday and again on Easter Sunday with a different feel as we celebrate the resurrection.

I think I would be the same way about communion if I partook every Sunday. But the Bible does say, "whenever you eat or drink do this in remembrance of me." I've always wondered what this really meant and if we talk about/celebrate/partake often enough.

Great discussion question.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I usually don't leave comments, though I very much enjoy your blog! I decided to comment on this post because I have had several conversations with people over the years on this very topic. My church partakes of communion once a month, but I know of several Protestant denominations/individual churches which partake weekly. Catholic churches typically partake at least weekly as well. So, I am not surprised by your reader's question. As you mentioned in your post, Christ instructed that we take communion "in rememberance of Him," although He did not specifically instruct on the frequency. What's important is that we do it in obedience to Him, and in the proper spirit. It's also worth noting that partaking of communion typically focuses on the death of Christ - His body broken for us and blood shed for us. Although it is through both His death and resurrection that our sins are forgiven, the focus of communion tends to be more on his death on the cross, and less on His resurrection from the tomb. On the other hand, the traditional focus of Easter, along with the season leading up to it, is on both. Easter takes place after the Jewish week of Passover, which you have written about in earlier posts, and Good Friday, which commemorates Christ's death. By the time Easter Sunday arrives, Christians can celebrate His resurrection in a unique way. Celebrating Easter can be a unique experience from partaking of communion at other times of the year because it invites us to contemplate the entire journey of the cross - focusing on His death on Friday, and then two days later, the true joy of His resurrection. Not only is it a longer period of time for us to focus our attention on Christ's life and death (at least three days, or longer, if you observe Passover or Lent), it is also the time of year when other Christians all over the world are doing the same - that fact alone is a powerful and wonderful thing. The idea of eggs, Easter bunnies, etc., came much later in history and, as you know, has been widely accepted by Americans, largely through commercialism. Although many Christians do fun things with candy, eggs, etc., on Easter, that is not it's traditional purpose. We are not instructed in Scripture that we must celebrate Easter. But, it can be a very meaningful and unique time for believers to celebrate together, even if we are already partaking of communion throughout the year.

Sarah Kirkpatrick

Aubrey said...

Just a quick thought to add. I'm currently in a church where we only have communion once a quarter, which I definitely think is too rare. My RUF campus minister had what I thought was a good take on communion, something I had never thought about. He compared what happens spiritually with communion to what happens in a marriage when you celebrate the gift of physical love. We would never tell someone to have less s*x with their husband because it would become meaningless or routine. The physical act helps us remember the commitment we have made and that in marriage, we are no longer two, but one. It is the same with communion. We have union with Christ, and he gave his body on our behalf, which is so beautifully symbolized in Communion. Plus, communion is a means of grace, and I definitely think God uses it to bless us. As a protestant, I'm not advocating that Christ is physically present in the elements, but I do feel his spiritual presence is real, and can change us. Why would we not want that every week?

I do think it is good to remember that the reason we have church on Sunday is to commemorate Christ's resurrection, but I also think it is good during Easter to especially think about it and celebrate it. Anyway...this was a good and interesting post - Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great question!

I come from a brethren assembly where baptized believers "break bread" every Sunday and remember the Lord's death and resurrection. It is wonderful to be able to do this every week and instead of becoming "routine" it causes your heart to grow more in love for what the Lord has done and is a great way to start the week - with a heart full of appreciation and thanksgiving.
This meeting is based on Jesus’ actions and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26The focus of this meeting is Christ - his divine character, death, resurrection and Lordship. Each man will take turns in leading the congregation in prayer, reading a scripture or choosing an appropriate hymn. After a set period of time (30 to 90 minutes depending on the size of the assembly), someone will specifically thank God for the bread which symbolizes the Lord’s body. The loaf of bread is handed around the congregation so everyone can take a piece. Similarly, someone offers a prayer of thanks for Christ’s blood which is symbolized by the cup. It too is shared and then placed back on the table. Someone will close with a hymn or prayer or both. This is the Lord’s pattern of worship for the church (Matthew 26:26-38; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Unknown said...

I attend a non-denominational church, and we take communion every Sunday. I don't think any particular pattern is better than any other, it is just important that we do it.
Yet I couldn't imagine Easter not being about Christ's death and resurrection. I think it becomes more of a forefront at Easter, even though we remember it each church service.

~aj~ said...

I agree with many of these comments, but Anonymous (womanofthehouse) summed up my thoughts perfectly.

I've always attended churches that partake in weekly communion and while I can't say that it's wrong to do otherwise, I do believe in weekly communion and as I've matured in my faith it has become THE most important/special time in my entire week. In fact, even when we're out of town or on vacation we try to have unleavened bread and juice to have communion on our own. It is such a special time for myself and for our family.

Me said...

I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We take the sacrament (bread and water) each week. In fact, it is the focal point of our Sunday sacrament services. This is a time to ponder on Christ and renew our baptismal covenants with Him. It is passed very reverently and a privilege to partake of. I am glad that we do it weekly. It also teaches our little ones that this is a time to be especially reverant.

Thank you for the post.

Angelia in TX said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts Monica and the heart felt comments of each person here. Interesting to read.
I was not raised in Church when I was growing up but But Easter was always most meaningful to me b/c I gave my heart to Christ one summer vacation at an Uncle and Aunts house. My parents never took me to church but I would read my Bible, sing hymns from the front pages (the Bible I was given when I was saved)and prayed. My Uncle had a ministry in a Baptist church, so we went to church. I do not remember the timing of communion but I remembering taking communion when I was baptized that day. I have been an Adventist for 6 years and when I renewed my faith in Christ , I was given a basket of goodies fresh bread and grape juice, to remember Christ gift to us and a nice new Bible. We take communion every quarter (every thirteenth Sabbath). Our Church has a Resurrection reenactment The week end of Easter and It always brings me joy to celebrate and gather with others as we remember our history as Christians and believers. I enjoy communion and like having it once a season. At Church we also have foot washing service on communion Sabbath to remember Jesus' example to serve with Love. Sometimes I like to make fresh bread and get some concord grape juice for my time alone with God and remember Christ died for one and all remembering my baptism and my growth in Christ and by the grace of God I am not who I use to be. Praise be to God for times to celebrate and rejoice. For each day is a gift and moments of remembrance is a blessing. May God Bless your season of remembering our risen Christ. HE LIVES! Smiles, Angelia in TX

Joani said...

I think different churches each have their own communion schedule which fits them and we all choose to attend those that best fit us.

However, a lady at the church I attend often teaches on Christian celebrations (utilizing a book, Celebrating the Christian Year, which a friend of hers wrote). She pointed out at one time that most churches today actually do 'celebrate' Christ's resurrection on a weekly basis in that church services are on Sunday mornings. The early Christian church moved the weekly gathering/worship time from Saturdays (Jews still gather on Saturdays, I believe) to Sunday mornings to remember Christ's resurrection.

So even if we aren't practicing communion a lot of us do have some historically based weekly traditions designed around the central theme of the Christian faith - Christ's death & resurrection.

Anonymous said...

I am Baptist & we have communion (we've always called it The Lord's Supper)once a year, before Easter. And of course to participate, you must have accepted Jesus as your personal Saviour & followed by Believer's Baptism.

Elyce said...

It is interesting -- we don't suggest that frequent Bible reading or worship attendance diminishes the specialness of those acts. I agree that it is attitude that determines whether Communion will be special... or not.


Julie Ball said...

Monica, I really enjoyed reading this post, and I deeply appreciate the humble spirit with which you approached the topic. I also have enjoyed reading other people's comments. People do not just celebrate communion in different ways, they also understand it in different ways - for some it is the actual receiving of Christ's blood and body, for some it is an act of remembrance of the Last Supper, and for others it is something in between.

This reiterates what Joani said, but I wanted to share this quote from _The Story of Christianity, Volume I: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation_ by Justo L. Gonzalez (HarperSanFrancisco, 1984): "The earliest Christians... in Jerusalem continued keeping the Sabbath and attending worship at the Temple. To this they added the observance of the first day of the week, in which they gathered in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Those early communion services did not center on the Lord's passion, but rather on his victory by which a new age had dawned... In the earliest Christian community, the breaking of the bread took place 'with glad and generous hearts' (Acts 2:46)." (page 20)

For all of us Christians, every day should be about Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection. But I personally still like having special days when we can have big-time reflection and celebration. Of course, I just like holidays in general. :) I like the fun aspects as well as the serious ones, and for me, as long as the fun does not replace the seriousness, it does not take away from it. However, I would never judge anyone who does things differently. A true worshipful spirit and a care for one's relationship with God will permeate any tradition.

Blessings to all of you!

Mrs. K said...

We are a Plain church and we have communion once a year. It is a three day event, starting Friday night with preaching, we meet for breakfast Saturday morning and have preaching immediately following, break for lunch, more preaching in the afternoon, break for dinner. Then Saturday evening is a very special time of communion and feet washing. Sunday morning is more breakfast and more preaching, then lunch. I did not grow up this way, I grew up in a Church of the Brethren where we had Love Feast (feet washing and communion) on Maundy Thursday and took communion (bread and cup) several times throughout the year.

This communion (we call it Love Feast) is so very special to us, several families will go to the neighboring congregation to share their Love Feast and we will often have visitors for our Love Feast. This is only for baptized believers.

I have never heard of not celebrating Easter because you take communion each week. I agree with several posters here that the frequency of an act does not dimish its meaning.

Rae said...

I love your gentle response and concern that communion be kept sacred!

In my experience though, the idea of having communion *less* in order to keep it special has not worked as well as having it more. It is rather like talking with a close friend. We simply do not stay as close if we only talk a few times a year compared to talking weekly. Perhaps this view makes more sense if you consider communion as deep prayer. It is difficult to imagine that one should pray less in order to keep it special.

kathy said...

So I don't think weekly communion to celebrate Jesus's death and resurrection or a yearly celebration of the same need to be mutually exclusive.

The best explanation I can think of (and I'm pretty sure I read it somewhere...too good an analogy to have come from my brain) is that it's like cleaning. You have weekly maintenance, but periodic "deep cleans." In Catholic tradition, every Friday is a day of remembrance of Jesus's death. This is the reason Catholics used to abstain (from meat) on Fridays, and why they're still asked to keep some remembrance or sacrifice. Every Sunday is then a memorial of the Resurrection. But sometimes we need to delve a little deeper into the process. So once a year, Lent provides a structure to dig deeper. You know, get out your toothbrush and scrub the grout on your bathroom floor rather than just sweeping it. I'm afraid I haven't done justice to the analogy as I read it, but I do think it's a lovely one.

Nikki said...

Just thought I'd mention that we are methodist and I work for our church so I know we have it once a month. The first Sunday of each month. Just thought I'd share. I think it would lose its specialness. I know there are some topics I think the children at our church become desensitized to. Things you want people to think about but after being said over and over it just loses it meaning.

Just my opinion.

Kimberly said...

We are Roman Catholic, and receive communion every Sunday at Mass. As we live 50 miles roundtrip from our church we are unable to attend daily Mass, but our priest offers Mass every day of the week, and those fortunate to live nearby receive our saviour daily.

It never becomes old or routine, the beauty of the sacrifice is always there.