by Dick Wamsley
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26 NIV
My friend, Greg, used that text for a communion meditation he shared recently. He told a powerful story of how Christians living in a country that’s hostile toward the Church proclaim Jesus’ death through their participation in a uniquely daring communion service.
Greg served for years with TCM International Institute at Haus Edelweiss, in Austria, where theological graduate students from countries in eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and central Asia all converge for concentrated study. One student told him about how the church he serves in one of those “closed countries” observes the Lord’s Supper each week.
Adults of the church meet in various home for study and worship. Children are sent to a different location. If parents are caught teaching their children the Bible, those kids can be taken from them. It’s illegal in this country for parents to “proselytize” their own children.
At an appointed time, the adults all meet at a restaurant for a meal and to observe the Lord’s Supper together. They may sit at several different tables, but the predetermined leader situates himself so that everyone in the group can see him. After all have finished their meal, the leader picks up a piece of bread and bows his head in silent prayer. Everyone knows what he’s doing, though nothing is said. When he lifts his head, he eats the piece of bread. Others at the various tables follow his lead. Then he bows again in silent prayer. Again, he lifts his head and will pick up a glass of wine, water, or whatever else he has to drink, and drinks. Others follow in like manner. No words are spoken. No verbal acknowledgement is made of what they have just done. But everyone at the tables knows they have just “proclaimed the Lord’s death.” In fact, it’s the very reason they gather in a public place to observe the Lord’s Supper – to proclaim Jesus’ death even at the risk of being discovered.
When I heard that story, I knew I had to share it with you, and it suggests the following questions of us:
- Do we, in this country, give as much special attention to the observance of the Lord’s Supper?
- Do we have a sense that we proclaim the Lord’s death each time we eat the bread and drink the cup?
- How do we help prepare Christ-followers to “participate” in the body and blood of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)
As leaders in the Church – specifically as elders – we are entrusted with overseeing the Church’s corporate worship experiences. In a recent blog, Bob Russell wrote that the Lord’s Supper is “the most profound and effective memorial of any kind.” If that’s true, then the way we lead the body of Christ in “proclaiming the Lord’s death” is critical. It deserves more than just deciding the simple mechanics of how we will pass around bread and juice and how long it should take.
Greg’s devotional thoughts drew me into the profound sacredness of the Lord’s Supper; that I was proclaiming our Lord Jesus’ death with other Christians around the world, some of them at risk of their own lives. What a solemn moment that was! What an extraordinary opportunity we have to lead others toward the foot the Cross, to “the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16).