Modern Churches Serious Lack of Reflection Concerning the Table

Presently I find that many professed Christians will view the Lord’s Supper with either a thoughtless cavalier attitude or they will overly dramatize it and focus more on ritual, trappings and pomp. In other words people either give too little concern to these things or make a grand deal regarding the process. But how many authentically focus on the meaning behind it and how it relates to the believer beyond it being an ordinance Jesus gave his disciples and Paul wrote about it. Peter Riedemann in his Rechenschaft defined how the Hutterites would prepare for the event and how it was observed.

 When we gather to celebrate the meal of remembrance, or the Lord’s Supper, the people are encouraged and taught for two or three days beforehand. They are told clearly the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, how it is observed, and how they should prepare themselves to be worthy to receive it. Each day should include prayer and thanksgiving. When this has taken place and the Lord’s Supper has been observed, all sing a hymn of praise to the Lord. Then the people are exhorted to live in accordance with what they have just expressed. They are commended to the Lord and allowed to depart.[1]

Riedemann’s words can be broken down into three facets. The first is retrospective. His remarks begins by pointing out that the Lord’s Supper was a “remembrance”. The Lord’s Supper functions as a memorial of the Lord’s death on behalf humankind. On the night he initiated it Jesus after blessing the cup said “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:17-19).

The Hutterian’s words show a prospective aspect which likely manifested itself during the encouragement and elucidation on the “meaning of the Lord’s Supper”. Paul said “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Until he being Christ “comes” points to Jesus future activities when he returns to establish the Kingdom proper on earth as it is in Heaven.

Thirdly the quote from the Rechenschaft is introspective in nature. This required each believer to ascertain whether they was “worthy to receive it”. The “it” consisted of the supper made up of the unadorned emblems of wine and bread. Being a worthy partaker harmonizes once again with scripture.  “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28).

This portion stood out to me because at present this is a derelict concept. Where do you find a body of professed believers that would take “two or three days” to ponder their quality to dine? There are numerous instances where pastors treat the Table liberally and present it unreserved to all regardless of the individuals association with the Kingdom of God. How can someone determine if they qualify to feast at the Lord’s Table if they do not have the right station to rightfully take it if they were?

In conclusion Peter Riedemann’s words stand as a case of how avowed believers should view the Lord’s Meal. It is not something that should be taken lightly or outshined by ritual. It is something that should be highly esteemed and considered sacred worthy of deep and long contemplation. It is something just anyone can partake of but only those worthy as being a member of the Body of Christ of good moral character.  I really appreciate this stand and wish that others would embrace it.

 

 

 

 

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[1] Peter Riedemann, Peter Riedemann’s Hutterite Confession of Faith: Translation of the 1565 German Edition of Confession of Our Religion, Teaching, and Faith, by the Brothers Who Are Known as the Hutterites, ed. and trans. John J. Friesen, Classics of the Radical Reformation (Waterloo, Ont.: Herald Press, 1999), 151.

Who Should Attend Church?

I recollect a while back I had a discussion vis-à-vis the Lord’s Supper and who should partake of it. The majority in the conversation felt like communion should be open and I felt to the contrary. Now this post is not about the Lord’s Supper but it relates to my reply. My response was essentially that I believe the Lord’s Supper should not be open to all but exclusive—only baptized members of the assembly should observe. Yet there is more to the situation than just having the Lord’s Communion limited to only believers.

My entire contention consisted of not only should the Lord’s Supper be reserved for baptized adult members of the Gemeinde but also the meeting itself. Now as you might have guessed I received considerable pushback for saying that, after all it appears as if “church” has perpetually been open and free to all. Well that’s not case. “Church” or more appropriately the gathering of the ekklesia originally was only comprised of baptized believers and their offspring.

What’s also interesting about this matter is that the proto or radix Anabaptists viewed the situation from a parallel perspective. The Hutterite Peter Riedemann wrote in his Rechenschaft:

God did not wish to have heathens in his worship services, nor did he wish his people to learn the ceremonies of the heathen. In fact, he threatened that if they did that, he would do to them as he had intended to do to the heathen. For the same reason, at the time of the apostles, unbelievers were not permitted to join believers. Paul, too, separates the faithful from the unbelievers. Accordingly, we also wish in this matter and in all things, to be worthy to receive with him the promise of the inheritance. This is possible, insofar as it is in us to follow Christ is our Master. With his help we will keep his command and covenant, not turning aside from it to the right or to the left. May he give us and all others who wholeheartedly want it, his grace to do this, Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.[1]

Riedemann alludes to many scriptural passages such as Exodus 12:43 and Numbers 33:55-56. Yet his remarks regarding the Apostle and Paul has the most relevance to this discussion. His mentioning of Paul’s separating of “the faithful from the unbelievers” points to 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Contextually Paul was speaking to the ekklesia established in Corinth and likewise Riedemann was speaking in respect to the Anabaptist Gemeinde. Only those baptized adult disciples was participants in the fellowship of Christ that routinely came together for edification and partook of the cup and ate of the loaf. All those that have not entered the ekklesia through repentance and rebirth evidenced by water baptism are outside the kingdom thus making their attendance at meetings unwarranted.

 

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[1] Peter Riedemann, Peter Riedemann’s Hutterite Confession of Faith: Translation of the 1565 German Edition of Confession of Our Religion, Teaching, and Faith, by the Brothers Who Are Known as the Hutterites, ed. and trans. John J. Friesen, Classics of the Radical Reformation (Waterloo, Ont.: Herald Press, 1999), 180.

One of the Reasons Why I Love the Anabaptists

There is a story found in The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren that makes me laugh every time I run across it that exemplifies the boldness of the Anabaptists even under the threat of death. They stood on their beliefs and would get in a wise-ass shot whenever they could to the disdain of their captors. There is one instance where “four brothers . . . were taken prisoner at Kaibel in the Kingdom of Poland.”[1] The reason for their imprisonment was that they were “betrayed, and officials and nobility with their servants surrounded the house, arrested them . . . vowing in their fury that they would make an example of them as a warning to others.”[2]

Once the brothers was confined within stocks and iron fetters the brothers did not let that get them down. For it was not long before “their captors began to feel uneasy, wishing they had never set eyes on the brothers” because of their fearless replies to their captor’s inquisition which demonstrated their innocence.[3]  Yet for some reason the magistrate put six armed guards on them fully armed threatened with death if they fail at their job. Now comes to the part that I truly enjoy, it involves a verbal engagement with the nobleman that really demonstrates the quick wit of the Anabaptists.

The next day the “local official and the nobleman returned and spent the whole day arguing with them, cursing and swearing at them.”[4] The noble man at some point quotes Jesus where he warns of false wolf-like prophets masquerading as sheep. They brothers reply was:

Have you ever heard of sheep tearing wolves? That would be a new one! Everybody knows that wolves tear sheep. Since you hunt us down, torture and kill us, it should be obvious to you that you are the wolves at heart, claiming to be Christ’s sheep. No sheep ever killed a wolf.[5]

When I first read this, I laughed for quite a while but I am sad to say the nobleman did not. I really enjoyed that segment and I respect them for their boldness and way of thinking. If I was in that situation I think I would have reacted the same because even today I upset people when  I stand for what I believe and point obvious yet humorous illogical reasoning.

 

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[1] Hutterian Brethren, trans., The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren (Rifton, NY: Plough Pub. House, 1987), 1:470.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 471.

[5] Ibid.