In an earlier post, I talked about differences between the liturgical style of the church I now attend and the more free-flowing style of the church I grew up in. I wanted to expand on some of those differences in a short, observation style.
In the Baptist church I grew up in, and many other evangelical churches I’ve been to, communion is a strictly symbolic ceremony. The grape juice and cracker symbolize the blood and body of Jesus Christ, and unlike the Catholic or Episcopalian versions, it’s simply that. There’s no transubstantiation or anything that would grant anything more than symbolic meaning. It’s juice and crackers.
Yet if it’s simply symbolism, why is the service so incredibly formal and stiff? I’ve noticed many communion services where the ushers and pastor rigidly serve one another in a regimented order that you fear cannot be broken on penalty of death.
While I don’t necessarily agree with the pomp and circumstance of communion in the Catholic or Episcopalian churches, it makes sense. Their theology grants special importance to the bread and wine (notice that it’s actually bread and wine), and they treat it as such.
Yet other Protestants seem to not even understand what they’re doing. It comes off as a ritualistic religious ceremony. Sometimes I wonder if all the forms of communion I’ve described are just missing the point. Jesus broke bread and shared wine, something the people of his time did every day. It’s akin to unwrapping a burger and popping open a can of Coke. I think that it’s through these daily rituals, shared with believing friends, that we are to be reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for us. Not in once-monthly batches of Welch’s and saltines.