Feb 122016

Recently, a person posted on a conservative Methodist Facebook page about the words used at a Communion Service he had recently attended. Apparently, this set him into a real tizzy, because the Officiant didn’t follow the exact words of the Liturgy from the Hymnal. And you wouldn’t believe the discussion that followed.

So here’s the original post:

So, at a Cluster service last night, the Elder leading Communion said something to the effect of “on the night before he gave himself up to be crucified, and when all of the disciples, women and children were gathered in the Upper Room, Jesus took bread….” I was told not to sweat the “small stuff”, but really!?!? To me it’s a total abuse of the Sacrament and a rewriting of the Gospel but God forbid I would make an issue of it as an LP [lay person]….

Now, let’s keep a few things in mind about the Last Supper. It was NOT a Christian event. It was a Jewish Sadar meal. Jesus was, despite what modern-day Christians seem to think, not a Christian. He was born, lived, and died as an observant Jew. The Sadar meal actually includes a part for a child. There was bread, and I’m betting it wasn’t baked by any of the male Disciples. There were almost always women in Jesus’ entourage. There were female Disciples, and women who supported the group financially and in logistical ways. So, despite Da Vinci’s rendering (and pretty much all others), being devoid of women, it’s almost impossible to believe that there were not women and children present. eucharist

A regular commenter there got over-wrought about the idea that a Pastor might add a few words to the liturgy to illustrate a more accurate picture of what the last supper was about, and to reiterate the Methodist tradition that the table is open to all. If you regularly followed this commenter, you’d realize that an open table is anathema to him. The following is a string of just a few of his comments, all of which say the same thing.

It isn’t small stuff. It is change for the sake of change and nothing more. That is never the way of God. The table is open to us all because of what Christ did not becuase [sic] of who was there. It completely shifts the focus of the liturgy of the Eucharist to humans from the focus on the divine sacrifice.

OK the point is not if there were women and children. The point is that there is no compelling reason to change the liturgy of communion as we have and regularly announce that all are welcome. It is change for the sake of change and nothing more, so there is no reason.

It has nothing to do with inclusion or exclusion. We have an open table that all are welcome at. That has not changed nor should it. What I am not for is change that serves no purpose, and this does not.

As I said above, it is change for the sake of change. This conversation if anything is proof that it has taken away from the focus being on Christ and the Eucharist and onto changing a liturgy for no good reason.

The words of institution are ancient and biblical. Nowhere does it say who was present except “his disciples,” which is already inclusive. …. is right on this one.

I don’t think that anyone is concerned over much about if women were there or not. I think the primary concern is that there is no need to change the liturgy to fit a narrative when the words of the liturgy do not exclude anyone nor do the policies and doctrine of the church.

On his own page, he posts about this, and conflates it into sounding like some institution-wide attempt to change the language of the liturgy.

So today’s useless and unnecessary conversation has to do with changing the communion liturgy in the hymnal to include Jesus serving women and children instead of just the disciples. Why you ask? I’d answer, but I read nothing in those supporting such an idea that I found compelling. More let’s change just for the sake of change.

He expounds on that in a comment responding to someone who commented on his page by saying:

No, the proposal was to change it to something like Jesus serving the disciples, and the women, and the children when referencing the bread and the cup so that no one felt like Jesus would not have served a woman and that everyone felt welcomed…because we don’t have and regularly announce an open table or anything….

So again, let’s clarify. There was no “proposal.” A single minister elaborated a bit and added a few words to the “script” that’s to be used for Communion, but this guy always finds a giant conspiracy in everything. Also, let’s note that the various liturgies in the hymnal have been changed from time to time, but I guess since this guy was old enough to personally bless them, they are not sacrosanct. The problem I find, and the reason for singling this one person and instance out, is this is all to common a trait among conservative Christians. It is why the mainline Protestant denominations were too slow in changing their stance on welcoming LGBT people, and why they set themselves on a downward trend. There is this intransigence within that movement that, never mind the many changes in Christian belief over the years (divorce, re-marriage, slavery, stoning, etc.), the way thing are today is they have always been…or at least, they are now perfect, and nothing else could change.

They have developed this sense that everything is about hurting them, and that religion is a zero sum game, and if someone not like them is welcome, then they lose something (they can’t every clarify exactly what that something is though). It’s why people like Trump and Cruz play so well with these people. They create fear, and give them an “other” to blame for their own unhappiness. This guy here has commented for over two days, saying exactly the same thing over and over (it can’t change because that is change for the sake of change) over a silly situation like this.

I for one find the words quoted to be rather a beautiful and likely accurate depiction of the scene, and my final reply to him was:

What actually changed about the spirit and intent of the liturgy? Just answer that question…what religious view was either added to or taken away from by what was said? That would be changing the liturgy. I’ve been Methodist all my life, and I don’t believe I have ever heard a communion service where the Officiants managed to get through the service without missing a word, or fumbling a pronunciation. Would you condemn them also for not precisely following the liturgy? I think when that happens, most people still get the meaning, and I don’t think anyone in that service missed the meaning either. Again, what do you think was added to or taken away from the meaning and intent of the service?

He’s yet to reply to that, but if he keeps to form, based on that comment, he’ll accuse me of being condescending and/or setting up a straw-man. That always his response when he has no other.

  One Response to “Theological Silliness About Communion”

Comments (1)
  1. Thank you for your very thoughtful, sensible piece about theological silliness. My only request is that, in Deep Polls, you PLEASE correct your listing for erstwhile presidential candidate Christie. The listing has his first name as “Christ,” rather than “Chris.” The people of NJ really, really, really KNOW he is not Christ. He has made that very, very clear.

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