Thank you Ruth, Robert, Crystal, Nathan, Beka, Emily, Gloria and Lance(?), for being patient. This will be long I'm afraid—and still not cover all the bases.
Nathan is right: God, who knows our weaknesses and needs, blessed us with tangible signs to seal his promises. To lose sight of those means of grace, even for a little bit, makes us prone to lose the present awareness of his promises to cleanse us completely from our sin.
I wrote yesterday with a visceral impulse on an issue I have refrained from publishing on here because it is not right to create dissention in the church. My rhetorical question was probably
a little too obvious though. Matters such as these are supposed to be supervised by those who are ordained to that end (the elders). I do not intend in any way to rebel in the near future over this kind of an issue (in case you were wondering).
However, that doesn't at all limit my depth of feeling on the issue and also what I see as something that has deeply hurt Reformed people in general. The frequency of administration is just a part of it but it is also so easy to misunderstand the purpose and nature, and indeed the interconnectedness of the sacrament with the whole of the gospel.
One thing needs to be made clear--this isn't an issue of "they do it that way and we do it this way." I would rather just point out that this is an issue where the detailed directions are properly derived from scripture, if not specifically, than simply in the spirit of Christ's and the Apostle's teachings.
Ever since the reformation, there have been differences on the issue of frequency. I found one very enlightening article
that traces the different practices from then till now. It is Published by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and falls in line against infrequent use--it makes some interesting connections that I were new to me, for example, the roots of the revivalist movement in America was centered around a ritualistic infrequent approach to the Lord's Supper. It is written somewhat aggressively but still worth the read!
I also found some very helpful reading from John Calvin himself who believed that the sacraments are “a form of the word of God given uniquely to the worshiping community," and therefore should be used as frequently as possible because "the more infirmity presses, the more necessary is it frequently to have recourse to what may and will serve to confirm our faith, and advance us in purity of life..."
In his "Short Treatise on the Lord's Supper
," he takes a running pattern through many different errors, misunderstandings and misuses from his day. Most of it is just as fresh today as it was then so I encourage you to at least browse through it.
On our need for the supper:
Seeing, then, it is a remedy which God has given us to help our weakness, to strengthen our faith, increase our charity, and advance us in all holiness of life, the use becomes the more necessary the more we feel pressed by the disease; so far ought that to be from making us abstain. For if we allege as an excuse for not coming to the Supper, that we are still weak in faith or integrity of life, it is as if a man were to excuse himself from taking medicine because he was sick. See then how the weakness of faith which we feel in our heart, and the imperfections which are in our life, should admonish us to come to the Supper, as a special remedy to correct them. Only let us not come devoid of faith and repentance. The former is hidden in, the heart, and therefore conscience must be its witness before God. The latter is manifested by works, and must therefore be apparent in our life.
He says this among other things to those who abstain because of their claim of unworthiness:
...he who would exempt himself from receiving the Supper on account of unworthiness, must hold himself unfit to pray to God....no one ought long to rest satisfied with abstaining on the ground of unworthiness, seeing that in so doing he deprives himself of the communion of the Church, in which all our wellbeing consists. Let him rather contend against all the impediments which the devil throws in his way, and not be excluded from so great a benefit, and from all the graces consequent thereupon.
Going back to frequency: Frankly, it is sort of a can of worms. What about our preparatory week (which I sometimes worry is interpreted as a time for "making ourselves good enough to come")? Liturgical alterations are no small matter in Reformed circles. It's easy enough to criticize the current method, but it is certainly another to decide what is the proper way of effecting change if change is decided upon.
Labels: church, THEOS KAI ANTHROPOS