I have always considered the Lord’s Supper service to be a solemn occasion. It is a remembrance of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ by which we are saved. The bread we eat represents His broken body, and the cup of communion represents His blood poured out for our sins and those of the whole world.
With that in mind, I approach the Lord’s table seriously. However, as solemn as the Lord’s Supper is, some humorous things have occurred at the services I have attended.
I remember presiding over my first Lord’s Supper service as pastor of the church in New Auburn, Wisconsin, in 1957. As the time approached for the memorial service, two sisters of the church came to me and said they would prepare the emblems. One sister would bake the unleavened bread, and the other would provide the grape juice.
The afternoon before the service, my wife and I set up the communion table with a white tablecloth and set out trays for the bread and the communion glasses. These glasses were larger than the cups of a communion set — about the size of shot glasses.
I was amused when, just before the service, the sister arrived with her homemade grape juice and hurriedly began to pour it into the small glasses from a quart jar. It contained the pulp of the grapes and went plop, plop, plop all over the tablecloth, leaving dark purple stains around each glass.
One year I was visiting the Church of God in Croydon, England, pastored by the late Erlo Hendricks, at the time of the annual Lord’s Supper service. I found its observance interesting. It was different from I was accustom to.
The Croydon church used two large goblets, refilled, to serve the fruit of the vine to well over a hundred communicants. After each member took a drink from the goblet, the elders serving the grape juice wiped its rim with a white napkin before the next communicant drank from it.
Being a guest of the church, I was seated on the pulpit beside Pastor Hendricks, and we were the last communicants to drink from the cup. I admit I wondered just how sanitary that goblet and its content was after fifty or sixty people drank from it, but I drank from it without ill effect.
I was amused, but not critical, of the Croydon church’s practice of washing feet following its communion service. The Church of God throughout the United Kingdom limits foot washing to one foot.
In the 1930s and 40s the Salem branch of the Church of God, which I grew up in, made little distinction between the Lord’s Supper and the Passover. Many members believed the Supper was an extension of the Passover, which memorialized God’s miraculous deliverance of the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery. While the annual Lord’s Supper service is observed at the time of the Passover, it is a new ordinance instituted by Jesus as a memorial to His death and is not to be confused with the Passover.
While Israel was instructed to burn any of the Passover’s sacrificial lamb, left over from the family’s evening meal (Exodus 12:10), no instruction was given to the Christian church to burn the bread left over from its communion service.
As a young boy who accompanied his parents to the Lord’s Supper services, I remember following the communion service at our home church in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The elders of the church took the unleavened bread that was left over from the service out to the church’s incinerator and burned it. Many of Salem’s churches also observed communion thirty days after its first service for anyone who was absent from the first service, in accordance with instructions for the Passover.
Over the years I have been torn between the solemnity of the Lord’s Supper service and our celebratory attitude toward the victorious resurrection of Jesus on the third day following His death. His resurrection assures us of His return and our personal resurrection accompanying His return. Thank God that just as Christ saves us by His death on the cross, “he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28, NIV).
Robert Coulter is a past president of the General Conference and of the North American Ministerial Council. He and his wife, Ida, reside in Northglenn, CO, and attend the Denver church.