Following the lines laid out in my paper/eBook on the Lord’s Supper in a Vineyard context, this is a liturgical outline for the Lord’s Supper that I wrote for, and then carried out at, a church leaders weekend. I hope it is of use to someone.
I would recommend, if the architecture of your meeting space allows, placing the bread and wine on a table in the centre of the room, or the centre of the stage area, if that his how you roll. This is also a great way to celebrate and honour people – get someone to read the passages who is not leading the rest of the liturgy. The Corinthians passage could well be read by someone in ‘the congregation’, to emphasize the body language.
Before we start, one of us is going to read us something about king Jesus – to shape and start our time as we focus on the table at the centre.
Reading – Matthew 26:26-30
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Thank you. I hope that gives a shape to us for our time. Words, bread and wine, kingdom promise, singing.
(What are we doing, what is God doing, then what)
I wonder how you are feeling the morning. I wonder if you know who I am. For both of those sentences, I have good news. It doesn’t matter, because the Holy Spirit is here, and it is the Holy Spirit, God himself, who will be at work as we do this old celebration and pray together.
And let me stress this one thing, before some of you switch off, – you are all welcome at this table, not because of you or anything you have done, but because this is the lords table, the kings table, and because of who He is and what He has done.
I don’t know what your background is, and I don’t know what your experience and understanding of communion is. You might use different words. You might dread it. Today I would love for us to celebrate it. And as we celebrate it, we have a rare privilege, to be in the presence of God, as old words are given freshness again by the wind of the spirit, and mundane symbols remind us and point us to something more, something bigger than tired suburbanites gathered in the midlands. Something that sends us out, hungry because we are fed, and full because we are loved.
Even though I’m me, you are you, and we are gathered in this rather pleasant but normal room, we are stepping into a story when we do this together. We are, in fact, time travelling. The same power that rose Christ Jesus from the grave keeps my lungs breathing and stops you from keeling over. That same Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, is ushering in the Kingdom of God even now, even as we sit and stand and kneel and stare out of the window. As we eat this bread and drink this wine, we look back, letting that wonderful one-time event of Easter seep into our present. We look around, letting the Holy Spirit warm our hearts and love our fellow members of this knuckle of the body of Christ. And we look forward, past the bread and wine, past each other, peeking past the curtain to the great wedding supper of the lamb, where the one whose sacrifice we celebrate and whose life we enjoy will welcome us in, feeding us anew.
As we do this, even without words, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. In word and deed, in spirit and in truth, rooted in tradition yet painfully contemporary, as the old words reverberate amongst building materials barely imagine by Paul the tent maker, and read off a tablet far removed from wax and stylus. The language of the passage we’ll read later, that serves as a touchstone for communion, speaks of discerning the body. There is great debate on what that means – but today we are in a safe place, a family place, a place where we can be delightfully comfortable breaking bread and drinking wine together. I wonder, as a sign of that special unity as a body, we could say the Lords prayer together? It probably wont come up on the screen, and I want the ‘daily bread’ image to be the picture that god paints as we do this. I’m not advocating doing this every day – the commute would be disastrous – but as we come to the King’s table, lets pray the King’s prayer together as people, sons and daughters of the King. There will be a version on the screen behind me, but the thees and thys and thous aren’t compulsory.
Our Father who are in heaven,
Hallowed be your name
Your Kingdom Come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our sins,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
Invitation to the Table
As we eat and drink, we engage in a physical enactment of the presence of God.
Maybe you come with sins unconfessed, and the Spirit draws them to your minds eye to confess now.
Maybe you come because your spouse or friend or someone else dragged you – Jesus invites you to eat and drink deeply and tell him that ‘Lord I believe, help now my unbelief’.
Maybe you come attracted to Jesus but put off by the church, by his people. Jesus invites you to eat the same bread and wine, in the same way, as you stumble again into his story.
Maybe you come impatient for ministry, impatient for more, so focused on the now that the not yet is an insult. Jesus invites you to sit and eat, to stop and drink, to be with him at his table for a while.
Maybe you come unsure if you are even a part of this thing called church. You are welcome. In eating and drinking, recognise your sin and God’s salvation, let us know if we need to help you in your ministry, and enter again the Kingdom of God by the table of the King.
Whoever you are, come and eat, taste and see that the Lord is Good.
At the risk of offence, I want to reinforce that this isn’t magic. Instead, we are making space and opening up our lives and hearts to the Holy Spirit. John Calvin put it well when he said, and I tweak out of 16th century prose a little:
“But the sacraments properly fulfill their office only when the Spirit, that inward teacher, comes to them, by whose power alone hearts are penetrated and affections moved and our souls opened for the sacraments to enter in“
And so we say come Holy Spirit.
In the words of my lovely small group leaders on Wednesday as we prepared for prayer, ‘assume the position’. Whatever is comfortable with you and allows you to focus on Jesus.
Come Holy Spirit. Use these symbols, this bread and wine, to remind and encourage us of your kingdom. Help us to focus on you, to remember and love you, and teach us more about you as we eat and drink in your presence.
Fill our hearts, we pray, with love for our fellow believers and the world that aches to know you.
Celebration/Proclamation in Scripture and Sign
We celebrate the Lords Supper in the words the church has shared through the ages, bound together in the unity of the Spirit, as we celebrate the death and resurrection, and look forward to the full coming of the kingdom of God.
Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26;
‘For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way all he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’
As you eat this bread and drink this cup, commit yourself again to Christ and his cause, take him symbolically to your heart and gut, to be present with you as he is, everywhere and in everything you do.
Come Holy Spirit
Ministry Time follows