We understand that the Lord’s Supper primarily serves to remind us of the sacrifice of Jesus. But as our church recently observed it, I was struck by what Communion teaches us about worship. And since it is the one act of worship which Jesus modeled for us and commanded us to practice, I am confident it has much to teach us about worship in general.
For example, the Lord’s Supper is centered on the person and work of Jesus. We know that the first observance was in the context of Jesus teaching His followers about topics ranging from faithfulness to failure, yet there is no doubt that His impending death was in the forefront of his thinking, even as he had to reign in the wandering focus of His friends. His patience with their questions bodes well for us as we come to Him suffering from our own spiritual attention deficit disorder. And as we plan our worship, we may rightfully include or exclude elements about many concepts, but we dare not omit the sacrificial love demonstrated on the cross. This is especially true for those of us whose tradition does not include Communion in every service.
In addition, the Lord’s Supper involved the whole person–listening, watching, thinking, touching, tasting, and more–in a experience that was anything but passive. When our congregants consider worship as something to merely attend, observe, and evaluate, they shortchange themselves and dishonor the Father. God invites and commands us to engage our whole selves in offering Him our praise, and our worship planning must give those we lead that opportunity.
Perhaps most importantly, the Lord’s Supper demands a confessional approach to worship as the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice reveals the depth of our sin. Our evangelical tradition rarely gives priority or significant time to the practice of confession and repentance, even in our observance of communion. We are more prone to seek a “blessing” than forgiveness. In doing so we miss a great opportunity. Humility and confession allow God to give us that healthy sense of worth and purpose and hope that comes from accepting His grace–a true “blessing”. Considering the temptations of pride and the seduction of applause, those of us in worship leadership need to be acutely aware of this, and thereby lead our people to come with the spirit of one who cried “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Finally, I believe the power of the original Lord’s Supper was found in the One who led that worship experience. The more we ask Christ’s Spirit to lead our worship, the more we recognize Him as the worship leader, then the more our joy and renewal will be authentic and Spirit-generated rather than dependent on human persuasion. I once saw on a pulpit a placque with this admonition to those who would stand behind it: “Sir, we would see Jesus.” The Lord’s Supper teaches us that this is a needed reminder for every worship experience we have together.