Communion in a Coronavirus World: Why aren’t we doing communion online?
As our stay at home continues to drag on into the second month, I am so grateful for the opportunity we have to worship together, even by livestream. Hearing the Word of God read and preached is a means of grace. What is “means of grace”?
In an article in Table Talk, I thought this was a good, brief answer. “In His grace and in His wisdom, God has provided ways by which we can regularly have our faith in His promises fortified. Historically, we have referred to these ways of strengthening our faith as the ordinary means of grace. Prayer, the preaching of the Word, and the sacraments are not elaborate or fancy methods of giving us what we need to confirm our trust in Christ. To an outside observer, they do not seem special at all. After all, they make use of rather common things such as human speech, bread, wine, and water. But by faith and the work of the Spirit, these common elements are used to do an uncommon work — the confirmation of our trust in Jesus and the strengthening of our wills to flee from sin and rest in Christ alone…. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not mere memorials that we do simply because Jesus tells us to do them; rather, we participate mysteriously in Christ Himself when by faith we take part in these ordinances (1 Cor. 10:16).”
I long to be able to partake of the Lord’s Supper. I miss it greatly and I know you do too. There have been questions about why we can’t/won’t do communion during this stay at home. Other churches are doing it, why don’t we? There have been suggestions from virtual communion (where each family would use their own elements while watching the livestream) to drive through communion where people drive up and get served.
Why can’t we have communion? The main issue is that communion is always accompanied by the preaching of the Word. The words of institution are given to the gathered church after the preaching of the Word. The sacrament was never meant to be done individually or privately. The Lord’s Supper is a family meal where all believers come together in the presence of God our Father and in the presence of Jesus our elder brother by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is done by setting apart of a common loaf and common cup by ordained ministers in the corporate assembly of God’s people. If each person does it on their own or is served privately, as in each car, it diminishes the corporate nature of the sacrament. Did you catch the idea that it is corporate? Right now we don’t do communion because right now, we can’t gather together.
Also, we desire to love our neighbor by doing everything we can to stay healthy and safe. One way, maybe the best way right now, is social distancing. That is hard to do serving communion, even to people in their cars. There would still be some form of contact and trying to prepare or serve the elements would cause some potential risk.
As much a blessing as it is to partake, we are not sinning by temporarily suspending the Lord’s Supper. There is no specific time given for how often we have communion. Jesus simply said, “as often as you do it”. We will partake again! We look forward to that day!
But, even though we aren’t gathered together physically and are not able to participate in the sacraments, we do still have the means of grace of the reading and preaching of the Word and prayer. I encourage you to take advantage of every opportunity to spend time in Bible study and prayer. Don’t miss our livestream worship service on Sunday mornings. Build family worship and devotions into your schedule. Maybe we can’t partake of the sacraments right now, but we can continue to grow through Word and prayer.
For now, as much as I/we desire to partake, we will wait a while longer. And what a glorious celebration it will be when, on our first Sunday back, we partake of the Lord’s Supper! My heart yearns for that moment. I hope yours does too.
I love you all!
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