Every June issue of Reformed Worship is a theme issue, and every year the Reformed Worship staff and editorial council weigh various themes. Some of our theme issues have dealt with "hot button" topics of our time. Last year, when the RW editorial council discussed what the next theme issue should be, the Lord's Supper was clearly at the top of the list.
Dealing with the sacrament of coming to the table of the Lord might not be a "hot button" topic, though it surely has had all too large a place in dividing the church in years past. This sacrament, which most vividly pictures our unity in the holy catholic church, has been marked by so many different understandings and practices that even the very language we use differs. Do we call the sacrament the Lord's Supper? Holy Communion? The Eucharist? Or all three? The Greek word Eucharist (meaning "thanksgiving") has not been in common use in the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition. It may seem too Eastern, too mysterious. But it is a good word. The sacraments indeed deal with mystery, a point of discomfort for some Reformed/Presbyterian Christians who are more comfortable with the verbal than the visual, with sermons than the sacraments.
Why the Lord's Supper for a theme issue now? Perhaps it has something to do with a growing recognition that our secular culture needs to hear a clear voice of unity in the church. Perhaps with all the movement of people from one congregation—and even from one denomination—to another, we are growing to understand that what binds us together is more important than what keeps us apart.
Many people have been switching congregations because of different worship styles. I'm not sure how varying practices of the Lord's Supper fit into the equation of considering which church to join. But in developing this issue of Reformed Worship, we were impressed by the passion of this group of writers, who eagerly encourage the church to rethink and perhaps re-form our understanding as well as our practice of coming to the table of the Lord.
The articles in this issue are likely to raise many questions as you consider your own congregational practice. You'll find that this theme issue is not so much "pick up and use" as "take up and read." Don't worry—future issues of RW will continue to offer more practical resources, including planning helps for celebrating the Lord's Supper. (See inside back cover for articles and resources on the Lord's Supper in back issues of RW.)
For now, we encourage you to do some serious reflecting together on the congregational level. You may want to consider increasing the number of times you schedule the Lord's Supper. If your congregation still celebrates only four or five times a year, consider celebrating the Lord's Supper also on the first Sunday of every new season of the Christian year along with some other significant times. For example, include the first Sunday of Advent; Christmas Day; Old/New Year's Day; the first Sunday of the new calendar year; the first Sunday of Lent, Maundy Thursday, Easter Sunday evening, Ascension and Pentecost Sundays, and monthly from then until Advent. Consider alternating morning and evening, and having the congregation come forward rather than be served. Finally, consider some of the rich variety of old and new worship songs that will help you "flavor" the Lord's Supper with all the seasoning that will help you "taste and see that God is good" (Psalm 34).
Scattered throughout this issue are brief stories and testimonies from a number of people reflecting on their understanding and experiences of the Lord's Supper. Working from a list of subscribers to Reformed Worship, Jessie Schut collected these testimonies through phone interviews. Our thanks to all the people who shared their stories with RW. And our thanks to Jessie as well; she could undoubtedly tell many more stories about the fascinating conversations she had with people throughout the United States and Canada.
Jessie Schut is a freelance author living in Edmonton, Alberta. Her most recent