May 30, 2016
Everyone hungers for food, companionship and God. (It may not be obvious or even believable to some that we hunger for God, but every person does.)
A shared meal is the only place these three needs can be met at the same time.
I have often wondered how it happened that the table of the Lord has been isolated and separated from the love feast. It has been removed from its original context. Now it is almost strange – like a shrine set apart – disconnected from the flow of life and the original context.
“On the first day of the week (Sunday) we assembled to break bread.”
That record is found in (Acts 20:8) He did not say “we went to church”. He said “we assembled to break bread”. This is reported naturally, not with some sense of it being a unique event.
How did “communion” come to be orphaned? Whereas in the early days the people gathered to break bread, and included in that koinonia meal was the body and blood of Christ. In that gathering, it was reported that “each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation”. (I Corinthians 14:25)
In those days they did not “go to church”. They did not have “services” as we have come to know them. Their gatherings were open and participatory, not regimented and guided by one or two people up front.
I can imagine the original love feast being festive and joyful. What a different attitude and atmosphere for the taking of the bread and the cup. Now it is mostly somber and truncated.
There are historical reasons for this shift.
Too often Christians were being gluttonous, self-centered, and even drunk at these feasts. Self-control was lost. This in itself is an indication of what kind of meals the Christians were enjoying. Feasting has always been a central feature of the worship of the Lord. From the first days of Jewish life, God established feasts.
In those last days of his earthly life, when Jesus met with his disciples in an upper room, Passover was one of Judaism’s primary meals. Jesus transferred that venerable celebration to the new covenant by taking some of the Passover elements and giving them new meaning.
In the early days of the church, people gladly went from house to house breaking bread and enjoying the fellowship of the Lord together. Here is where the Lord’s table was shared it and enjoyed.
Over the years, because of abuses, the cup and the bread were placed in their own little silo, divorced and separated from their context.
I wish it were not so.
I believe we would recover something that has been lost if we went back to the love feast idea. That is, the Agape Meal.
What Jesus intended to be a life giving part of regular gatherings at the table has become religious tradition and ritual. We try to infuse it with meaning, but the fact that it is isolated now works against that.
Over time we have created a distortion of the original practice of the gathering of the people of God. In so doing I believe we have lost something.