Do This in Remembrance of Me
When Jesus gathered with His disciples in the upper room, they celebrated the Passover in the same way that Jews were celebrating it all over Jerusalem (Matthew 26:18-19). But the meal in the upper room took a different direction. While all the other meals in all the other homes centered on a symbolic lamb, the meal in the upper room centered on the Lamb of God himself (John 1:29), who was in the process of fulfilling what the Passover previewed and pointed to. He is the Lamb provided by God for the world, and by His blood He sets us free. Death and judgment will pass over all whose hearts are marked with the Lamb’s blood through faith in Him.
In fulfilling the Passover, Jesus reshaped the meal that commemorates it. He pointed not to the roasted lamb on the table, but to the bread and to the wine that were part of that meal, and said of the bread “this is my body,” and of the wine, “this is my blood.” Like the original Passover, this meal was intended from the beginning to be repeated: “Do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19).”
But how are we to “do this” when we cannot physically gather? How can we do this as a church that can only gather online? We have found a way to gather online in order to pray together, to be in a small group together, to study the Bible together, and to worship together. We have given thanks to God who has provided the gifts of technology so that we can do all these things. But how do we apply this to the Lord’s Supper? How do we commune together?
What is the Lord’s Supper?
First, let’s review what the Lord’s Supper is all about. The example of our Lord described in the Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians 11, is quite straightforward. The Lord’s Supper consists of bread and wine about which our Lord says that they are also His body and blood for us to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. This is a meal for the gathered church to celebrate and receive the blessings of our Lord’s death for us on the cross. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).”
This is how the Small Catechism defines the Lord’s Supper (Sacrament of the Altar): “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink. “
What is needed for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper? Bread and wine, a congregation, and the words of Jesus. This is how it is described in the Small Catechism: “How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: ‘forgiveness of sins.’”
Is an Online Congregation a Gathered Congregation?
But are we a gathered congregation when we gather online? Yes, we are, especially the way that we are conducting our worship services. We have tried as much as we can to make this an interactive, participatory experience. Through the live chat we are greeting one another, blessing each other with the Lord’s peace. We are sharing insights during the service with each other. We are sharing our thanksgivings and our petitions with each other. Many from our congregation have commented about how much they appreciate the sense that we are truly gathering, albeit in a different way.
Jesus said, ” For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20).” This applies when we gather online. Whether we are speaking on the telephone with one another, gathering for a Zoom meeting or small group, or coming together as an online congregation through Youtube Live, we believe that Jesus is with us. We are gathered in His name, even though it is in a way that could not have been envisioned in previous generations.
Gathering online is not the same as being in the same room physically. But it is much more of a gathering together than being unconnected and separate in our homes. Through the gift of technology, God has given us a new mode of presence, enabling us to be together, even when we are physically unable to do so.
Is this the best way for the church to gather? No, it is not. Ideally, it would be better to gather in person. For that reason, what we are outlining here is a procedure that is only intended for this time of shelter at home when we cannot gather in our sanctuary. It is not intended to be the new normal. It is like when we bring communion to someone who is homebound. We’re not setting a new precedent that would apply to the whole congregation from that time forward. Rather it is a way for some to partake in the sacrament when otherwise unable to do so.
The truth is, that right now, we are all homebound. Including your pastors. So during this unique, unprecedented, unusual time, we have come up with a new way to gather and to follow our Lord’s instruction “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Why do we want to celebrate the Lord’s Supper?
But before we continue, let’s consider this question: Why are we pursuing having the Lord’s Supper during this time when we cannot celebrate it in our normal manner?
- Jesus gave this sacrament to His church in order to give us His gifts. During this time of turmoil, uncertainty and fear, we need our Lord’s gifts.
- Jesus gave this sacrament to give us the comfort of a tangible reception of forgiveness of sins and oneness with Him. In this time of turmoil, uncertainty and fear, we need this tangible gift of knowing that as surely as we eat the bread which is His body and drink the wine which is His blood, so surely are His gifts given to us personally.
- Jesus gave this sacrament as a way of proclaiming His death, which means proclaiming and celebrating also its significance (1 Corinthians 11:26). In this time of turmoil uncertainty and fear, we need to proclaim and celebrate our Lord’s death every way that we can. For it is that death and the gifts that flow from it that are our solid foundation in this time and always. The more we focus on Christ and His cross, the more we are empowered by Him for pushing back against fear and doubt.
- Jesus gave this sacrament as a celebration and working of unity with one another through unity with Him (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). In this time of physical separation when we cannot gather any other way, we need to celebrate, affirm and strengthen the reality that we are still one in Christ, one as a congregation.
The Big Picture: What we will do?
What we are planning is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in our homes as a gathered online church. Our plan is to do this for the first time on Maundy Thursday, April 9, the day in the church year when we commemorate the events in the Upper Room, and the gift of the Lord’s Supper to the church. (Please note that the first Lord’s Supper took place in a home.)
What will this involve? What are we to do?
This is the process for celebrating the Lord’s Supper during this time.
- Prepare the bread and wine in our homes (see below)
- Gather online for worship
- Before worship, please download the handout (bulletin) for the service. It is provided to aid you in participating in worship. Then join the gathered congregation online for worship, taking part in our interactive participatory service. Please use the chat stream to welcome and greet, to provide thoughts on the readings and message as invited by the pastor, and to offer your thanksgiving and petitions.
- Participate in the communion liturgy.
- We will be using parts of the liturgy that we normally use in the sanctuary. All spoken responses will be printed on the handout. The pastor will also speak about the meaning of the sacrament, who should participate and how it will be celebrated. The pastor will then speak the words of institution. You may wish to speak them along with him.
- Take and eat the bread; take and drink the wine
- After speaking the words of institution, the pastor will invite the congregation to take and eat the bread which is Christ’s body, and to take and drink the wine which is His blood. After we have communed the pastor will speak the communion blessing.
Prepare the bread and wine in our homes
The Lord’s supper involves bread and wine as the visible elements of the sacrament.
- Any bread that is truly bread, that we would consider to be bread for a meal, is fine to use. Gluten free bread is fine as well. As in the services in the sanctuary, gluten free bread is fine also. Click here for a simple recipe for making your own unleavened bread. Although this is not necessary, nor does it make it more “holy,” we recommend doing this if you are able as a way of celebrating that this is no ordinary meal. If you are unable to procure any bread, please let us know, and we will have someone drop some bread off for you.
- Any wine will be sufficient as well. For those who cannot or should not have alcohol, non-alcoholic wine is fine. If you only have regular wine and would prefer nonalcoholic, put just one or two drops of wine in the glass and then add a little water. If you have no wine or need help procuring it, let us know and we will have someone drop it off for you.
As we do for worship in the sanctuary, so in our homes: treat the elements and the celebration itself with reverence. Before the worship service begins, place the bread and the wine near at hand. Only set out what you need for communion for yourself or your family. Please pour an amount of wine similar to what we normally use for worship in our sanctuary. Think of it this way: Plan to eat/drink all that you set before you.
A few more thoughts
We recognize this is very different from our normal practice. Some may be uncomfortable celebrating the Lord’s Supper this way. If you are uncomfortable celebrating the Lord Supper in this way at this time, please feel free to refrain from participating
Please also keep in mind that your pastors are available to answer your questions and address any concerns you might have.
This is certainly a uniquely challenging time for us as individuals, families, communities, and as a nation. As the people of God, this is especially difficult since we cannot come together in ways that are a very important part of our walk together with Christ. May Christ bless us, His people, as we do all that we can to walk together through this time, glorifying Him and loving one another.