A Lord’s Supper Home Meal — A Method

On many different occasions, and some recently, I have been asked about how I conceive or conduct the Lord’s supper as a home meal. Others who are doing something similar have wanted to compare their practices with my own. I have never explicitly addressed this on my blog but now is an opportune moment.

The Lord’s supper as a meal is not a weekly event for me but it is fairly common.  In my small group, several of my classes and other occasions I have led or participated in group meals as the “Lord’s supper.”

Why do this?  Well, first the Lord’s supper is a supper, that is, it is an evening meal (the meaning of deipnon). Second, I think the supper was intended for smaller groups. The Jerusalem church, though 3000 strong on the day of Pentecost, met to “break bread” in their homes in small groups. Third, the supper as a group meal engenders intimacy among its participants. There we experience fellowship at the most basic level through eating together; there we show hospitality toward each other; and there we experience grace around the table.

When I lead the Lord’s meal, I have a fairly general outline of how the meal will proceed. This is not rigid but I think ritual is important or else the meal will lose focus and degenerate into a generality that cannot carry the weight of the moment. Nevertheless, the meal varies in order, Scripture texts, and meditation. But here is the general order in which I lead the meals (by the way, the food is already on the table as we sit down).

1.  Lighting of candles.  I like two central candles on the table to symbolize the light of creation and the light of new creation.  We give honor and praise to the Father and Son in this way as we remember that the Holy Spirit (the flame of love) illuminates us and brings us into the presence of the Father and Son.

2.  Each participant has a small candle in front of their plate.  I ask each, in turn, to light their candle (the lighter is passed around) and give thanks for something that God is doing in their lives. We begin with our basic response to the light of God, that is, we give thanks.

3.  I offer a meditation on the Lord’s Supper using a text of Scripture. This may range from the traditional texts like 1 Corinthians 11 or Luke 22.  But I don’t limit myself to them. Other texts also come into play such as Psalms of thanksgiving (like Psalm 116, 107, 118) and other texts that carry the meaning of the meal within them or through application.

4.  Breaking of the Bread. I use a whole loaf that is large enough for every person at the table to take a substantial piece (not just a pinch).  I take the bread in my hands and talk about the meaning of the bread.  The bread is from the earth that nourishes our bodies but the bread is also a means of experiencing the new creation through as the raised, living body of Christ. We eat this bread for both physical and spiritual nourishment.  I then break the bread and offer a prayer of thanksgiving, and then distribute it.  I give it to the people on either side of me and they break off a piece and pass it down to those around the table.  As each one gives the bread to the other, they say:  “This is the body of Christ which is given for you.”  We all eat the bread.

5.  We begin eating and drinking what is available on the table.

6.  At some point at the beginning of our eating (after we all have food on our plates), I will remind the participants of the two candles and that by the presence of the Spirit, the living Christ is the host of this table.  If we have some ongoing intimacy as a group (that is, this is not the first time we ever met or a special occasion), I will ask each to share something that is happening in their life in their walk with God (struggles, triumphs, etc.). This is a community meal.  At the end of the sharing, we pray for each other.

7.  Towards the middle of the meal, I will remind the table that this is the communion of the saints, which includes the saints around the world at present but also the communion of the saints who now inhabit the heavens with God. I begin by recalling the presence of Sheila, Dad and Joshua at the table with us, and ask each to remember one who is already in the heavens but present at the table with us even now. We remember that we commune with the saints as well as with God.

8.  In connection with this remembrance, I ask each to share a name for whom we might pray.  Depending on time, they may explain why the name, but usually I just ask for names without explanation.  This is for a time of intercession.  We pray over the names, and I don’t usually list the names again in the prayer but simply acknowledge that God has heard and we call up God to act.

9.  In this context, I will share or ask another to share another scripture.  One of my favorites at this point is Psalm 116.  It is a thanksgiving Psalm that reminds us that we cannot repay God’s goodness except to lift up the cup of thanksgiving and celebrate a meal with God (the Psalm is written in the context of a thanksgiving sacrifice).

10.  Towards the end of the meal, I take the pitcher that is filled with the fruit of the vine and talk about the “cup” we are about to drink.  I remind us that this is the blood of Christ which is poured out for us for the remission of our sins. In this moment we experience reconciliation with God–we are forgiven.  But I also remind us that the “cup” is something we share with Christ, that is, we share the cup of suffering as persons who follow Jesus to the cross.  We are reminded that we are disciples committed to follow Jesus daily, even to a cross.

11.  Pouring the Cup.  I take the pitcher and pour some into a cup (something like a wine class perhaps) for the person sitting next to me.  As I pour, I say, this is the blood of Christ for you and invite them to share the cup of Jesus. In turn, they pour the cup for the person next to them and around the table till all have their cups filled. Someone then prays over the cup, giving thanks for what God has done in Jesus. And we drink together as we say “Thank you, Jesus.” Many times we cling our glasses together in a toast.

11.  As each pours the cup for the other, I ask that they affirm that person for something in their life. In what way do they see Jesus in this person who sits at the table with them? For what do they give thanks for them and acknowledge their communion in Christ?  In this way, we share an intimacy with each other and express our gratitude for each other as we express our gratitude to God.

13.  As we drink and conclude the meal, I don’t want the cup to simply end with a sip. Rather, as we drink and continue to drink (and finish eating as the case may be), I ask each person in turn to share one word (with an explanation) that is prominent in their heart and mind at that moment. What are they experiencing? We share a word that expresses our heart.

14.  Sometimes dessert is offered as a taste of the eschaton–as a present foretaste of coming joy.

15.  As the meal winds down and we conclude eating, I end the meal with some kind of benediction. It could be a prayer, a blessing, a Scripture reading.

This is a method; it is certainly not a standard or the method.  I think the meal can be conducted in any number of ways.  However, I do think several things are important:

  • Scripture (the Word) to Open the Meal
  • Bread and Fruit of the Vine
  • Communion of the Saints
  • Intercession for the Saints
  • Expressions of Gratitude
  • Benediction as Closure

Perhaps some might find this helpful.  For whatever its value, there it is!    🙂

20 Responses to “A Lord’s Supper Home Meal — A Method”

  1.   jim burkhalter Says:

    Thank you Brother. I appreciate the practice, your thoughts and your sharing both with us.

  2.   jmar198013 Says:

    “I begin by recalling the presence of Sheila, Dad and Joshua at the table with us, and ask each to remember one who already in the heavens but present at the table with us even now. We remember that we commune with the saints as well as with God.” John Mark, I’m really happy that you shared this observation. This is very much something that we tend to forget.

  3.   lyn farris Says:

    Enjoyed reading this, but I’m wondering about the lack of mention of unleavened bread. As I read scripture, I think the Lord’s Supper was on what we call ‘Saturday’ night. Is that your belief? Thank you.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I don’t see unleavened bread specified in Scripture. We may assume it at the last supper but not at Corinth. Acts 20 may be “Saturday night” but I don’t think anyone can know with any certainty since it may be a Gentile church running on a Roman calendar which would be “Sunday” night. It was daily in Jerusalem.

      •   Terrell Lee Says:

        Did Passover regulations limit the use of unleavened bread to one time per year? Or, at the very least didn’t require it at other times?

      •   John Mark Hicks Says:

        Other sacrificial meals did not require unleavened bread such as the Thanksgiving Sacrifice. I think the background to the Lord’s Supper is broader than the Passover and inclusive of other meals as well (the language of 1 Cor 10 is thanksgiving sacrifices rather than Passover).

  4.   Charles Stelding Says:

    I was a member of a church that celebrated the Lord’s Supper during a congregational pot-luck on a Sunday evening. It was sort of an experiment. We sat in small groups around tables and ate together in the large fellowship room. Leaders were appointed to focus the meal on the bread and the wine. To me it was a little awkward because the conversations kept going to secular topics (football, the weather, telling jokes). I think we were not well prepared to celebrate the Supper in this “informal” way. Also, the fellowship room was not a good environment for the type of conversations that John Mark Hicks describes. The entire congregation ate the bread and drank the cup at the same time in our table groups. The atmosphere of a home gathering would have been quite different in my opinion. It is mandatory to thoroughly prepare the congregation for celebrating the Supper in this way. I’m persuaded that most Christians would welcome it and would appreciate even greater the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Also, it would be an excellent occasion to invite a non-churched friend to the Table.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      My experience is similar. The form changes the meaning. So, when we reproduce the LS in the form of a pot-luck meal, then it becomes a pot-luck meal. But if we form it in line with a ritual meal or a religious meal (like the Jewish Shabbat), then it will follow form as their is intention and intimacy.

  5.   Justin Says:

    Unfortunately, there is no scriptural support for eating the Lord’s Supper as part of a “common meal”. Simply because the Greek word means “evening meal” does not in and of itself give scriptural implication that it truly is a sit-down with meat and potatoes meal. Nor are there any scriptures that tell us that this “breaking bread” in their homes was part of their first day of the week worship service. And while I agree that this may invoke an intimacy with EACH OTHER, nowhere does the Bible teach that intimacy with EACH OTHER is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper; quite the opposite actually. It is a chance to be intimate with God through remembrance of the death of His Son. If the Lord’s Supper was to be part of a common meal, then if we DON’T eat it that way, we are sinning. If the meal was just incidental and therefore NOT part of the Lord’s Supper, then we are adding to what Jesus and Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) established, and therefore we are sinning. We can’t do it some days and not do it others.

    Notice that during the inauguration of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus only took the bread and the fruit of the vine. When Paul recounts what he had shared with the Corinthians, he only discusses the bread and the fruit of the vine. Everything else was incidental to what Jesus was doing: the sop dish, the upper room, the lighted candles, the washing of the feet. The only thing that was germane to what Jesus did was the bread and fruit of the vine.

    Also note that there is a difference between what the church as a group did and what individual Christians did in their own homes with other Christians. Acts 2:46 does not show a church function but rather an individual one.

    As for the question about unleavened bread, we need to understand that the purpose of it being unleavened was that anything else was considered unclean, unholy, imperfect. Jesus’ body was anything but. While we are not under the Old Law anymore, the simple fact that we KNOW it was unleavened bread when Jesus ate it and that it was unleavened bread Paul taught to the Corinthians should be enough for us to continue to use it. And again, there’s an implication in eating leavened bread of impurity and uncleanness on the part of Christ’s body that I can’t believe any faithful Christian would want to imply. This same argument can be made for why we know it was pure grape juice and not fermented; anything that was leavened (fermented) was unclean, and no faithful Jew (or sinless Christ) could have drank otherwise.

    Simply “thinking” that the background of the Lord’s Supper is broader than the Passover is simply that: supposition. Christ is our Passover lamb. What more is there? Using 1 Corinthians as “thanksgiving language” does nothing to support your unfounded supposition, and is actually Paul admonishing them not to partake in idolatry.

    You also seem to think that there is something in the amount of bread eaten and grape juice drunk. Unfortunately, there again is no scriptural support for this supposition, nor does it make any one more/less spiritual. The whole purpose, as you admit, of the Lord’s Supper is spirituality; thinking that eating/drinking more makes us more spiritual is preposterous and selfish. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that this pretense elevates this to a higher spiritual plane.

    Eating the Lord’s Supper as part of a common meal takes it from a spiritual meeting to a carnal desire. This is exactly what Paul was railing against in 1 Corinthians 11; they had turned the spiritual into the carnal, focusing more on what they were eating (and how much) and not on the two elements that provide the foundation for the spiritual “meal”.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      My purpose in this post was not to defend the practice but to explain how it might be done by those who think the practice is a good, biblical idea. So, I will not take the time to respond to each of your points as I have addressed them in various places from my books to other blogs (specifically the series on “breaking bread”).

      I will briefly mention a few points. (1) Paul did not rail against the meal but how they ate they meal, that is, they ate it in a divisive manner. Paul’s solution was for everyone to wait to eat rather than not eating a meal at all. (2) It is difficult to see how “breaking bread” in Acts 2:42 is different from Acts 2:46. One says that this was their habit and the other describes what that habit involved. (3) I don’t think it is the amount of bread/cup that generates more or less spirituality since God works with little or much. My only point here was that a home meal (like Acts 2:46) enhances many dimensions of the Supper that are lacking in our assemblies. (4) I think Jesus did use wine at the Passover (as Jews did then and still do now), and I think the meaning of the Supper is wider than the Passover as all the sacrificial meals of the Hebrew covenant are fulfilled in this meal.

      I could say more, but that is sufficient for those interested in how I might respond. And if one wants to see more detail, look to my other posts or writings.

      Thanks, Justin.

    •   Charles Says:

      I’d be interested in learning how the early church kept “pure grape juice” year round without refrigeration or Pasteurization.

  6.   eirenetheou Says:

    Historically, Churches of Christ have been much more concerned about *how* things are done than about *why* they are done or what they might *mean*. This concern is reflected in this discussion and in the spiritual emptiness that generally characterizes our prayers at the Table. i hope for the time when we shall find everywhere at the Table a Real Presence rather than a Real Absence.

    God’s Peace to you.


  7.   rich Says:

    hope you don’t mind john marr

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Bobby Valentine

    The Bread on the Table: An Ancient Controversy that Changed the Supper

    Introduction to a Sad Affair

    At about 8 am on Saturday, July 16, A.D. 1054, the church of Santa Sophia was preparing for worship. The congregation was gathering, the priests, the deacons were assembled in the choir. Then three strangers, Latins or Papal legates, entered the building. Passing through the nave, they made their way to the altar. They spoke a few Latin words to the congregation. Turning in silence they placed upon the altar a document and proceeded to the doors. Pausing before exiting they cried in a loud voice, “Videat Deus et judicet!”

    What caused this calamitous event? Historians have wrestled with this for centuries. Constantinople and Rome had had less than rosy relationships for quite sometime yet existed in an acknowledged state of unity. Some have pointed to the massive cultural gap that existed between the magnificent intellectual center of the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and Rome which had become a cultural backwater. Some point to controversies over iconoclasm and the filoque being added to the Creed by the Latins. There was severe political tension at the time as well. All of these things entered into the mix of the time. But the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was something modern scholars find embarrassing at best. It was the issue of bread, not any bread but the bread on the Lord’s Table. What kind of bread was to be used in the Lord’s Supper . . . leavened or unleavened.[1]

    In 1054, and for sometime after, the controversy focused on the use of bread, or more specifically the use of azymes (unleavened bread).[2] In the twelfth century John IV, Patriarch of Antioch, said,

    “The chief and primary cause of the division between them and us is the matter of azymes . . . the matter of azymes involves in summary form the whole question of true piety; if it is not cured, the disease of the church cannot be cured”[3]

    Briefly, the trouble began in 1050 when some Greek churches in southern Italy (under Byzantine control at this time) were condemned at the reforming Council of Siponto. In retaliation Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, ordered Latin churches closed in the imperial capital. Thereafter Leo, Archbishop of Bulgaria, wrote a letter to John of Trani to be passed on to Pope Leo, containing a stinging refutation of the azymes introduced by the Roman Church. Cardinal Humbert was drafted by the Pope to respond to Leo and finally sent to Constantinople with the sad results of 1054.

    The Greeks were adamant about the innovation of the Romans. They believed the Latins had left the apostolic faith, they accused them of Judaizing, and of Apollinarianism. It is amazing the amount of literature the ancients produced on this subject (runs into the hundreds of tracts against each other). The Latins for their part felt the sting of Greek accusations quite strongly. In the century and a half after 1054 several highly influential theologians felt it necessary to address the Greek charges. Here is a short list:

    1) Anselm, De azymo et fermentato (PL 158: 541-548)
    2) Amalifitan (an anonymous treatise)
    3) Bruno of Segni, De sacrificio azymo (PL 165: 1085-1090)
    4) Cardinal Humbert, Responsio sive condradicto contra Nicetam (PL 143: 983-1000)
    5) Innocent III, De sacro altaris mysterio libri sex (PL 217: 854-858)
    6) Alexander of Hales, Summa Theologica IV q. 32
    7) Bonaventure, In Sententiis 4. dist. 11, 2.2.1
    8) Thomas Aquinas, In Sententiis 4 dist. 11, 2

    Whence Comes this Strange Question?

    Most of us will be amazed at the charges of the Greeks. If you are like me, it never occurred to me to even question the use of unleavened bread. I have heard all of my life that, even if we somehow weasel out of the alcohol of Jesus’ wine, we must have unleavened bread!

    My interest in this subject was aroused through a passing historical comment in the book, The Crux of the Matter. I was literally taken back by this statement by the authors of that book,

    “[F]rom the ninth century, the common bread, leavened bread, was replaced by unleavened bread. Using regular table bread had been the practice of the churches for centuries of Christian worship from very early days. Church officials introduced unleavened bread apparently because it would be considered special, set apart, holy. (Church leaders in the East accused the Western church of introducing Jewish practices, of becoming Judaizers because of this innovation; their descendents, the Eastern Orthodox, use leavened bread to this day.).” [4]

    Was this accurate? How could this be? I had never heard of it and I had a Master’s degree in Church History! Did the early church, in fact, use common ordinary bread for the Table?

    For some unknown, psychological reason, a need was created within me to know . . . There is no doubt that the Greeks use leavened bread in communion. There is no doubt that Rome’s use of unleavened bread was the item that broke fellowship between Eastern and Western Christians in 1054. But is it true that the early church likewise used common, ordinary . . . leavened bread?

    Framing the Question

    In the history of this debate there have been basically three ways of going at it: 1) etymology and chronology; 2) theological symbolism especially of the Incarnation; 3) the inherited liturgical practice of the church.

    A) Etymology and Chronology

    The Greeks, whose native tongue is Greek, insisted (and still do) that the common word for “bread” in Bible (artos) always referred to ordinary bread. They insisted (and still do) that artos was plain bread unless it was modified by the word azuma.

    Scholars, naturally, are divided on this subject. Most admit that the typical meaning of artos is plain common bread though that it can, on occasion, refer to unleavened bread. Louw and Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon of the NT Based on Semantic Domains states artos “is a relatively small and generally round loaf of bread . . . like a ‘rolls’ or ‘buns’).[5] The Anchor Bible Dictionary, on the other hand, states that artos can apply to unleavened bread but the only example it produces is that which is contested by the Greeks in the institution of the Supper in the Synoptic Gospels.[6]

    Undisputed use of artos is Luke 14.1 where artos simply refers to “food” or to “eat” (cf. Mt. 4.4 and Mk 3.20). The use of artos in Mt 14.17, 19 the feeding of the 5000 is clearly ordinary bread. A chapter later in the feeding of the 4000 we see our term again rendered “loaves” and is ordinary food (Mt 15.36). Paul, when on a ship in a storm, took artos and blessed it . . . this is clearly ordinary bread (Acts 27.35). The Lord instructed us to pray for our daily artos (Mt. 6.11/Lk 11.11) again clearly plain bread. Examples in the LXX include Leviticus 23.17; 2 Samuel 13.8; and Ezekiel 4.12 (among many more).

    In the LXX (the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible) the Greek argument carries the day. artos alone is never used of unleavened bread. In the case of the Shewbread, for example, it is called artos proqesews. The Latins produced the evidence of Leviticus 7.12 as an example of artos used of “unleavened.” In this passage artous ek semidalews occurs against the Hebrew halecem mazot. (See 7.13 as well.)

    This will sound familiar and will probably come up in questions later today too. The Latins appealed to the institution of the Supper itself. Since Jesus was celebrating the Passover he must have used unleavened bread . . . the writers would expect the readers to know that when they encounter the term artos. You will recall that the ABD likewise appeals to this episode . . . but this is almost like circular reasoning. The Synoptics do indeed associate the Supper with the Passover (cf. Mt. 27.62; Mk. 14.12-16 and Lk 22.7-15).

    The Greeks, however, did not concede the point. On the basis of John’s Gospel (13.1, 29; 18.28; 19.31) they argue that Jesus did not observe the Jewish Passover but celebrated with his disciples the day before. Hear the words of Peter the Patriarch of Antioch (a contemporary of Cerularius) on this matter:

    “But so that I might forsake all other defense, I am able now to prove in Christ – if you are good enough to listen – that when the Lord ate with his disciples on Holy Thursday, the matzo-observance was not yet in effect. For it was the high day of Preparation, which fell on the fourteenth of the month and the Hebrews were just about to celebrate Pesach.” (Letter to Dominic of Grado).[7]

    We see more of the Greek contrast of the Jewish Passover and the Christian Eucharist (as he understood it). Peter continues,

    For their part, matzos (azuma) were prescribed for the Hebrews in remembrance of the hasty flight from Egypt so that, remembering the wonders that God did among them, they would abide by his commandments and never forget his deeds. But the perfectly leavened (artos) – which through the ritual is made over into the remembrance of His dispensation in the flesh. ‘For, whenever you eat of this loaf and drink this cup,’ he says ‘you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes [1 Cor. 11.26]. . .

    Now notice, most holy brother-in-Spirit, that in all these places a loaf (artos) and not matzo, is proclaimed to be the body of the Lord, because it is complete and full (artion). But matzo is dead and lifeless and everyway incomplete. But when the leaven is introduced to the wheaten dough, it becomes, as it were, life and substance in it. Now tell me, how is it not out of place for those who believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to receive something incomplete and dead and lifeless as his living and life giving flesh.” (PG 120:764)

    The seventeenth century Orthodox scholar and theologian, Eusratios Argenti, published a comprehensive Treatise against Unleavened Bread. He comments extensively on the Synoptic-John issue. He appeals to the Fathers (a sound Orthodox move) and the event of the crucifixion of Jesus,

    “The holy Fathers are agreed in teaching that Christ was sacrificed on the Cross on the actual day and hour when the Passover of the Law was sacrificed, so that according to the holy Fathers Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper before the beginning of the period of unleavened bread.” [8]

    There is much more but this gives a sense of the flavor of the discussion . . . the Greeks insist that artos means ordinary bread. They also insist that the institution was not on the Jewish Passover. They may be mostly correct on one and mostly wrong on the other. (We do recognize there is at least a conflict between John and the Synoptics on the chronology of the last days of Jesus life. I believe that John is making a theological point rather than an historical point).[9]

    B. The Inherited Liturgical Tradition of the Church

    I will pass on the Christological symbolism appealed to in this debate for the sake of time (both Latins and Greeks make use of it . . . as do we). However, we did hear some of it from Peter of Antioch above. But what about the history of the church’s worship, this is very relevant to our question? The Greeks claimed (and continue to do so) that they have preserved the true practice of the church and the Romans were innovators (recent ones at that).

    How did the early church understand these texts? Or how did the early church practice these texts? Here is the claim of Argenti,

    “None of the holy Fathers, eastern or western, ever said, or wrote or imagined anything about unleavened bread, nor did any of them use it in the Holy Eucharist; but on the contrary, most of them speak of common ordinary bread. But if the Papists object, let them produce their evidence and be justified.”[10]

    So we must spelunk the tradition. The first text that describes the Bread of the Table outside the NT is the Didache, a work dating around 100-110 A.D. In chapter 10 of this early writing we read, “Then regarding the broken bread . . . As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one . . .” Woolley comments on this passage, “Here St. Paul’s reference to the ‘one loaf’ is at once recalled to mind, and there would seem to be very little doubt that the writer is thinking of the communicants all receiving from one loaf. If this is so, the bread used was probably . . . a leavened loaf.” [11]

    Justin (second century) is the next major writer and devotes significant material to the Supper. In the First Apology ch. 65 we read:

    “There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread (artos) and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them gives praise and glory to the Father . . . and offers thanks at considerable length . . .

    Justin continues in chapter 66:

    “And this food is called among us Eucaristia, . . . not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made . . . flesh and blood . . . so we have been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word . . .”

    Justin begins by talking of ordinary food that is blessed and is regarded as no longer ordinary (he cites the words of institution). He carefully says that after consecration the bread is no longer koinos artos. This exact phrase is also used by Irenaeus, Cyril of Jerusalem and Gregory of Nyssa. Hear Irenaeus,

    “For as bread from the earth when it receives the invocation of God is no longer common bread (artos) but the eucharist, consisting of two things – one earthly and one heavenly – so also our bodies when they partake of the eucharist are no longer corruptible but have the hope of the resurrection to eternity” (Against Heresies V.ii.2, 3)

    Woolley makes this observation about the Fathers, “The attitude of the fathers to the usages of the Jews, and the contemptuous language in which they refer to the use of unleavened bread among the Jews, makes it difficult to believe that the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist was known to the writers in question.”[12] This anti-Jewish (indeed anti-Semitic) attitude is shown in the Eleventh Canon the Council of Trullo (A.D. 680)

    “Let none of those enrolled in priestly orders, or a layman, eat the matzos of the Jews, or be associated with them . . . if anyone should seek to do this let him be deposed, if a cleric, excommunicated, if a layman.”

    That sounds clear enough. There are many, many, many more examples gathered by Woolley.

    Scholars point to Alcuin as the first undisputed reference to unleavened bread on the Table. Alcuin, was an eighth century scholar and theologian in the service of Charlemagne. In 844 Paschasius Radbertus wrote in support of the new doctrine.[13] Bede (7th-8th century), the Ecclesiastical historian for the English tells us that in the time Mellitus, Bishop of London that “panis nitidus” or “white bread” used on the Table. After the death of Saberct, king of Essex, his three heathen sons came to demand of Mellitus that he should give them the “white bread” he gave their father . . . they did not wish to under go baptism but just eat “good refreshing bread.”[14]

    The issue of what kind of bread to use on the Table reverberates even through the English Reformation. The Second Prayer Book of King Edward (1552) says,

    “And to take away the supersticion whiche any person hathe, or myghte haue In the bread and wyne, it shall suffyse that the bread bee suche as is usuall to bee Eaten at the Table with other meates, but the best and purest wheate bread Conueniently maye be gotten” (Fourth Rubric after the Commentary).

    One of the surprises, to me, during this journey was that at least through the 19th century the Anglican church used leavened bread during the communion.[15]

    The Orthodox Church, Coptic Church, Syrian Jacobite Church, Nestorians all continue to use leavened bread in the Eucharist

  8.   ozziepete Says:

    Thanks for this description. It seems to me that you still view this style of Supper as a formal experience. I think some hear “real meal” and think “pizza & pop”. I guess this reflects our image of God. Is communion a time to snuggle with “Daddy” or to enter the Throne Room.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      This, of course, is only one version. There are many variations–some more formal, some less formal. I do think some ritual is necessary in order to keep some intentionality and focus.

  9.   David W Fletcher Says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading and commenting on your posts, JM, since I have a bit more time right now between semesters. This one seems to have touched a nerve or two, probably due to deeply revered tradition(s) and the ambiguity of the text re things like time of observance, wine, bread, etc. Didn’t the historic “restorers” says something like “latitude in matters unspecified” or “be silent where the scripture is silent”?

    Anyway, I posted to share the cultural / linguistic argument that I and my late mother, Helen Fletcher, always had about the meaning of “supper”. She would use “supper” to refer to either the noontime meal or the evening meal, as do a lot of southerners. I would toe the line and use “supper” only to refer to the evening meal; hence, we would debate her use of “supper” to refer to the noontime meal. Maybe this same sort of ambiguity is inherent in the text re “the Lord’s supper.”

    Flexibility may be the key here.

  10.   Cheese Man Says:

    It seems to me that if you wish to honor the Lord’s Supper as Jesus commanded it, then it should be done as such. If Jesus gave us explicit instructions on how to do something, shouldn’t we do it that way, rather than experiment for the sake of “breaking tradition”? Or for the sake of “trying something new” so that you can “feel something”?
    It seems to me JM, that you are having fun at the Lord’s expense. If you wish to experiment, that’s great! It seems to me that what we do in honor of the small, simple meal directed by Jesus for us to participate in to remember Him is NOT about the food, but about the bread and the cup and only the bread and the cup.
    If you so choose to take the Lord’s Supper AFTER a main meal (Luke 22:20), then so be it . . . but there is no directive that states that the meal itself is the Lord’s Supper – just the bread and the wine.
    And it seems clear that this meal is the passover meal and the directives for the meal would involve unleavened bread.
    Experimentation is “fine” – but we should be careful before some people starting thinking that what you’re writing is what the Bible says. Because it is not.
    I wonder how you “interpret” your meal with 1 Corinthians 11:34? It seems to me that this verse (and 1 Corinthians 11) gives us indication that a meal, mixed up with the Lord’s Supper is not what is desired by the Lord.
    This also seems to be why Jesus (in Luke 22:20) had us remember Him, AFTER the main meal. This tells us that the main MEAL is not what we remember Jesus in . . . but in the simple bread and cup.
    Anyway . . . have fun with what you do . . . just make sure that you don’t cause others with fragile faith to fall into sin.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I think you presume too much. This was not about “fun” or “trying something new.” This is an honest attempt embody the “supper” values of the Lord’s table since every act of “table” involved a meal. The meal becomes a communal worship and honoring of God and his Christ.

      I think you are mistaken about the timing of the supper. The “supper” was eaten in the midst of the breaking of bread and drinking of the fruit of the vine. Breaking of the bread was done during the supper (as the previous cup indicates) and only the last cup was done at the end of the supper. In 1 Corinthians 11, consistent with Luke 22, it is “bread-supper-cup”.

      1 Corinthians 11 addresses the problem of how the wealthy ate without the poor. So, the wealthy should wait for the poor. If they can’t wait, then they should eat at home and then come to the “assembly” and eat with the poor. Paul did not say not to eat; he said wait till everyone is gathered and then eat. Paul still wants them to “eat” the supper. They need, however, to make sure that it is the Lord’s supper they eat rather than one that embodies their own Greco-Roman culture.

  11.   notyoutoo Says:

    “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” – Luke 22:20.
    Question – after what supper? It was AFTER a meal they ate – clearly then, the main meal they ate was not in what they remembered the Lord.
    The Lord’s Supper is clearly defined as the bread and the cup and nothing more . . . it is obviously not a large meal – but separate from a main meal.
    1 Corinthians 11 may or may not involve the wealthy and the poor – but, clearly there is a division caused by selfishness and greed; nevertheless, the Lord’s Supper is again clearly defined as JUST the bread and the cup in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul did not say to eat any meal to remember Jesus – but ONLY the bread and the cup (1 Corinthians 11:23-29). If the Lord’s Supper happens to be AFTER a meal or even BEFORE a meal – fine. But any MEAL is NOT the Lord’s Supper – that is clear in what Jesus told us to do – and what Paul repeated here in 1 Corinthians 11. The meal before or after the Lord’s Supper is NOT the Lord’s Supper.
    Greco-Roman culture (while culturally relevant to the text) is in fact just that – cultural. It is not a command, precedent, example, or inference to what a Christian is to do to remember Jesus. We are to remember Jesus in the simple meal of the bread and the cup – nothing more.

  12.   David Brent Says:

    I just found this. It’s great. I want to try something like this in our life group. Thank you for being so descriptive.


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