- Napkin Thelogy: If you can communicate it better with a quick drawing, why not?
- Just like universities agree to honor some of each others credit courses, four Reformed denominations and the Roman Catholic Church have agreed to honor each others infant baptisms. (For some this confirms that the CRC denomination is not evangelical.)
- Here’s how some churches look at the issue of copyrights involving music or materials. This example is not a good example, though.
- Church planters sometimes are often guilty of reacting to existing trends or conversely, copying existing trends. There are three other factors that can motivate planters, and certain risks and dangers in all five types.
- When you release a dove ceremonially, it’s not supposed to be attacked by seagulls.
- Should communion (Eucharist, Lord’s Supper) be done with a common cup or several cups? Actually, that’s not the issue; the real reason I posted this is because it’s a great example of taking Bible study notes.
- Or this question: Should Churches shift weekend service times to accommodate the Super Bowl game? Perry Noble’s church did.
- Last week Rachel Held Evans linked to a trio of articles with the common theme, Do Christians idolize virginity? One of the recommended articles is being recommended here as well; the story of a girl who believed that, in her words, I am Damaged Goods.
- For my local readers who enjoy Robin Mark’s annual visits here each summer, here’s the best version of the John Wesley song I can find. (YouTube audio.) Watched it three times on Saturday.
- Michael Belote has a very lengthy, heartfelt article on dieting that he then uses as springboard for looking at our spiritual diet. There are some great principles here including this question: Am I using the right fuel in the right amounts? This is a five-star blog post!
- We’re a bit late arriving at this one, but this February list transcends time. Here are 28 ways to show gratitude that are good anytime.
- Wanna start a church in Orange County, California? You’d be in good company, and there are currently 17 churches for sale.
- A New Jersey pilot credits her faith in God for her and her passenger surviving a crash in the Hudson River.
- When Michael Hyatt spoke to real estate professionals about social media, he discovered they didn’t know what to post to Twitter or Facebook. Here are his ten suggestions.
- Canadian hockey player Mike Fisher, now with the Nashville Predators, made Brad Lomenick‘s young influencers list for January. Here’s his testimony and a link to his Zondervan-published biography.
- The Calvinists gotta hate this song; but probably the Arminians are glad they have enough free will to turn off bad church music. Click for The Free Will Song.
- For something more contemporary… I’ve never been to the blimeycow YouTube channel before, but this take on five-minute instant worship songs, is far too cynical.
- …Click the images for sourcing from Clark Bunch’s blog (top) and Close to Home (below)…Feel free to add your favorite recent Christian blog links this week in the comments…
February 6, 2013
December 3, 2011
At what age should children first participate in The Lord’s Supper?
The two children sitting next to me — a boy about six and a girl of four or five — were fidgeting during the entire service. They spent most of the sermon time drawing pictures and there was a mild shoulder punch fight that took place during one of the worship songs where I thought the mom was going to split the kids up by sitting between them, but apparently opted not to. When the communion elements were passed across our row, without hesitation the kids helped themselves. The mom definitely saw the kids each take a piece of bread and the small cup of juice, and wasn’t the least concerned.
I grew up in a tradition where receiving The Lord’s Supper, partaking of Communion or Eucharist, or whatever name your faith family chooses to call it, was reserved for adults and those entering adulthood. I was eleven years old the first time. Anything younger, for me, would have been too young.
So when Christian Focus Publishing offered me a chance to review Children and the Lord’s Supper, I had hoped this book would address the question in clear and unmistakable terms. I believe this topic is important as it bears on so many issues: church, doctrine, worship, parenting, the spiritual nurture of children, the Christian education of our youth.
Make no mistake about it, this is an excellent book. If you want to cover this topic in great detail, I can think of no better resource, and I will be most grateful to have this paperback in my library for any time that this topic surfaces. However, for all that, there are reasons why I think this is the wrong book for the majority of readers here.
First, this is a very academic reference work that would cause most of my friends to glaze over after the first dozen or so pages. The book is a collection of eight essays an introduction by editors Guy Waters and Ligon Duncan, which defines paedocommunion as “the admittance of a covenant child to the Lord’s Supper on the basis of his (sic) descent from at least one professing Christian parent.” (p. 11) Persons looking for a simple answer to the question, ‘Daddy, may I take communion?” — which is also the title of an existing book — would find 214 pages of answer to what they perceive as a simple ‘yes or no’ question; not unlike the uncle at the Christmas gathering who recites the entire workings of the internal combustion engine, when all you asked was a simple question as to the frequency of oil changes. Mind you, there are no simple answers here.
Another awkwardness for the North American reader is the use of the UK construction paedocommunion rather than the American which would favor the use of pedocommunion (only occurring 195 times in a Google search as opposed to over 28,000 for the UK spelling; which suggests something right there) just as we tend not to speak of paedobaptism (46,000 on Google) preferring the spelling pedobaptism (a more balanced 17,000). This preoccupation with spelling is not a deal breaker, but is mentioned in passing here to highlight how North American readers would find this volume inaccessible at different levels. (When the absolute central focus of a book is a word that is spelled differently in both countries, perhaps it is time to consider a North American edition.)
More relevant is the Reformed perspective of the book. This book raises all the right issues, but does so in the context of a growing movement among some Reformed denominations to include younger children in the Lord’s Supper — some already do — to which there is apparently much consternation. We share the same scriptures of course, and everything presented in this volume is entirely relevant to all our churches, but one must first decide to get past the denominational perspective of the writers. In fairness, I should state that a couple of the writers do address the doctrinal understanding of the Lord’s Supper that is unique to the Roman Catholic mass, though this is done primarily for comparative purposes with the Presbyterian or Reformed view. And one writer views as inconsistent those Baptist groups which baptize children, but do not permit them access to the Communion table.
Which brings us to the meat of the book.
As it turns out, the issue of children of partaking of the communion elements is almost symptomatic to a deeper causal issue, namely our understanding of the relationship between the Lord’s Supper and Passover. This is the true focus on which many of the arguments — mentioned or alluded to — hinge. Certainly Jesus instituted this sacred meal in the context of a passover meal, but how strongly does the parallel run? Children are allowed to participate in the modern passover — though some doubts arise as to, for example, the first such meal in the years immediately following the Exodus — so why not permit children at our New Covenant equivalent? And some even argue that point, as to whether or not there is a tacit understanding that the youngest of children do not truly partake of the passover meal since they are too young to ask the questions (or you could say, be active in the liturgy) that is required of the youngest; even arguing the obvious point that the very youngest would be too young to chew food.
One writer suggests that in Passover, Jesus was instituting something that fulfills or completes the entire sacrificial system (p. 32). Several of the writers point out that the Westminster Catechism (part 177) requires that the children be old enough to examine themselves, alluding to the words of institution in I Cor. 11, something I would term, if I may, the presence of “spiritual sentience,” a term which, as long as we’re quoting Google, occurs elsewhere 283 times.
Indeed, the book’s strongest premise is that we best remember the Lord’s death and atonement through the Lord’s Supper combined with active faith. (pp. 72-73) The book also considers the various warnings that the apostle issues addressing the situation of those who would be receiving the communion elements in an unworthy manner.
…This is a book review, and book reviews are highly subjective. I said at the beginning that this is indeed an excellent book, it’s just not going to fulfill the expectations of the average browser in the average Christian book shop, especially here in North America. But subjectively, my personal reward for studying this book was a deeper understanding of passover, admittedly not the book’s stated purpose. I am much richer for reading Children and the Lord’s Supper, but I am clearly not the typical Christian book consumer.
And if I’ve caused your eyes to glaze over today, may I suggest that as parents of young children you err on the side of caution. The children in the example I cited at the outset certainly had no sense of reverence for what was taking place, and may I suggest that by that lack of reverence they profaned the moment or occasion as it took place in their part of the auditorium.
September 11, 2011
Seen enough of the TV specials? Tired of hearing of “9/11?” You should know there’s a good reason why we need those programs and magazine features and internet tributes:
People Tend to Forget
Jesus understood this. Scripture tells us that on the night he was betrayed he took bread and broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.”
But you already know that. Those words from I Cor. 11 are often the most-repeated words in most churches during the course of a church calendar year. “For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered unto you;” is somewhat how I think the KJV renders it. The section from verse 23 to approx. verse 30 forms what is called “The Words of Institution” for the communion service aka Lord’s Supper aka the Eucharist. Even if you attend a church where things are decidedly non-liturgical, these verses probably get read each time your church observes “the breaking of bread;” and even if your pastor leans toward the New Living Translation or The Message, it’s possible that he lapses into King James for this one.
Why did Jesus institute this New Covenant, Second Testament version of the Passover meal?
Because people tend to forget.
Let’s look at the section we almost never read when we gather around the communion table, Luke 22. In verse 19 and 20 he tells them to remember. He tells them his life is about to be poured out for them. What a solemn moment. A holy moment. But unfortunately, a very brief moment.
In verse 24, Luke makes it clear that he’s trying to capture an accurate picture of what happened that night. Even if it makes the disciples look bad. It’s the kind of stuff that you would never include in your report to Theophilus if you were merely trying to make Christianity look good. If you were writing propaganda.
24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.
I don’t want to be disrespectful here, but Luke might as well have written, “At this point, one of the disciples looked out the window of the upper room and announced, ‘Guys, you gotta come here for a minute; there’s a girl out there that is totally hot.’”
I’m serious. It’s that much out of place with all that has just happened. Jesus is telling them — trying to tell them — all that he is about to suffer in order that a plan laid out from before the foundations of the world will be fulfilled. And they’re arguing about who gets to be Disciple of the Month. How could they go from one extreme to the other so quickly? In a matter of seconds?
Easily. People tend to forget.
Whether it’s what happened in New York City, Washington, and that Pennsylvania field ten years ago; or whether it’s what happened in Roman occupied territory in the middle east two thousand years ago; we need to continually rehearse these stories in our hearts and pass them on to our children.
This is a day that is about remembering and like the upper room disciples, we can get so totally distracted. September 12th comes and everyone moves on to the next topic or news story. We must not let ourselves lose focus so easily. We must not forget.
Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV)
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
September 7, 2011
February 26, 2011
Continuing where we left off yesterday…
I like the story of the little boy who wanted to take part in the communion service that followed the Sunday morning offering. When told by his mother that he was too young to take communion, the eager participant whispered loud enough to be heard five rows back, “Why not? I just paid for it, didn’t I?”
Last week was Communion Sunday at our home church. We attended the 9:00 AM service so that we could actually get to a second service at 10:30 at our other home church. The 9:00 AM service is attended by families with young children who wake up early, and I was horrified to glance and see a young boy of about six or seven helping himself as the bread and wine were passed. Maybe this story describes the kind of thing I’m referencing:
At my church, we had a special Easter night service, and we took communion. My brother was in there, and he’s only 6, so he doesn’t understand the meaning of it. When he saw the “crackers” and “grape juice” being passes around, he said “mommy! Its snack time! I want a snack too!” Obviously, he’s too young to take communion. But for those of us who do take it, do we see it as “snack time”? Communion is great. I love to hear Pastors words describing the night when Jesus and his 12 apostles took upon the 1st Holy Communion. I think since we do take communion regularly in church, we overlook the importance there is in it.
But not everyone agrees with this approach:
I have allowed my children to take communion ever since they have told me that they love Jesus. I think 3 was the age they were first able to verbalize that.
We explain it to them each time as the bread and wine come around, and while they dont get it all, they know they are considered ok to partake.
This would not have happened in the world I grew up in.
The latter view is the one currently gaining popularity among Evangelical parents. And there are often compelling reasons for it. A children’s ministry specialist in New Zealand only ever posted four things on his or her blog, but one of them was this piece which argued for including all children because:
- The historical reason: Children would be included in Passover celebration;
- The Passover parallel: It is a means of teaching children about Christ’s deliverance for us;
- Salvation qualifies them: If they have prayed to receive Christ, which is not exclusive to adults, they should participate;
- The alternative is complicated: The age at which a child would be considered “ready” would actually vary for each child, and setting a specific age adds more complication;
- Communion is an act of worship, something children should be equally participating in.
Having read that, it might be easy to conclude that this is the side to which I personally lean.
That would be a mistake.
Despite the arguments above, I really think that Summer’s comment adequately describes the situation I saw firsthand last Sunday. As with yesterday’s piece here — Baptism: How Young is Too Young? — I think we are rushing our children to have ‘done’ certain things that perhaps we think will ‘seal’ them with God.
I thought it interesting that one of the pieces I studied in preparation for yesterday’s post suggested that the parents of children who would be strongly opposed doctrinally to infant baptism have no issues with their non-infant children being baptized very young. Another article described a boy so young they had to ‘float’ him over to the pastor, since he couldn’t touch the bottom.
I’ve often told the story of the young woman who told me that when she was confirmed in her church at age 14 — confirmation being the last ‘rite’ of spiritual passage for those churches that don’t practice believer’s baptism by immersion — she stopped attending because she ‘done’ everything there was to ‘do.’ She described it perfectly: “The day I officially joined the church was the day I left the church.”
Are we in too much of a hurry here to see our children complete these things so we can check them off a list? Are parents who would be horrified to see their daughters wearing skimpy outfits because that constitutes “growing up too fast” actually wanting their sons and daughters to “grow up spiritually too fast?”
I was eleven when my parents deemed me ready to take communion. While I question my decision to be baptized at 13, I think that this was a good age to enter into the Eucharist. I know that Catholic children receive First Communion at age seven, therefore I am fully prepared to stick to this view even if I end up part of a clear minority.
Footnote: Finding a picture to accompany this article was a reminder of how the Catholic Church has allowed remembering Christ’s death and resurrection to become an occasion for both gift giving and a party, as First Communion pictures totally dominate the available images. Of course before a Catholic of any age can receive communion they are supposed to have been to confession. The confession that precedes First Communion is called First Reconciliation and increasingly, people are visiting Christian bookstores looking for an appropriate First Reconciliation gift and card. What goes on at a First Reconciliation party? Is there a cake? Do the kids dance? I need to know!
Related post on this blog: On The Night He Was Betrayed
November 7, 2010
This morning was the second of two sermons I got to do back to back. This one had a lot of scripture in it, so taking my cue from Ed Dobson’s sermons at Mars Hill, I got Ruth to read all the scripture.
I wanted to tie in with Communion Sunday, but found out later it was also Remembrance Day (that’s Veteran’s Day for y’all Stateside) Sunday. So the message was called People Tend to Forget.
We began by asking the question, “Why do we always read those same words from I Cor. before the communion starts.” One answer we came up with is that the account in Luke 22 makes the disciples look really, really bad! One minute Jesus is talking about giving His life for them, and the next minute they’re arguing among themselves which one is the greatest. (v. 24)
That led to a discussion about how some of the Bible’s spiritual high points seem end with a crash a few verses or a chapter later.
Exodus 14 has the Israelites crossing the Red Sea safely while Pharoah’s army is drowned. Exodus 15 is their worship and celebration service. Think Pentecostal worship on steroids.
And chapter 16? They’re complaining about the food and wishing they were back in Egypt. Yeah. Back in Egypt. For real.
Then we looked at Elijah’s defeating the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. (Well, actually it was God, but you know what I mean…) Both of these O. T. stories were things we’d looked at briefly last week, but this time we pressed further.
Now remember, this guy just played a major role in one of the most dramatic spiritual warfare encounters of all time. Where is he at a chapter later in I Kings 39?
Scared silly over a threat from King Ahab’s wife. Running off into the desert. Moping. Wishing he was dead. No, really, he says that, ‘I wish I was dead.’ This is either ironic or pathetic, depending on your view.
And then there’s Jonah.
Jonah is sent to tell Nineveh to repent. They do. That’s good news, right? Well, not for Jonah. His message was framed as “Nineveh is about to be destroyed,” and their world doesn’t look too kindly on prophets who get it wrong. So when God changes his mind on the destruction of the city, Jonah’s all out of sorts. Check out Jonah 3: 6-10.
The hero of “Jonah and the Whale” in chapter 1 – sorry, great fish – who is also the hero of “Jonah’s Preaching Converts and Entire City” in chapter 3 becomes the less impressive story of Jonah and the Plant in chapter 4. God can’t help but tell him that he’s put more passion and energy into mourning the death of a worm-eaten shade tree than anything concerning the salvation of the Ninevites.
And that was only the first half of the sermon.
Here’s a key scripture:
Judges 2: 8(NIV) Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the LORD gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.
People really do tend to forget…
Here’s another key scripture:
Isaiah 46: 9(NIV) Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
10a I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come…
11b …What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do.
The message ended up talking about Communion again. Some major points:
Our fellowship, our communion is with God through Jesus Christ.
We don’t celebrate communion to remember what was, but we celebrate communion to remember what is.
We celebrate communion because Christ is in us, and because of who we are in Christ.
June 21, 2010
May 1, 2010
I’m not sure what to make of Thursday’s post by Dan Phillips at Team Pyro. On the surface of it, it looks like a major concession for a conservative reformer to make: “Women Must Preach in Church.” (The use of must is probably the giveaway.)
But the (entire) text of the post says, “…on one occasion.” And guess what, gang? Despite the timing, he ain’t talkin’ Mother’s Day.
The text is also a link which takes you to:
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. ~ I Cor 11: 26 ESV
(Well c’mon… if you know anything about that blog, you know it’s gonna be ESV)
So immediately, readers take the bait.
So then, after a bit of discussion about the role of women in the church, he reins it in:
OK, an ANNOUNCEMENT. I’d like to take this back to the topic of the post: the proclamation that is the Lord’s Supper.
I’m going to be pretty firm on this. My one regret about the last meta was not enforcing my call, after the first comment, to get back to the topic. So let’s stick with the topic.
So finally on topic, there’s some good discussion about this that you can read for yourself. For those who don’t it’s basically about whether or not what some of us call “communion” is an act of worship or an act of proclamation or testimony. And if it’s what others call “the Lord’s Supper” is a form of proclamation, who are we proclaiming it to? (Especially when in some quarters this is often a separate, closed service only attended by believers in the first place.)
The problem here is that Pyromaniacs is widely read, and like I wrote a few days ago on the subject of prayer, every church’s — and every individual’s — understanding and expression of what yet others call “the Eucharist” is quite different.
So it’s a fair discussion on a worthwhile topic, and being good reformers, a few of the 160+ comments toss in the phrase, “the heart of the Gospel” just for good measure.
But I still say you shouldn’t bait your readers with what appears to be topic “A” when you really want to discuss topic “B.”
And don’t bring up topic “A” at all if you feel it just opens up a can of worms. Because I think this time around, your readers thought topic “A” was equally worthy of discussion.
March 21, 2010
When the blogger at Free In Christ started his blog in July of 2008, he noted his indebtedness to a book by Cecil Hook also called Free in Christ. Not being a regular follower of that blog, and so not having read everything in between then and now, it does appear that 21 months later, he hasn’t stopped blogging his admiration for the book.
Recently, he cited Cecil Hook’s list of 100 things people disagree on in the churches of Christ. Rather than simply link to it — many of you never click anyway, and even fewer leave comments — I wanted to have this list recorded here. I’m not sure about the order in which these are listed, but here it is:
January 4, 2010
Most of the churches my wife and I visit are decidedly non-liturgical. There are no set responses at certain intervals in the services, and nothing even remotely resembling tradition.
The exception occurs at Communion, aka The Lord’s Supper.
There, the reading from I Cor. 11: 23ff is obligatory. “On the night Jesus was betrayed, He took bread and… broke it saying, ‘This is my Body, broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” (Didn’t even need to look it up.)
But it occurred to me that as English shifts, modern ears might be getting this as “After Jesus was betrayed he took bread…”
I think a better reading would be, “On the night that Jesus was about to be betrayed…”
Or better yet, “Knowing full well that he was just a couple of hours from being betrayed, he took bread…”
Judas was about to exit the building. His scheming mind hatched the plan needed to locate and identify Jesus with the least interference from the crowd, and bring him before the Romans to mete out the death penalty on charges of blasphemy. There would be profit in this, not to mention a place of honor among both Pharisees and Romans alike.
But before he even left, Jesus says, “This is my Body, broken for you.” He is in control. He is giving Himself.
The Wycliffe Version isn’t the translation on Bible Gateway that most bloggers turn to, but its rendering is unique: “Take ye, and eat ye; this is my body, which shall be betrayed for you; do ye this thing into my mind.”
It clears up the verb tense thing as it relates to the order of events, which shall (or will) be broken for you, only it has the surprise element of bringing betrayal in that clause as well: shall be betrayed for you.
Christ’s body was physically broken for us, but his esprit was no doubt broken by the betrayal of someone who He had walked and talked with; someone whom He had taught in the give and take sense of eastern teaching — for three years.
The Amplified Bible is one of the few other translations that addresses the order of events. Note the section I’ve italicized: “For I received from the Lord Himself that which I passed on to you [it was given to me personally], that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was treacherously delivered up and while His betrayal was in progress took bread…”
In a decreasingly-Biblically-literate culture, I think it necessary to sometimes nitpick over details of the story that we just assume that people know. Necessary to clarify, to remove confusion.
But sometimes, in the examination, there is discovery, and the familiar narrative continues to take on shades of depth and meaning beyond anything we’d already considered.