Dear Salvation Army: Communion, It’s Not What You Think It Is…

Dear fellow Ponderers…
I have been dragging my feet in writing this for some time.
Not because I didn’t want to write this edition to Pastorsponderings, but rather because I want to be careful in how I broach this conversation.  I do not wish to offend and upset you – the reader.   Some will no doubt become offended anyway, and I have come to terms with the fact that I will not always make everyone happy – that’s a fool’s errand anyway.

Perhaps in light of this Holy Week that we are all entering into we might also reflect on the Passover feast that Jesus participated in with His disciples…what we now call “The Last Supper”.

Thus, I write this with the utmost sensitivity and respect.

I have been contemplating the topic of Communion once again
(See previous conversations on this:

Is Communion Considered Taboo in our Army? 
Within The Salvation Army, even the conversation of the Lord’s Table/Supper/Communion has become a taboo topic.  It is almost as if we are forbidden to talk about it, let alone partake in this ceremony.  Some have postulated that despite not participating in this ceremony, we have created our own sacred ceremonies in place of it, thus making the argument that we are non-sacramental in practice null and void.

I fear that failure to discuss such topics within our Army can lead to a polarization of our theological perspective, and variants of our doctrine might splinter and break off (as in some locations, it already has).

Some within our Army would treat the topic of communion with deep disdain to the point that the practice of it is almost treated as an organizational sin.  It is my estimation that too much focus on such a topic in this light is a waste of time and not conducive to unity within our Army.  There should be more open dialogue on this topic as I believe there should be on the topic of baptism.   -Someone will inevitably lambaste me for that, but that would just prove my point that we treat such innocent conversations on the topic as complete taboo and even sinful to even mention, which is ludicrous.

Is Communion Misunderstood In The Universal Church? 
In Luke 22 it is recorded the celebration of Passover that Jesus and His disciples were partaking of.  This has now been dubbed “the Last Supper”, where Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to fulfill the final act of Salvation in His false trial, torture, and death by crucifixion.  Thus, Jesus reclines with His disciples and takes in these final private moments with those He is closest with:

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:14-19)

Could it be that over the centuries the emphasis (or fixation) upon the bread and wine have been misplaced?  Didn’t Jesus preach in parable and often teach as Rabbis of His day taught?  With questions and metaphor?  When Jesus spoke of doing “this” in remembrance of me, is it not possible that it wasn’t just the bread and wine He was talking about, but rather the entire dinner together, the fellowship and unity of disciples?  Is it possible that instead of coming together just to contemplate the bread and the wine, the whole ceremony of remembrance is just as vital?   Coupled with the remembrance, the unifying love of Christ that binds it all together is the common denominator.  So much so, that when the disciples gathered in another upper room together in perfect unity, they encountered the second blessing an the day of Pentecost?  (Acts 2:1-31)
fellowship 2
Perhaps, it is in the very practice of gathering in unity and prayer that we find the proper practice of Communion to be viable and appropriate – even commanded by Christ Himself.  After all, didn’t Jesus also pray for unity of the believers when we said, “ that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
Dear Salvation Army,
Let me ask you a question:  When are our Soldiers unified with the love of Christ?
When is it that we remember Jesus as our Savior and source of resurrection power?
Would you suggest that it is when we gather in times of confession, of worship, of fellowship?  When does the mission of Christ within our Army become the most galvanized and evident in the body of believers?
Is there a time for ceremony and formal recognition?  Of course!
What do those intentionally consecrated moments look like?
Could it be that Communion has been vilified in our Army?  (Perhaps that is too strong a word)…
Is it possible that what Communion truly is – is the coming together of His disciples in fellowship and unity instead of mere ceremony?  Can we do this over a meal together?
fellowship 4
Perhaps instead on the over emphasis of the elements we have lost sight of the One who broke the bread and poured the wine?

What do YOU think? 
Post your comments below and let’s continue this pondering together.

*Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are of the author’s views and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Salvation Army.  Reader desecration is advised. *


Could Communion Be Overshadowing Something More Important?

Sometimes, perhaps, Christians become so focused upon one aspect of the Jesus’ teachings that it nearly overshadows another important teaching – humility and service.
What I mean is that Jesus breaking the bread and pouring the wine was not the only aspect of becoming like Christ for His disciples.  The act in and of itself was not mysterious, but it was significant.  Jesus spoke to His disciples and the crowds using Rabbinical parables to illustrate and to teach.  Is it really much of a stretch then to consider He was using the Passover bread and wine to do the same here?  Of course not!

The Path To Sacrificial Love:
In order to become like Christ in every way, Jesus does something more significant for His disciples at Passover – He washes their feet.  Towards the end of the meal, as recorded in John 13:13-15, Jesus gets up takes off his outer garments and puts a towel around His waist.  He then pours water into a basin and does the unthinkable.  He stoops down low, kneels before His students, in essence becoming a servant or slave to them and washes their feet.  Talk about significant!  Jesus illustrates for His disciples how to serve others.  Isn’t that the path to sacrificial love?  Shouldn’t this become our focal point more often in our living rather than a monthly or weekly ceremonial breaking of the bread?

But Get This…
What if one of these things lead to the other?
What I mean by that is this: What if by serving your fellow parishioners, neighbors, even enemies led to holy communion with one another?  I don’t mean simply going to the nearest church and participating in a communion service, I mean literal fellowship…holy fellowship with one another because we are willing to place each other before ourselves…what if?
What would happen then?  Do you see what I’m saying?  It is so much harder to do than a ceremony.  It is so much more strenuous to “get along” with others let alone serve one another…but isn’t that the path to sacrificial love?

The Cart Before The Horse…
Sure, it’s most likely assumed that these two elements of Christ’s teachings go together, but do they really in today’s “Christian” world?  I mean it’s simple to follow through the motions on a simple ritual week after week in church, but is it really that simple to become like Christ by becoming the servant and serving those around us?   I would contend that it is not.  It is much easier to say the words than to live out the context of those words.  Could it be that before holy fellowship (as I described it above) can be performed one must take off their outer garments, place a towel around the waist and serve?
Jesus said, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21)…what would happen if our treasure was two-fold (1) Christ and then (2) others?  Would we have to look very far to see either?  NO!

John 13:12-17 – “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Not a part of the Holy Eucharist?


I had an interesting conversation today. It took place in the parking lot on my way to see someone in the hospital. There in the hospital parking lot this gentleman spotted my uniform and inquired if I was a member of The Salvation Army. I indicated I was indeed and he proceeded to tell me that we did great work for people in need…I could almost hear the ‘BUT’ coming a mile away. Finally after a few additional compliments he came to his ‘but’, when he said, “But you guys are not completely a part of God’s family because you don’t have His holy Eucharist inside you.”


Wow, what do you say to a complete stranger in a parking lot after only a few pleasantries have just been exchanged? There really wasn’t time to delve into it right then and there, I was on a mission of sorts to visit a parishioner. I found it interesting that in a parking lot I was engaged in a theological conversation…I didn’t have the time to engage.

So since I didn’t then, let me tell you what I would have said.

His argument: We (The Salvation Army & most Protestants) Are not completely a part of the body of Christ because we don’t have the holy Eucharist in us.

I couldn’t disagree more with his pompous take on theology! What he essentially struck me as proud and even elitism. Does God desire practice over faith? Often times religious conflict comes from theological misunderstandings or staunch stubborn persuasions. His assertion was that because we do not practice Communion or partake in Eucharist we are not a part of Christ. Hmm…was it the work of bread and wine that spurred the disciples into converting many at the day of Pentecost? Was it bread and wine that brought the Apostle Paul to the knowledge of Christ?

No! In fact I would contend that the Holy Spirit is an element that many high churches miss out on in their practice of Eucharist. Sure the practice can become ritualistic and lose its meaning, but His Holy Spirit is not mentioned enough within their church practices. How can one participate in Communion/Eucharist and completely miss the point of such a ceremony?

Is the practice of such a ceremony an act of Salvation? I would contend again that it is not! In fact, there are still many churches who say that if people do not partake in Eucharist they aren’t saved. How can this be? Did Jesus say ” Do this in remembrance of me to be saved?” No! He simply said, “Do this in remembrance of me”. What is ‘this’ that Jesus refers to? Was it solely the breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine? I do not believe it to be so. When Jesus later prayed to the Father that his disciples be One just has He and the Father were One, I believe there is significance there. Jesus wanted unity, peace amongst his followers. When they were to fellowship over a meal together, whether it was the Passover or even a simple shared meal the remembrance, I believed was conveyed in their meeting, not just the elements of Eucharist.

Secondly what makes the Eucharist holy? What is holy anyway? I’m sure there will be those who may disagree with me and that’s fine but where does Holiness come from? The only true source of Holiness is God himself. Who is able to bless something in order to make it holy then? Man? Are we ever worthy enough to make something holy in and of our own selves? I’m not denying that His Holy Spirit can’t indwell within us and work through us, but to claim that something is always holy just because of practice is foolish.

When we understand the source of Holiness, then how much weight should we then place of ritual? Is Communion in and of itself a source of Salvation? No. Who does provide Salvation and Redemption from our sins? Jesus himself, through His sacrifice…and “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Did Paul indicated anything in there about breaking bread and drinking wine to save your soul? Is that how we gain access to ‘the body’? No. Confession, belief and faith are the ingredients, if you will, for our salvation!

So what is Eucharist then?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning its practice here by any means. What I am condemning is the ingrained denominational notion that if one does not practice Eucharist regularly they aren’t a part of the body of Christ. That is simply foolishness and a slant to the scriptures that was never meant to be. Should we participate in Communion in church? I think that there is a time and place for it. I think that some very sacred moments can come from it, but do I think that it ought to be practiced every Sunday? No, and here’s why. It loses significance and symbolism, and instead of something sacred can become monotonous and mundane.

Lastly, to the churches who teach that Eucharist is mandated and lack of practice is detrimental to our salvation…think again. Stop dividing the body of Christ! We become elitist when practice replaces holiness, and judgement is measured out by the hands of man. Salvation belongs to Christ, and those who call upon His name will be saved.

There is no perfect church here on earth, just imperfect people striving to be like Christ. When we allow His indwelling to be evident in the outpouring of our faith then, perhaps we have the authority to speak on such things.

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