Christians today think that the worship song “revolution” that we are experiencing is something new. But for those of us who have been firmly planted on the Earth while it has gone ’round the sun forty times or more, this trend is nothing new.
Catholics like Ray Repp brought a new folk mentality to worship music around the time of Vatican II. This trickled over into Protestant churches a few years later, especially within liturgical denominations. Songs like “I Am the Resurrection,” “Lord of the Dance,” “Pass It On,” and “They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love” all were big hits when I was growing up in the Sixties. We sang them regularly as kids and even saw a few of them creep into the adult services in the Lutheran churches I was a part of at the time.
Despite the fact that I routinely sang Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” the one song that always seemed the strangest to me was “Sons of God”:
Sons of God, hear his holy Word,
Gather ’round the table of the Lord,
Eat His body, drink His blood,
And we’ll sing a song of love,
Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah!
As a young person, I found this song (very Catholic, but heartily sung in our Lutheran church at the time) always hinted at a mystery far beyond what I understood whenever the communion meal was served. But now that I am older, I find the whole thing very eerie.
As I mentioned, I grew up Lutheran. And despite the fact that no one in the Lutheran Church today will agree on this, I was taught a consubstantiation position on communion. This differs from the Catholic transubstantiation in that the bread and wine were not “magically” transformed into the body and blood of Christ before the communicant partook of the elements, but rather “something mystical” happened to those elements after they were consumed. At least that is how I understood all this in my younger days.
Later, I wound up in the Presbyterian Church. I found that their take on communion—simply a remembrance done out of the command of Christ—to be highly lacking in any sense of the transcendent, unlike my Lutheran experience. This is not to say that I grasped what I’d been taught, but the evasiveness of responses to my pressing questions to older Lutherans was bothersome. I never did get a complete handle on the Lutheran view, and if any five Lutherans of varying ages were pulled off the street in your town today, they’d all have a different take on communion, I’m certain.
Now I am not of the cannibalistic sort, but despite the fact that I’d probably get a knot in my stomach singing “Sons of God” today, something has been lost in evangelical and charismatic ranks when it comes to communion. I’d love to see us come to some higher treatment of the communion meal. It deserves more than we are giving it.
I am firmly convinced that in many ways we have simplified too greatly the entire idea of communion. A complete meal hosted in the home is more what I hope to see, and some house churches have gone this way, but I also hold out hope that an invocation and celebration of the wine and bread would entail more than the casualness we bring to it. We have lost too much mystery in our meetings, and where better to restore it than in communion?
What is your take on communion? What are your reminiscences and joys over the communion meal? What would you like to see done differently? And lastly, do you feel that we have lost something in the transcendence of the meal itself?