We practice shared leadership at Coram Deo. That is partly a response to the biblical idea of what it means to be a body (each individual part doing its part, Eph. 4:16), and partly a conscious attempt on my part to resist the intoxicating lust for control (which happens to be a significant heart idol of mine). The upshot of this is that unpredictable things do happen, regularly.
Like this morning, when glazed donuts symbolized the Lord’s body in our Communion observance.
Before you write this off as an obnoxious, postmodern, emerging-church experiment, realize that the architect of this morning’s feast does have a seminary degree. So I tend to trust his thoughtfulness and reflection on these matters. Kurt often talks of viewing the Lord’s Supper through multiple facets, and I have given him permission to help us explore those facets. (This morning’s facet: the sweetness of Christ’s sacrifice.) Having said that, I must confess that as Gavin was preaching a masterful sermon, I was wrestling with the abnormality of having donuts and grape juice instead of bread and wine.
The inner wrestling brought me face to face with the question of truth and preference. I began to ask: why am I bothered by donuts in communion? Is bread more biblical than bread-cooked-in-oil-with-a-hole-in-the-middle? Is this a matter of truth? Or a matter of preference? Even as I write, my soul isn’t totally at rest. I take seriously the role God has given me to guard sound doctrine (Titus 1:9) and guide obedient worship (1 Cor 14:37-40). But I also like conflict and tension and messiness – especially in my own soul. Following Jesus is not formulaic.
I opened my copy of the Westminster Confession to the section on “The Lord’s Supper,” where I found the words “bread” and “wine” to describe the elements. So I reasoned that if it’s literal obedience we’re after, substituting grape juice for wine (as is common in many evangelical churches) is at least as big of a stretch as substituting donuts for bread. The whole experience revealed to me at least one angle on the matter that I didn’t want to think about: I prefer plain bread because that’s just what I’ve come to expect. It has little to do with biblical regulations and a lot to do with my cultural preference.
If donuts became the norm every week, I would have to object. But by the same token, if a certain form of bread becomes so ‘normal’ that it defines what communion is, are we not simply elevating our cultural preferences to the place of truth? (I mean that as a question. Your comments are welcome.)
Caveat: The Lord’s Supper is a thing of deep spirituality and mystery. It is not to be trifled with. And I do believe that the elements are prescriptive, not descriptive. Bread is the basic staple of life. As it sustains us physically, so Christ sustains us spiritually (John 6:32-33). (So donuts are a stretch, since they fall in the category of “junk food” and not “basic sustenance”). Wine, as it lingers on the palate, reminds us both of the bitterness of Christ’s death (Matt 27:48) and of the joyful feast that is yet to come when we are reunited with our Bridegroom (Matt 26:29).
So I believe in bread and wine. But I also believe in the prophetic role of bringing us to confront our worship norms, asking why we have them and what they have to do with the fabric of the gospel – which is at least one thing that happened for me this morning. Thanks, Kurt, for taking us there.