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Celebrating Communion during the Season of Easter

4/22/2014

Communion During the Season of Easter

About a year ago my local church began to model our order of worship for Communion after Jesus’ four Eucharistic actions: He took, He blessed, He broke and He gave (Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:14-20). All four actions, when considered afresh, powerfully impacted the quality of our celebration at the Lord’s table. A spirit of thanksgiving and praise was restored in our services of Communion that is especially appropriate to the Great 50 days of the Easter season. Communion now brings us through the death to the joy and gladness of Christ’s present resurrecting power in our lives. Below are some suggestions for incorporating these actions into your own Communion services.

HE TOOK

Stand behind the Lord’s table, facing the people. This enhances the symbolism of giving (God’s self-giving to his people).

HE BLESSED

The New Testament church followed the example of Jesus in giving thanks for the bread and wine, probably following a Jewish threefold pattern of praise, thanksgiving and petition. The Jewish berakhah (blessing) was commemorative in content: “Blessed be God, who brought us out of Egypt, bring us into the promised land.”[1]

For the prayer of thanksgiving at my local church, we use an extemporaneous prayer model based on the Jewish berakhah (blessing) that:

  1. Praises and blesses the Father (Praise),
  2. Remembers the work of the Son (Commemoration/Thanksgiving) and
  3. Invokes the presence of the Holy Spirit (Petition). [2]

The prayer of thanksgiving can be short, or long. It can be prepared beforehand, or delivered spontaneously. The rite for the Lord’s Supper in the Nazarene manual suggests a prayer of thanksgiving, but does not provide an example. The Church Rituals Handbook (2nd ed.) by Jesse Middendorf[3] includes the ancient liturgy for the prayer of thanksgiving. We have found in our context that using the berakhah as a model for the structure of our prayer of thanksgiving provides the Trinitarian structure of the ancient liturgy, but allows us the freedom to prepare fresh worship expressions and words appropriate to our local community of faith.

Below is an example of a prayer used in my local church, prepared beforehand:[4]

[Praise]

We praise you, O Lord.

We praise you in the sanctuary.

The angels praise you in the heavens.

We praise you for your acts of power

And for your surpassing greatness.

We praise you with the drum, and the guitar,

And the piano and our voices.

We praise you with the clash of cymbals

And everything else we can find to praise you.

And with the Psalmist we cry out:

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”

For you are worthy to receive all of our praise,

And all of our worship.

 

[Commemoration/Thanksgiving]

You did not have to do anything for us

Because you are God.

We could have been left to face our certain fate of eternity without you,

But you stepped in and by the blood of your Son,

You delivered us.

Thank you Lord.

Thank you for loving us.

Thank you for your Son.

Thank you for the good news of the gospel.

Thank you for loving us so much.

Thank you for your faithfulness to us and to all generations.

 

[Petition]

Now, Lord, we come to you as your children.

We are in need:

We need your Holy Spirit

To be poured out in this church.

We need your Spirit

To guide and strengthen us in our walk every day.

We need your courage

To share the good news of the gospel

Everywhere, everyday, and with everyone.

We need your healing touch for:

Others who we are aware of

And some whom we are not aware of.

We pray for the provision of the church in these difficult times.

We pray for your help in becoming stronger in the area of community in the church.

Finally Lord,

As we get ready to receive

The elements of your broken body

And shed blood,

By your Spirit make us one with Christ,

One with each other,

And one in ministry to all the world,

Until Christ comes in final victory

And we feast at his heavenly banquet.

We offer this prayer to you, O Lord,

In the matchless name of your Son and our savior, Jesus.

Amen

The Words of Institution can be included in the commemoration section of the prayer, however, in my local church we do not include them here because we receive individual cups and bread at stations, then hold the bread/juice and return to our seats. The pastor then says the Words of Institution, and we receive together. Our congregation perceives this expression of taking together (at the same time) to be a sign of unity, community, and family.

HE BROKE

Standing behind the Lord’s table, lift an unbroken and uncut loaf of bread in full view of the people and break it by hand, in silence or with appropriate words.  Once you’ve broken the bread; invite them: “Come, people of God, to the table of the Lord.”

If you use a common cup, you can lift that up as well, in silence or with words. My local church uses individual cups, so we don’t lift the cup.

HE GAVE

During the distribution/reception time, choose songs that capture a sense of joy and celebration of God’s grace, flow from a theme of death to resurrection, and have a numinous quality (mystery) from a second person point of view (You). This will help to express the intimate relationship with the Father into which the Spirit draws us through the Son Jesus Christ.

Examples:

Blessed Assurance by Elevation Worship (Joy/Celebration)

Before the Throne of God Above by Shane & Shane (Joy/Celebration)

Man of Sorrows by Hillsong (Death to resurrection)

Remembrance by Matt Maher (Death to resurrection)

All Things New by Elevation Worship (Numinous/2nd person)

Oh You Bring by Hillsong (Numinous/2nd person)

 

The earliest Christians remembered the resurrected and ascended Christ. They saw Him and broke bread with Him (Luke 24; John 21). Burning in their hearts as they broke bread together was the mystery and joy not only of Christ’s death, but also of his resurrection, ascension, and coming again. May the same burning knowledge be in our hearts by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as we break bread together these great 50 days of Easter so that we - with our lives, worship and witness - may proclaim: Christ is risen!

-Jessica Coleman is the Worship Pastor at Faith Community Church of the Nazarene in Jacksonville, Florida.  She is currently a doctoral student in Worship  at the Institute for Worship Studies.

[1] Robert E. Webber, Planning Blended Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), 134.

[2] This prayer model is explained in depth in this resource for worship planners: Robert E. Webber, Randolph Sly and Ronal Freyer Nicholas, “The Prayer of Thanksgiving (He Blessed),” in The Complete Library of Christian Worship: The Renewal of Sunday Worship, Vol. III (Nashville: Star Song Publishing Group, 1993), 259.

[3] Rite two provides a liturgy that is celebratory in nature, Jesse C. Middendorf, The Church Rituals Handbook, 2nd ed. (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2009).

[4] Rev. Wayne Bauer prepared this prayer for one of our services of Communion, structuring the prayer after the berakhah (blessing) mentioned above.