The Communion Season
The sacraments are to be administered in conjunction with the preaching of the Word of God, because the symbolism of the sacraments must be explained by the Word. Accordingly, the sacraments are administered only by the minister of the Word.
There should be an enunciation of the gospel message on every such occasion. In advance of the Lord’s Supper, there is also to be admonition based on the biblical directive to examine ourselves lest we eat and drink unworthily. We are to make preparation for receiving the sacrament, by considering our need for the grace of Christ and whether we have a true repentance from sin. In connection with these reflections, the observance of a fast is a recognition of the lowliness of spirit which befits us when entering into such nearness to God. Preaching at the time of the Supper ought most especially to direct attention to Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Another theme at this time is the giving of thanks to God, because of his abounding grace and love in the gospel.
To assist communicants and those who look on, it is appropriate that at the time of the Lord’s Supper there be a season of several days of preaching, during which consideration is given to the benefits symbolized in the Supper and to a fruitful use of the Supper. Careful preparation for partaking is accompanied by earnest expectation that Christ will be present in the midst of his people.
It is most seemly, and closest to the appointment of Christ, that communicants come up to and sit at a covered table to receive the bread and wine as at the hospitality of a meal, in enjoyment of bonds with Christ and with one another as the bread and the cup are passed around the table, and in anticipation of the marriage supper of the Lamb at the resurrection. Eating at a man’s table is a sign of friendship with him.
Inasmuch as the purpose of Christ’s death is to deliver us from our sins, no one should approach the Lord’s table who is indifferent to repentance and to the pursuit of holy living. As at the Reformation, a caution is duly sounded at the administration of the Supper, forbidding any to partake who are living in contempt of God’s law. In this way, the table is verbally fenced off against profanation. Words of encouragement and invitation are also spoken, for opening the table to those who are broken in themselves and see no relief but in Christ.
The minister offers words of support to those who are painfully conscious of their sin and unworthiness, and stirs up the people to meditate affectionately on the sufferings and death of their Savior as they assemble to commemorate his act of love. The minister then takes up into his hands the bread and the cup. The elements are set apart, by the word of institution, and by thanksgiving and prayer, to be sacred symbols for the duration of the sacramental action. The bread is broken in signification of the breaking of Christ’s body for us. The bread and wine are given to the communicants and shared among them. The disciples are dismissed with an exhortation to press forward in the grace they have received.