OUR LORD’S COMMUNION.
BETTY BURTON CHOATE
Snap! Crack! Snap! Crack! The sound works its way down the rows of pews from the front to the back of the auditorium- the sound of Christians in the 21st century, remembering their Lord’s death, as he commanded.
You wouldn’t have heard that sound in the first century church. Back then, they were very little removed in time from the days when the Law given to Moses was in force. God had been very specific about minute details pertaining to the observance of feasts, when and how it was to be done, often stating how they were to prepare their bodies and their clothing in preparation for coming into his presence. He gave measurements and ingredients - a recipe - for grain offerings. He described the kind of animals He would accept as blood and burnt offerings. He drew the architectural plan for the tabernacle, for each piece of furniture in it, and for the placement of each piece. He gave tailors’ measurements and weavers designs for the curtains for His place of worship.
There was a reason for these precise requirements. By making exact regulations and by demanding that they be respected and followed, he was creating a constant realization in the hearts of devout Israelites that He is holy, above all, Lord over all, and the ultimate authority to whom every soul must bow. Moses explained this to his brother Aaron after his sons had been slain by God because of their desecration of his worship. “And Moses said to Aaron, ‘ this is what the Lord spoke, saying: “by those who come near me, I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.”’” (Leviticus 10:3).
God’s law in dealing with his people has changed, but God has not changed. Just because we are allowed to come into his presence under the covering of the blood of his son does not mean that we have the freedom to approach him casually. He is still above everything that exists, and if we could see ourselves as we actually are and could see Him as He actually is, we would come into His presence with fear and trembling, falling on our faces before Him As Daniel did when the angel of His presence appeared to him, visually (Daniel 8:17, 27).
When Jesus instituted his memorial supper by what sort of guidance had the bread been made? We know that, for some reason, before the actual Passover feast, the Jews were not to have leaven even in their houses for seven days. Therefore, we know that the bread was unleavened. What else do the Scripture say about how the grain offerings were to be made? They were called “cakes” or “wafers”. In Leviticus 2, details were given concerning the various offerings. With regard to grain offerings, these were the instructions: Leviticus 2:4-7;13: And if thou bring an oblation of a meat offering baken in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. (5) And if thy oblation be a meat offering baken in a pan, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mingled with oil. (6) Thou shalt part it in pieces, and pour oil thereon: it is a meat offering. (7) And if thy oblation be a meat offering baken in the fryingpan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. (13) And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.
The bread that Jesus would have broken and offered to his disciples would have been made according to these instructions. First century Christians would have respected the precedent. Within each congregation, which in many cases met in the homes of Christians, a dedicated Christian woman would have risen a little earlier than usual to lovingly and carefully prepare the bread for the memorial of her Lord’s body. I feel sure that other sisters in the congregation would have begged for the privilege of serving their Lord and their brothers and sisters by having their opportunity to be the one to prepare the supper. Further, I can’t imagine that they would have looked to Jewish hands to have made that most sacred emblem for them. Can you?
However, we live in modern times. Today, men dressed in play or work clothes presume to go in their casual and disrespectful appearance to the Lord’s death memorial, and even to stand before the congregation as leaders-yet their concerning the respect due him. Their very dress shows that they are not honoring the age-old requirements God has made concerning the respect due Him. In addition, Christian women sit before God and their brethren in worship, dressed with plunging necklines and other fads of grossly immodest dress, never considering what God has had to say about that. In Exodus 28:42,43, when detailing the clothing for the priests, in addition to the outer robes, God said, “And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him.”
Obviously, from these words spoken by our omnipotent God Who does not change, He was adamant that those who would presume to come into His presence show Him due respect by being properly clothed. The penalty for insulting God by one’s lack of modest dress? Death. It was a pretty serious matter to God. Why do we deal with it so casually - or think nothing about immodesty at all? Are the elders in the church properly looking after the souls of the sheep under their care when they tolerate such disrespect for God? We avoid “offending” each other by daring to offend the very God we claim to serve.
Further, we modern women have no time or desire to make the bread for Communion. No! We can buy readymade Matzos. See? It says right on the box that they are “unleavened”. So, we buy a big box and keep it in our refrigerators and serve those things to our brothers and sisters, week after week, in bits and pieces until the box is finally used up. Is there an “expiry” date on those boxes? We wouldn’t even eat cereal that is as old as those crackers.
Do we look close enough to see that even the Jews who made the crackers recognize that they in no way satisfy the biblical requirements for unleavened bread? They know that any bread offering was made with fine flour, oil, and salt. (Why is the oil omitted from Matzos? Because oil develops a rancid taste when it gets old, so, eliminate that problem by eliminating one of the required ingredients.) They print plainly on the box, “Not for Passover”. Those little Matzos morsels are not good enough for the Jews to use in remembrance of their coming out of Egypt, but they are just fine for modern Christians today to conveniently use to remember the death-price that was paid for coming out of sin.
Shame on us! Shame on us!
I long for the day when, in every congregation of the church of Christ, worldwide, Christian women will vie for the coveted privilege to make fresh bread weekly, with fine flour, oil and salt, as was required for the bread offerings when Jesus and the apostles ate that first Memorial Supper.
Recently, I worshiped with a congregation that had an exemplary observance of the Supper. The brother who presided at the table made a lengthy talk concerning what we were about to do, drawing from the Scriptures and also reflecting on our need for the continual cleansing of the blood of Christ. When he had finished his remarks, Scriptures pertaining to our sin and the forgiveness we have in Christ were shown on the screen. He asked the congregation to stand and read the passages aloud together. Then followed a meaningful prayer. The entire service was moving and was a great aid in causing each one to examine himself/herself before eating the bread and drinking of the fruit of the vine, as we are commanded to do.
I hope that those who read this article will understand that it is not simply about using a different bread than is commonly accepted. It is about attitude. Recently, when some women in one congregation were asked if they would take turns making the bread, if the congregation decided to stop using Matzos, one replied, “I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t want to learn.” Another’s answer was, “I just don’t want to get involved with that.”
Yes, the article, bottom line, is about attitude. What is lacking when Christian women refuse to be bothered with such a simple but meaningful service as weekly preparation of fresh bread to enable their brothers and sisters to partake with their Lord in thankful remembrance of the hideous death He died for them?
Recipe for 200 one-inch squares of bread:
1 3/4 cups of bread flour
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup of water
Roll out into two 10 inch by 10 inch squares on baking sheets. Score with a seamstress tracing wheel, pizza cutter or knife. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.