CORONAVIRUS AND HOLY COMMUNION

Given the increasingly strict restrictions being placed on gatherings, including church gatherings, in more and more countries, the people of God are unable to meet together. Not only is it now illegal to meet together for worship, but it is also morally and biblically inappropriate. Our mandate to love one another means that we have to socially isolate and socially distance to slow the spread of this virus and to protect others from it. [Social isolation was a biblical requirement in the context of communicable disease – see Leviticus 13, for example.]

The restrictions in place because of coronavirus mean that we can no longer share in the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) as we normally do. But it does not mean that we cannot still do what Jesus told us to do – to remember him, to proclaim his death, to rest in the new covenant in his blood, via the instructive symbols of bread and wine.

Here are a few questions and answers to help us to think biblically about this.

Q.1 Is it okay to share in Communion in a private house, in a ‘house church’ or family setting, instead of in a church building?

A. Yes. When Jesus celebrated the last Passover and instituted ‘communion’ (the Lord’s Supper) he was in an upstairs room in a private house. See Matthew 26:17 – 19. Also, the early church commonly met in houses; there was no such thing as ‘church’ buildings. They ‘broke bread in their homes’ (Acts 2:46).

Q.2 Does a priest, pastor or elder have to be present at ‘communion’? Or is it okay for any Christians to share together in the Lord’s Supper without an appointed leader?

A. The New Testament teaches that all believers are ‘priests’ qualified to serve God.

1Peter 2:9 – ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’

Revelation 1:5, 6 – ‘To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father ...’

Revelation 5:10 – ‘You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God ...’

All who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are ‘priests’. All are, in Christ, qualified to serve God. Any believer can pass a piece of bread and a cup of wine/juice to another and say ‘Remember Jesus. Remember that he died for you and because of that death you are acquitted, because of that death your sins are forgiven. This is God’s promise, God’s covenant, ratified by the blood of Jesus.’

Q.3 Does it matter what we use for the ‘bread’ and ‘wine’?

A. When Jesus instituted communion, the bread was unleavened bread (bread without yeast) and the wine was actually wine. Some churches use crackers (which have a raising agent) and grape juice. In Papua New Guinea they use (or used to use) sweet potato and lemon juice in the highlands, and sago and coconut water in the lowlands – the food and drink readily available.

Q.4 What makes the Lord’s Supper ‘holy’?

A. Whatever is dedicated to God for God’s special use and purpose or as God’s special possession is ‘holy’. The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, is not ‘holy’ because it happens in a church. It is not ‘holy’ because it is administered by a priest or other clerical person. It is not ‘holy’ because it has been consecrated by a liturgical prayer. It is ‘holy’ because it is God’s. It is ‘holy’ because it belongs to God. And if God is with us, and he is, then every place his people are is holy. For God’s people every moment is holy, and everything that is given to his use and his purpose is holy. If you belong to God, then your house is holy, and the Communion shared in your house is holy, because God is present, and where God, the Holy One, is present, this person, this place, this act of thanksgiving and worship is holy.

©Rosemary Bardsley 2020