So in Part 1, I laid out a theology of the Lord’s Supper focused on Jesus’ presence. Chris Green’s book, “Towards a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper” does, in fact, lay out that early Pentecostals undeniably upheld the presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. In this part, I want to write more of my own testimony and experience of the Lord’s Supper.
I don’t remember a time when Communion wasn’t a significant thing for me. I first took communion at the church I grew up in when I was around 11 or 12 years old. I remember as the wafers and tiny cups of grape juice were passed row to row, and when all had had the opportunity to take the bread and cup from the platter, the pastor recited from memory the Words of Institution, proclaiming the body and blood of Jesus. The church officially taught that the wafer and cup were symbolic and that there wasn’t something else, but the Lord’s Supper was never “just” a symbol experientially. There was an experience of the presence of God and very often it provoked spontaneous worship from people in the congregation. This formed me in a remarkable way since, when I visited other churches and Communion was “just an ordinance” for them, and the congregation didn’t seem to experience anything like worship in that time, I just really didn’t think that church was a place I wanted to commit to. (I’m not saying they were not genuine Christians or that their worship was insincere–only that they were “missing out.”)
After I went to college, I ended up in a different church, and at the same time, listening to sermons from the leading church in that denomination. That leading church did a series on the sacraments which really gave some words to my experience: that Jesus was blessing his people and present with us as we worship in baptism and communion. At the same time, I also came to the conviction that my baptism had not been valid (more on that in Part 4), and so I stopped receiving at the Lord’s Supper until I could be baptized. To this day, I count that as one of the driest times in my Christian life. For months on end I watched as the congregation celebrated the Lord’s Supper and hung back. It was a strange experience because I craved the bread and cup. I was starved for the Supper. When I was finally baptized, and took communion the next time, it was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever tasted.
So when I started attending an Anglican church a year later, there was no going back to monthly communion. Receiving the Supper was necessary to living well. The awareness and experience of Jesus freely giving himself to us a congregation was too critical, too essential to daily life to just have occasionally. That the Cross of Jesus was publicly displayed for me week by week radically renewed my understanding of the Gospel. There was a real, spiritual presence of Jesus in these moments of Communion.
Fast forward to this year. One Sunday in Lent as we were beginning the Eucharist (“Lift up your hearts! We lift them up to the Lord!”), I felt the Lord’s presence very clearly. As we finished singing the Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy, Lord of heaven and earth…”), I directed my attention back to the Table as I usually do. Then I had a vision. My pastor and those assisting in the liturgy were standing behind the Table, facing the congregation. I saw a figure dressed in white light appear in front of the Table, facing away from the congregation. It was the Lord, at the Table. As the Words of Institution were said, the Lord, with own hands broke the bread and blessed the cup. As my pastor placed his hands on the bread and cup to pray a prayer of blessing for the Supper, the Lord placed his hands on the bread and cup as well. The vision ended at that point, but I think it communicates something very profound for us as Christians, as catholic Pentecostals. The Lord presides at the Table. The Lord blesses the bread and wine. The Lord sustains us and proclaims the Cross to us. We receive all these good things from his hands.
In other words, Jesus is present.
- Part 1: A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper
- Part 2: A Pentecostal Experience of the Lord’s Supper
- Part 3: A Pentecostal Theology of Baptism
- Part 4: A Pentecostal Experience of Baptism
- Part 5: Pentecostal Questions and Reflections on Footwashing