What is the place of the Eucharist in Reformed worship?

I was in conversation with several other pastors today discussing Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind. It’s a popular introduction to moral psychology. I hope to review it here once I read the entire book.

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As we were discussing the book, we started to talk about how worship forms us to live the good life.
Shortly thereafter, someone noted that the highlight of reformed worship is the preaching of the word and contrasted this with Anglican worship where the celebration of the eucharist is central. This may be descriptively true, but I’m not sure that it’s the best way to describe Reformed worship (not to mention that there is a difference between the ways different parts of the Reformed family worship).

In reality, Word and sacrament are interdependent. Scripture is the context in which we learn the significance of the sacraments. Without Scripture (and, I would add, the church’s reflection on Scripture expressed in our Confessions) the sacraments can become an empty vessel into which we are free to pour whatever meaning we wish.

On the other hand, the sacraments are one of the contexts in which we receive the Word of God. It just so happens to be Scripture in a visible representation. For example, in the Lord’s Supper we see that the God has made a covenant with us and he pledges to be faithful to that covenant with us despite our infirmities, our weakness, and our sin. Your pastor can tell you that in the Gospel we receive the forgiveness of sin, the Confessions can assure you of this, Scripture can proclaim it, but the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to participate in the renewal of this covenant and experience through taste and smell the reality of the Gospel.

Scripture helps us to understand the sacraments and the sacraments help us to understand and apply the Word of God in the life of the community of faith. They are interdependent. That’s why I contend that the practice of reformed churches should be the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

5 Comments on “What is the place of the Eucharist in Reformed worship?”

  1. Sadly, weekly communion is almost non-existent in Reformed churches. In our church, the Eucharist shows up every 60 to 90 days. My roots are Roman Catholic, and having spent a lot of time on retreats with the Jesuits in my latter years, I now find the Mass to be life giving in many ways. Wednesday is my day of prayer each week, ending the day as part of the intercessor team for our church. But I begin the day with early morning mass at a local Catholic church. Starting the day with the Eucharist has become essential for the prayers that follow. TBoyle

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  2. Thank you, Jeff. This post opens up avenues to explore. I was especially struck by: “Your pastor can tell you that in the Gospel we receive the forgiveness of sin, the Confessions can assure you of this, Scripture can proclaim it, but the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to participate in the renewal of this covenant and experience through taste and smell the reality of the Gospel.” Thanks.

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