Good Morning Brothers…
OK…I realize Thanksgiving is many months away. However, I’m not talking about turkey, stuffing and Detroit Lion football. I’m talking about something else. As we begin, let me first define two different words.
- to get into one’s hands or into one’s possession, power, or control
- to seize or capture physically
- to get possession of (as fish or game) by killing or capturing
- to get or be given (something)
- to react to (something) in a specified way
- to welcome (someone) in usually a formal way
To read the definitions of these words is to realize they are not synonyms, however, they are often used synonymously. This hit me like a ton of bricks last week on Easter Sunday. After taking my family to our church’s sunrise service, we also attended a different church later that morning. This church is an Episcopalian church. I wanted my kids to experience the ceremony of a ‘high church’ offering over what they are accustomed too. I wanted to see their facial reactions to the robes, the incense, the processionals bearing a golden cross, and the formality of ceremony. Since they practice an open Communion, I was able to go forward with my family an kneel at the alter to “receive” the Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”). I watched my children open up their hands to receive, with eyes wide open, as if they have never received before, and I began to wonder.
What is the difference between “taking” Communion and “receiving” Communion?
Some say it is an argument of semantics. I’m not so sure. Although these words are being used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. When I “take” Communion, am I seizing it to possess power or control over the act? When a tray is passed containing the elements of the Lord’s Supper, who is offering the gift for me to receive? Now I know that Christ is offering, but am I getting that from the tray? Which part of the ceremony is communicating “gift”? When an intermediary, a stand in for Christ, is offering the gift, my mind and body automatically think “receive”. All of a sudden, I am welcoming Christ in a formal way (see definition above), and reacting to the gift in a specific way (again…see definition above).
“John…are you trying to tell us that “taking” Communion is bad?”
No…not bad, but maybe not complete. What I mean is this, when we participate in the Lord’s Supper, the gift of body and blood is Christ’s to give…and He gave it all. Therefore, whatever the ceremony looks like; passing trays, kneeling at the alter, coming toward an offering table, etc., it should communicate the sacrifice it is intended to replicate. When Christ said, “As often as you do this, do this in remembrance of me”, we should ask ourselves if the ceremony we use is hindering or helping that remembrance. Do we picture Christ offering all, that we may receive grace? The question is really about formation. How is the ceremony “forming” us into the image of Jesus? And if the question is about formation, then the terms become farther and farther apart. I can’t “take” formation but I can “receive” formation. I can’t “take” grace but I can “receive” grace. I can’t “take” thanksgiving but I can “receive” thanksgiving. “Take” is about the taker but “receive” is about the giver.
Is this semantics…?
Maybe so, however, I believe that satan is hard at work eroding the power in our worship services by subtly changing words that slowly work against our formation into the image of Jesus Christ. The next time you are in a position to participate in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, Communion…take the time to “receive” His grace in thanksgiving, and remember that He truly gave all, that it may be offered to us.