Some Meals Can’t Be Eaten “take-out”

Sometimes people ask if might be possible to take the elements of the Lord’s Supper to those who were not in the worship service or to simply have the pastor do a small “Lord’s Supper” service with the sick and the shut-ins.  In order to properly answer that question we need to first consider the nature of communion.

Communion is what happens in the midst of the gathering of the church to worship and that as such it cannot be “carried out” to those who were not present . As Charles Hodge explains:

“the Reformed Churches, teach that the Lord’s Supper is essentially a communion, in which the fellowship of the believer with Christ and with his fellow-believers is set forth by their eating and drinking of the same bread and the same cup. It follows that it should not be sent to persons not present at the administration, nor administered by the officiating priest to himself alone.”

However, this does not mean that it is impossible to administer the Lord’s Supper to those who are shut-in and cannot come to church. Rather than merely carrying the elements to them as the Roman Catholic church does, the solution is to bring the church to them, as Hodge explains:

In particular cases, however, it may be administered in private houses, for the benefit of Christians long confined by sickness, provided that the officers and a sufficient number of the members of the Church be present to preserve the true character of the ordinance as a communion.”

I was struck by the comment of a minister several years ago who remarked along the following lines in teaching on the Lord’s Supper, There are some meals you cannot have as take-out. For instance, in order to have Thanksgiving dinner with your family, you need to be present at the meal. You could not truthfully say “I had Thanksgiving dinner with my family” if your mother had brought you some left-over turkey and cranberry sauce in a ziplock the next day.  Communion is very similar. This is a family meal, and in order to have had the Lord’s Supper you must have eaten it together with the other members of the Lord’s body. This is one meal that the church must eat together as a family. We cannot have it ‘take-away’ or ‘drive through.’


About Andrew Webb

I was converted out of paganism and the occult in 1993 and while I was initially Charismatic/Arminian in my theology, I became Reformed and Presbyterian through bible study and the influence of ministries like RC Sproul's. After teaching in local bible studies, and taking seminary courses part time, I began to feel called to the ministry in 1997. I was Ordained as an RE at Christ Covenant PCA in Hatboro, PA in 2000 and as a TE by Central Carolina Presbytery in 2001 when I was called to be the Organizing Pastor/Church Planter for Providence PCA Mission, Cross Creek PCA's church plant in Fayetteville, NC (home to Ft. Bragg and Pope Airforce Base). In 2005 when the Providence PCA Particularized I was blessed to be called by the congregation to be their Pastor
This entry was posted in Old School Presbyterian Churches, Sacraments, The Lord's Supper, The Means of Grace, Worship. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Some Meals Can’t Be Eaten “take-out”

  1. Kevin says:

    I used to take church officers to take communion to shut ins. I have since discontinued the practice. Most of our shut ins are fine to go to Walmart or whatever, but unable to come to church somehow. I guess I’ve grown cynical.

  2. Reformatus says:

    Very good point Kevin. They can go to Wal Mart but not to the Lord’s House! It’s amazing… they’re not so “shut in” after all! But if someone were “Truly” shut in, then taking some church officers and essentially having an entire “Service” (not just “Juice and Crackers” is what I’d do!

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