REFLECTIONS
by Al Maxey

Issue #440 ------- April 23, 2010
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The chief ideal that marriage aims at is that of
spiritual union through the physical. The human
love that it incarnates is intended to serve as
a stepping stone to divine or universal love.

Mohandas K. Gandhi {1869-1948}

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Communion at a Union
Partaking of the Lord's Supper
at a Wedding Ceremony

This past week I received a long email from one of my readers who is facing a situation that has her deeply troubled. Her daughter, who is a Christian, and who is engaged to a wonderful young man, is in the process of planning her upcoming wedding. She and her fiancÚ would like to partake of the Lord's Supper together during the ceremony instead of having the traditional unity candle. This reader stated, "Deep in my heart, I am struggling with this request. Can you help me with this? Perhaps you've written an article on it. I have never seen this done within a Church of Christ wedding ceremony, and I do believe this might pose a serious problem for some of our church members within our congregation who would be present. Our minister mentioned that he personally did not have a problem with it, as he didn't see this as a 'worship service.' Yet, he said he would still need to discuss it with the elders. At this time, we have discouraged this idea with our daughter, and she struggles as to 'Why?!' Al, I really hope and pray you can shed some light on this for us, as I honestly do not know how to respond to this request. My brother, who serves as an elder in a rather conservative congregation in another state, told us that our daughter should consider the 'partaking in a worthy manner' statement, and thus not even request such a thing. Is he right? Brother Al, have you ever performed a Church of Christ wedding where the Communion was taken? If so, how was it handled? If not, your thoughts and guidance would be greatly appreciated. I know you are a very busy man, but this concern has been weighing very heavily on my mind. I love your Reflections articles, and I refer to them often. I appreciate you very much, and I would value any help you can give me on this."

Partaking of the bread and the wine during the course of a marriage ceremony is really not that uncommon within Christendom. Indeed, among those believers who are of the "high church" persuasion, such is a fairly routine practice. It becomes far less so, however, as one moves toward the other end of the religious spectrum, and is virtually anathema among the fundamentalist factions. The more legalistic and rigidly patternistic a group becomes, the more you will find the various so-called "acts of worship" regulated and restricted. Within the Churches of Christ (as a rule ... although this rigidity is rapidly being overcome by a better appreciation of our freedom in Christ) the Lord's Supper is generally perceived to be reserved solely for a "worship service" on Sunday only. That is the traditional practice of this group, and one of rather long standing, therefore one "tampers with the pattern" at great personal risk. If you don't believe me, just try making even a small change in how any of the "five acts of worship" in a "worship service" on a Sunday morning are observed, and then stand back and watch the fireworks.

Thankfully, however, this religious rigidity among many within the Stone-Campbell Movement (and this is true of other rather conservative movements as well) is rapidly being replaced by a much greater sense of God's grace, and a fuller awareness of the fact that we are free in Christ from a regulatory system governing our heartfelt expressions of devotion to the Father. In point of fact, our God is not seeking perfection of practice with regard to religious ritual, but sincerity of heart and fullness of love in our worshipful expression. It is for this reason that you will never find a single New Covenant regulation governing the time or place or logistics of a Lord's Supper observance. Our Lord simply said (as echoed by the apostle Paul) that as often as we observe it, we should do so in loving memory of Him! Yes, there is great purpose to this observance; it has spiritual significance. It can also be abused (as we see in 1 Corinthians 11). But, it was never intended to become a sacrament that must be governed by strict law. Sunday only. "Worship service" only. Unfermented grape juice only. No songs and/or videos during the passing of the trays. One cup, not multiple cups. Break the bread before the prayer. Law! Regulation! Restriction! When these become our focus, we have lost sight of the true purpose of this event.

Let me ask a rather direct question here: What God-given law or regulation or precept or principle would be violated by the observance of the Lord's Supper at the wedding ceremony of a young couple devoting their lives to each other in the presence of their heavenly Father? Seriously!! I would genuinely like to hear an answer to that question. Specify precisely what it is that would offend our God by this practice. In what possible way would such a practice dishonor our God? Would He actually consider sending someone into a fiery hell for daring to remember the death of His Son via the partaking of the emblems of the Lord's Supper at a wedding ceremony? Would such send Him into a fit of rage? If so, WHY?! Please let me know, as I would genuinely love to hear a rational explanation.

Brethren, let's think this through. What is the purpose of the Lord's Supper? Actually, there are a number of purposes perceived within the New Covenant writings. I would refer the reader to my study of these in Reflections #55 --- The Lord's Supper: Perceiving its Purpose. Of the seven primary purposes of this spiritual event, not a single one of them would be inappropriate to the setting of two Christians joining together in a covenant of marriage. Examine those seven purposes and correct me if I'm wrong. Especially relevant is the emphasis on unity that is seen in this observance. In 1 Cor. 10:17 the apostle Paul points out that by partaking of "one bread," we, who are many, celebrate the fact that in Christ we are now "one body." It is a celebration of unity! We become one body through His sacrifice on the cross. Husbands and wives "are no longer two, but one flesh" [Matt. 19:5-6]. They become "fellow heirs of the grace of life" [1 Peter 3:7]. The Lord has bound these two disciples together in a bond that is far greater than just physical. It is also spiritual.

How many times at a wedding ceremony have you heard the minister quote the following: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" [Eph. 5:25]? This is talking about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; His agony on the cross for His bride. What do disciples do when they partake of the Lord's Supper? "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" [1 Cor. 11:26]. Are husbands to love their wives "just as" Christ Jesus loved His own bride, the church, and "gave Himself up for her"? Of course they are. Why not, then, remember the sacrifice of Christ for His bride as part of the covenant ceremony in which a husband promises to give himself lovingly and sacrificially unto his wife?! In what possible way would this be inappropriate, especially when the two coming together as "one flesh" in this covenant of marriage are believers?! Our Lord Jesus Christ began His public ministry at a wedding. Why not begin our lives together by inviting Him into our wedding ceremonies? Whenever we partake of these covenant emblems ... whenever ... as often as ... we are remembering His loving gift to us through His sacrifice. In what possible way would remembering that sacrifice, at this time of the union of two believers, dishonor and disturb our Father in heaven?! WHY would He be so upset by this remembering of His Son's sacrifice for us that He would regard this act of remembrance at this time a sacrilege and an abomination? Seriously. I would genuinely like to hear an answer to that from those who would proclaim this act a soul-damning SIN.

"Well, the NT Scriptures say that the Lord's Supper can ONLY be observed during a worship service." Really? Where do you find this "law" in the New Covenant writings? Show me! "It can ONLY be observed on Sunday." Really?! So, where is this limitation given? Where do we find this restrictive regulation of the Lord's Supper? Jesus said "as often as." Does a singular example of what happened on a single weekend in a single city forever bind back the freedom of expression given by the Son of God and restated by an apostle? If so, provide the proof that a single example has the power to limit a statement by the Lord. The flaw of the CENI hermeneutic (which is employed -- and very inconsistently -- by the legalists and patternists among us) is that it takes mere human assumptions and elevates them to LAW. Yes, the saints in Troas partook of the Lord's Supper at some point during that weekend. We don't even know for sure when they did, as we don't know if the reckoning of time was Jewish or Roman (see my discussion of this in Reflections #173). However, was this the ONLY time during the week they partook of the Lord's Supper? We don't know!! According to Acts 2, as well as some of the extra-biblical writings of that day, the disciples observed the Lord's Supper daily in some locations. Frequency was NOT an issue in the early church (that would come centuries later) -- see my following studies: Reflections #30 -- The Lord's Supper: Focusing on Frequency and Reflections #114 -- The Lord's Supper: A Brief Historical Overview. "Well, partaking of the loaf and cup of wine at a wedding ceremony would totally fly in the face of the stated purpose of the Lord's Supper." Really?! Specify the specific stated purpose that would be negated by observing this memorial during a wedding ceremony of two believers? For those readers who may not be familiar with the stated purposes of this event, I would refer you once again to Reflections #55 -- The Lord's Supper: Perceiving its Purpose.

Brethren, can we be painfully and brutally honest with ourselves here for a moment? The reason that some are upset by the thought of observing the Lord's Supper at any time and place other than a Sunday "worship service" is because that's not how we've always done it in the Churches of Christ. That's right ... we would be violating "our" TRADITION. The reality is: there is not a single, solitary Scripture that in any way stands against such a practice; indeed, there are some, as I've already mentioned, that would support it. But, since it is not "our" tradition ... since it is not how "we" do things ... it is viewed with suspicion, at best, and as a soul-damning abomination, at worst. Those who oppose this practice may not be able to "show Scripture" for why they oppose it, but they just "know in their hearts" that it is wrong! Well, brethren, that is just not good enough. Sorry! But, what you feel or know or think is not PROOF. And it certainly is not BINDING LAW. If you want to govern your own actions by your personal preferences and perceptions, then that is perfectly acceptable. I will not stand in your way. But, don't even think of trying to impose such upon ME. I am FREE in Christ to express my love and devotion to Him any place and at any time, as long as I do so in a way that honors and glorifies Him, and in a way that is not in direct violation of His revealed will for my life.

Returning to the reader's email, I thought the statement by the preacher (as quoted by this reader) was rather interesting: "Our minister mentioned that he personally did not have a problem with it, as he didn't see this as a 'worship service.'" The phrase "worship service" never, ever appears in the Bible, although I know only too well what this minister means, as I was "raised up" within the same faith-heritage. Probably a good 99% of what we fuss, fight and fragment over in the Churches of Christ has to do with our differing perceptions and preferences regarding what does or does not occur within the parameters of that "sacred hour" Sunday morning that we designate a "worship service." I think if one bothers to search the NT Scriptures for all the LAWS regulating what occurs during our public assemblies, they will come away with a very, very small list. Yet, for some reason, we feel compelled to regulate virtually every aspect of this "worship service." Sing praises to God with instrumental accompaniment? Not in the "worship service!!" If you want to do so within your own home, then the Lord will accept your praise. But, do it in the "worship service" and He'll send you to hell. Clapping? Not in the "worship service." God wouldn't like it. Show a video? Not in the "worship service." Can I play a guitar at a funeral or wedding? Of course. It's NOT a "worship service." Really? I have often seen both preaching and congregational singing take place at a funeral. Is this not worshipful expression? Nope!! Same building, same auditorium, same people, same actions, but it did not take place during the "sacred hour" on Sunday. Therefore, it is not a "worship service." Brethren, I have seen intelligent people make this argument with a straight face! They are totally clueless!! A guitar is okay in a teen classroom on a Wednesday night. Why? Because it's not a "worship service." The teens were singing praises to God, praying, studying from God's inspired Word. Nope! Doesn't count. It's not the "sacred hour," thus, it's not "worship." Good Grief.

What the above mentioned preacher was really saying was, "I can't find anything in Scripture that would prevent someone from observing the Communion during a wedding ceremony." At least he was personally honest enough to acknowledge this. However, his traditional indoctrination then kicked in when he tried to justify his response by stating that a wedding was not a "worship service." And we wonder why our people are so confused and conflicted (not to mention those outside our heritage who are both befuddled and bemused by our religious antics). The reader who emailed me was quite correct in her assessment, however --- "I do believe this might pose a serious problem for some of our church members within our congregation who would be present." I have absolutely no doubt that some would not like it. I can also assure you that they could never, in a thousand years, go to Scripture and demonstrate WHY. "I can't show you in Scripture where it's wrong, but I don't like it." Well, dear brother or sister, it's not your wedding!! Your likes or dislikes, your traditions and dogmas, are irrelevant. Until you can provide us all with a clear "Thus sayeth the Lord" ... it would be best if you said nothing at all. Too many of us, for far too long, have been walking on egg shells around a handful of dogmatic disciples, allowing ourselves to be ruled by their personal/party perceptions and preferences. Brethren, this needs to stop!! To surrender our freedom in Christ to the demands of the most narrow-minded among us is a sure way to remain in religious bondage. Paul stated that he would "not yield in subjection" to such persons "for even an hour" [Gal. 2:5]. Neither must we!!

The above reader's brother, who serves as an elder in a rather conservative congregation, suggested that his niece should consider the "partake in a worthy manner" statement, and thus refrain from her request. The reader asked me if her brother was correct. No, he is not!! In 1 Cor. 11:27, the apostle Paul speaks of those who are eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord "in an unworthy manner." Does this mean that they are using the wrong number of cups or the wrong type of bread or wine? Does it mean they're playing videos during the passing of the emblems? Does it mean they are observing the Lord's Supper on the "wrong day"? The problem in Corinth is that they had lost sight of the true purpose of this meal, and it had become little more than an opportunity for the flesh, rather than an occasion of the Spirit/spirit. Partaking in a "worthy manner" is when we partake with hearts totally focused on the purpose for which we commune, and in love for the Lord and one another. This the Corinthians had utterly failed to do on all counts. Paul is not speaking to the logistics of the observance, he is speaking to the heart of the observers. It wasn't a matter of when and where they were observing this meal, it was a matter of why they were observing it that brought about Paul's remarks.

My best advice to the dear sister-in-Christ who emailed me is this -- don't discourage your daughter and future son-in-law with respect to their desire to partake of the bread and wine at their wedding ceremony. They are not in violation of any precept or principle of God's Word, and, indeed, are simply desirous of making this event a God-honoring, Jesus-focused event. Sister, in a culture where more and more young couples are seeking to keep the Lord OUT of their unions, rejoice that your daughter and her fiancÚ are wanting to bring Him IN at the very outset of their journey through life together!! Support them in this, don't hinder them, and stand with them when some of your hard-headed "church goers" try to bind their dogma upon them. This is a very special moment in your daughter's life; she simply wants to celebrate it in a spiritually meaningful manner to her and her fiancÚ. Love them enough to give them that moment ... you won't regret it.

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A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in South Carolina:

Dear Brother Al, I can't thank you enough for the three excellent sermons you presented at The Tulsa Workshop. Perhaps you remember meeting me. Keep on keeping on, brother!!

From a Minister/Author in Missouri:

Brother Al, Happy Birthday to Shelly!! I sat near her at The Tulsa Workshop, but didn't make my way over to meet her. I did get to talk briefly to you, though, when you dropped by my table where I was sitting waiting to hear your second talk. You did quite well. It was really good to hear you in person. I only noticed in your last Reflections that your sermons are available on your congregation's Web Site. That is a good move!! I have been listening most weeks to Rick Atchley, since I found his sermons are readily available. Al, I wish you many more happy years of service to the Master.

From a Reader in Texas:

Good Afternoon Bro. Maxey, I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your sermon "Freedom to be Fruitful" (Sunday, April 11, 2010) that appears on your congregation's Sermon Page. I know some people who really need to listen to a sermon like that (but won't). I think a sermon like that one could really open some people's eyes, and I really appreciate you making it available for others such as myself.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, I'm a former "Contending for the Faith" type of Church of Christer, which I quickly outgrew when I began reading and studying the Bible, growing in my faith, and discovering real Christianity. I would now consider myself conservative, but not legalistic -- a good place to be. When reading the Bible I realize that it's the plain things that matter, and what really matters is plain. By the way, the CFTF types should be avoided and ignored. They won't change until they decide to surrender to Jesus and the present, active working of the Holy Spirit within them (which many of them don't even believe in). These false teachers can also become quite wicked toward those who expose their error (as you know from experience).

From a Minister in California:

Dear Brother Al, This subject (the Nephilim) has always been one of great fascination and speculation. Although none of us can give a definitive answer, you most certainly have provided a lot of interesting information. Thanks again for your contribution to my knowledge!

From a Reader in Texas:

Greetings my friend! Your latest study has inspired me to write again and let you know just how much I enjoyed reading this unique and extremely interesting study on the Nephilim!! It is a really fascinating topic. God bless you, Al. We are still trying to work out another trip this summer through your area for a weekend, and at least one evening at White Sands watching (and photographing) the sunset.

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Brother Al, Your recent Reflections on the Nephilim was an intriguing topic indeed. I always appreciate your treatment of topics that have such diverse scholarly opinions associated with them. I'm especially thankful to see that you are never too proud or too "educated" to simply say, "I don't know," or to admit that there is just not enough evidence about something for you to draw a firm conclusion one way or the other. Such honesty is the mark of true humility. If only every Christian could be so honest. Keep 'em coming, Al.

From an Elder in New Mexico:

Dear Brother Al, I just finished reading your latest Reflections, and I have dealt with the same dilemma as to who these groups really were. I, too, like the "angels as sons of God" theory, although my "speed bump" with that view is whether the angels had to become flesh in order to mate with the daughters of Eve. If so, then we have incarnate spiritual beings on the earth. My understanding is that only God can turn celestial (spiritual) beings into flesh. This, of course, presumes that they would have had to have been flesh in order to mate with these women. Otherwise, we have a good number of "immaculate conceptions" going on. Of course, were this a salvation issue, then I would have expected much more explanation than just the one passage (which seems to be said almost in passing). As you pointed out with the ten spies, the main point was that they were not giving God the credit for being able to do what He said He would do. We often spend so much time on the ancillary issues that we sometimes miss the point of the Scriptures (just my opinion). Keep the faith, brother!

From an Elder in New Mexico:

Brother Al, The "Naked Archaeologist" (on television) thinks that the Nephilim were the Neanderthals. Do you ever watch that show? It can get rather interesting at times. Hope you and Shelly are doing well.

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Al, That was an excellent study of the Nephilim. I enjoyed it immensely. This has always been an area of the Old Testament that has intrigued me, and your bringing all the scholarly views together in one exposÚ was masterfully done. I really enjoyed perusing the different views held by the scholars. I found this fascinating reading. Thank you!

From a Reader in Missouri:

Dear Bro. Al, This is the first time I have emailed you. I was placed on your subscription list to Reflections around December, 2009. Since then, I think I have read around 200 of them. Aside from the fact that I've learned immensely from them, and been greatly blessed by your writings, there has been one thing in particular that I have noticed: you don't make any mistakes!! For me, this has become a game! I am obsessed with finding at least one misspelling, one case of incorrect grammar, just one wrong punctuation!! I just wanted to let you know that I'm watching!! Seriously, how you can write this much without ANY mistakes is simply beyond me! Regarding the Nephilim, I was surprised that you did not bring up 1 Cor. 11:10 --- "For this reason, and because the angels are watching, a woman should wear a covering on her head to show she is under authority" (NLT).

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Bro. Al, You probably already know this, but the so-called "Law of Silence" did not originate with the "Restoration Movement," or with Alexander Campbell, or with the Churches of Christ, or with the Bible. It probably came from the Anabaptists, but was adopted and preached by John Calvin, and was then enshrined in the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647. In other words, the Church of Christ inherited this "Law of Silence," with its "Regulative Principle of Worship," from Presbyterianism. While many Presbyterians have now abandoned this fabricated "law/principle" regulating worship, because they realize it is not supported in Scripture, our beloved Patternists cling to this denominational theory as if it were equal to Scripture itself.

From a Reader in Maryland:

Dear Brother Al, Something that most people have chosen to ignore is that the word "sing," in every language I have studied (English, Russian, Spanish, Greek), has no "exclusionary principle" built into the meaning of this particular word (i.e., the same word is used for "singing" whether it is done with or without instrumental accompaniment). Therefore, just because someone may say "sing," that by itself would never be declarative of "voice only, void of instruments." Look at how many times, just in English, we speak of "singers," but then don't make any distinction as to whether they "sing" instrument free (voice only). Whether one is "singing" voice only, or with instruments accompanying their singing, it still constitutes "singing." To clarify that one is to sing "voice only," such a statement would need to be made. For instruments to be forbidden while singing, considering the nature of the word "sing" in most languages, there would have to be an obvious need of negation of instrumental accompaniment issued in the form of a clearly stated command if such a restricted form of singing is required. Simply stated, there would need to be a commandment specifically forbidding accompaniment to singing. Such restriction is not inherent in the meaning of the word "sing." As for the word "a cappella," I do not understand the constant use of and referral to this word. It is not a biblical word. I suspect that many like to use it because it sounds "Greek," and thus to the unlearned it would sound "biblical." It's not Greek, it's Latin, and most likely a Catholic derived word. Its meaning, according to the research I've done, is twofold: (1) after the manner of the chapel, and (2) an earlier meaning referring to those who wore a mantle (worn as religious garb) made of goat skin. This mantle was laid across the shoulders as a sort of vestment. Could it be that this is where we get the tradition of calling someone "an old goat"?!!

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, Once again you have delivered a well-thought-out and very challenging examination of one of the most puzzling passages in Scripture. I whole-heartedly agree with your final conclusion: God alone knows!! I personally have gone along with the view that "the sons of God" were godly people intermingling with ungodly people ("the daughters of men") -- the descendants of both Seth and Cain respectively. The concept of angels sporting with human women always seemed far too fanciful to me. It's always good to stretch our minds with such theological exercises, however, especially when we can safely say that our salvation is not dependent upon the view or conclusion drawn. Such helps us to understand that there are still mysteries within the Scriptures that we may never come to understand. What we can know, however, is how the Lord wants us to live our lives, and how we may have life eternal. Thanks once again, brother, for a good study and explanation of the various theories regarding the Nephilim.

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A Highly Recommended New Book

Readers, I would like to strongly encourage you to order a copy of a new book that has just been published by one of your fellow Reflections readers: Dr. Wayne Newland, who resides in the beautiful state of Maine. Wayne, who has been very supportive of my own feeble writing efforts, received his BA degree from David Lipscomb College, his Master's degree from the College of New Jersey, and his Ed.D. from Rutgers University. He has a long and distinguished career in the field of education, and has also served for the past 13 years as an elder in the Lord's church. His new book is titled: Book, Chapter, and Paragraph: Restoring Context. Wayne believes (as do I) that one of the major failings of many movements (and this is especially true of our own Stone-Campbell Movement) is taking a text out of context and making a proof-text for a partisan practice or preference. Not only does Wayne spend a major part of the book examining this wayward hermeneutic, and suggesting a correction, but he also examines some of "our" more glaring mishandlings of Scripture (such as: Acts 20:7, 2 John 9, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Colossians 3:17, Galatians 1:8, and, of course, Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16). Wayne has honored me by quoting from my Reflections several times within the book, as well as other authors who have sought to challenge this faulty thinking within our movement. This is a 182 page book published by "Heritage 21 Books." To order, please contact either the publisher at: Heritage21@maine.rr.com or the author at: wnewland@maine.rr.com. Again, I would encourage you to get a copy of this excellent book.

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