Some of us can remember what used to be called a “Preparatory Service.” On the Sunday before we would share communion together, the minister would read a rather long form (it felt like it took hours when I was 10 years old), and would often have a sermon that would be focused on getting ready to receive communion. I don’t know if my memory is accurate on this or not, but I seem to remember that most of the time “getting ready for communion” meant thinking about how rotten and unworthy we were. It seemed like if we didn’t feel terrible about ourselves, we were not ready to come to the table. We needed that preparatory week because it took that long for us to feel properly bad about who we were and what we had done.
NOT SO MUCH ANYMORE
I’m sure that my memory of preparatory Sunday is a bit distorted, but I do know that many of the churches in our tradition today don’t do a lot with preparing ourselves for communion. We don’t read that long form anymore and we don’t have a sermon calling us to get ready.
Sometimes we get to church on Sunday and realize that we’re having communion and we haven’t thought about it at all.
IT WASN’T SO EFFECTIVE
Not having a full preparatory Sunday is not necessarily all bad. The form did become something that we’d all heard before and we often let it slide in one ear and out the other. And while it is extremely important for us to confess our sinfulness and need as we come to the table, that became too central a focus in some of our churches. It might have been helpful to spend some time reflecting not just on our sin but also on God’s amazing grace. That preparatory week wasn’t always as effective as it could have been.
THERE’S STILL A NEED
But not doing any preparing isn’t such a good idea either. At a recent Elder’s meeting we talked about how we might find some ways that we might prepare ourselves for communion in a meaningful way. One of the actions we talked about was having a set of devotions for individuals or families that can help us prepare our hearts. We’re going to take a shot at that this week. On Sunday you’ll be able to pick up a brief set of devotions for the coming week. I want to invite you to use these to get ready for our celebration of the Lord’s Supper next Sunday. And I want you to think about if doing something like this is helpful in making Communion a meaningful and powerful time of meeting with God.
So what do you think? Did we make too much of “preparing ourselves” for Communion in the “old days?” Or have we gone too far the other way so that we don’t take the Lord’s Supper as seriously as we should? If we should do some preparation for Communion, what are some of the things that you might find helpful? I’d love to hear from you.