Volume 18, Issue 1: Husbandry
Communion as Communing
In the ancient world, nothing was more common than the marriage of worship and sexual behavior. Fertility cults
were common, sacred prostitutes were common, and not only was this kind of whoredom acceptable, it was respectable.
The apostle Paul had to write sternly to the Corinthian church in order to let the men there know that now that they had
become Christians, sexual devotion at the nearby Temple of Aphrodite was unacceptable. This kind of warning does not
usually come up in a contemporary new members' class, so perhaps we have made some headway.
In the Old Testament, God fashioned His law in such a way that the Israelites could never make this mistake. A
man who had had lawful sexual relations with his wife was not permitted to approach the Lord in worship until after the
appropriate time and cleansing had taken place. This was not a feature of the law because sex was dirty or something to
be ashamed of, but rather because the prevailing mixture of the sex act with worship proper was something that God
forbade. In the ancient world, a tall fence had to be established between the two because if it were not established, then sexual
worship would just be a matter of time. Israel was commanded to keep her distance from all such worship.
The other gods had their consorts and concubines, and nothing was more common than for worshippers to imitate
their gods in worship. But Yahweh had no consort in the heavensHe was married to His people. In pagan faith, the gods
were doing their thing, and men and women were to mimic their behavior down here. But in biblical faith, God condescends
to marry His peopleand this means that their communion cannot be sexual in the physical sense. The communion is
across the Creator/creature divide. Sex is a metaphor for this, but cannot be the enactment of it.
When worship drifts away from an understanding of the triune God, those who want intensity in their worship
will naturally gravitate toward some kind ecstatic worship. This will waver for a time on the borders of sexual worship, and
then will eventually tumble in. This can be seen in the sexual immorality that has accompanied many revivals, in the twisted
piety of some medieval mystics, or in the dark times of the Moravians. In many a contemporary worship service, it can be
seen with some sexy young evangelical thing crooning over her phallic microphone.
Now, having said all this, worship still
needs to be understood in marital terms. The apostle Paul insists on it. If we
react away from Dionysian frenzy in worship, and opt instead for the quiet somnolence of a Unitarian lecture hall, we are
just setting ourselves up for the next reaction, back the other way. We have to be scriptural; we must act and never react.
This means that we recognize that Christ is the bridegroom, and we are the bride. This is a great mystery, Paul says, but
in worship we are made bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh. This is not said of Christ and the individual believer, but
of Christ and His Church. The culmination of the worship service is the Lord's Supper, and this is the point where we are
being knit together with Him, growing up into a complete and final unity with Him.
This can help us understand the role of communion in
communing. What would we think of some common
arguments against weekly communion if we applied them to lovemaking in marriage? "The reason we make love quarterly is so that
we can keep it really `special.'"
Understanding this helps us understand what is happening when our children fall away from the faith. One of
the reasons so many covenant children "unravel" is that they were never given the privilege of being knit together. They
were baptized into Christ, but, as the Puritans would put it, we all have an obligation to
improve our baptisms. We do this by means of prayer, attendance upon the preaching of the Word, reading God's holy Word, and partaking of our common
fellowship with the rest of the saints. When covenant children are excluded from this process, it is not surprising that they do not
reap the benefits of that process.
In effect, we are telling our children to grow up big and strong, and if they do so, we will give them some food. But
of course, many of them (treated in this way) do not grow up big and strong, and they waste away. Instead of this making
us reconsider our ways, we conclude that since they died of starvation, it was a good thing we hadn't wasted any food on them.
Children are part of the bride of Christ. As such, they ought not to be prohibited from learning how to commune
(in corporate worship) with their Lord. They ought to be knit together with us. But this is not accomplished by sitting in a
pew thinking wishful thoughts. We have to do what God told us to dosing, hear, pray, say
amen, stand, kneel, eat, chew, drink and swallowand we have to do it all in true evangelical faith. Because we hold children back from this, they either fall
away, or their devotional zeal (which has somehow survived) is diverted into other more individualistic directions. They
become the top Bible-verse kid at Awana, and we wonder in later years why they don't have a high view of the church. In this
the church is like parents who put their kids in day care for years, and forty years later wonder why the kids put
them in the rest home. We are to instill ecclesiastical loyalty in our children by the scriptural means, and keeping them back from the
Table is not that way.