Having grown up in a Catholic church, I am now studying the subject of the Lord's Supper. Do we have to make our worship of the communion time with the really cheap crackers and generally less than ten minutes in length compared with the 60-90 minutes of preaching? And could you please give me some insight on how to understand the bread not actually turning into his body (that is to say flesh) and the wine into his actual blood as I was brought up to believe? -- Jay Berckley (Ann Arbor)

Well I have no comment on the "really cheap crackers " other than that we usually observe the tradition of following the Jewish Passover usage of unleavened bread. Jesus never explicitly told us what to use for the bread so presumably this is an area of liberty. Interestingly, leavened bread was the norm in the Western church until the 10th century, and is still used in the (Eastern) Orthodox church. I tend to think that the token consumed on a typical Sunday is a poor substitute for a real sit-down meal.

As for length of communion, again the Bible does not say how long this should be or even whether it should be the longest part of our church services. (Does it? If so, what passage are you thinking of?) I do sympathize with you if you really have to sit through 60-90 minutes of preaching every Sunday. (Now and again a longer message is nice, but as they say, "The mind can only take in as much as the seat can endure"!) Personally, I appreciate a meaningful communion. And as is the case with sermons, length is seldom related to quality.

Finally, as for the doctrine of transubstantiation, there are several problems if the bread and wine are literally the flesh and blood of Christ. For example:
* In John 6, Jesus is speaking about the bread and wine though he is physically present with the disciples. How could the communion elements be his body if he was present bodily at the table with the twelve?
* Drinking blood was strictly against Jewish law.
* The early Christians understood the bread and wine to be symbolic elements, not the literal body and blood of Christ.
* If transubstantiation is true, then at every mass Christ is "sacrificed" again--whereas the book of Hebrews is emphatic that the sacrifice of Christ was "once for all," never to be repeated.

Recommended reading: John Mark Hicks, Come to the Table: Revisioning the Lord's Supper

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