Fundamental Belief Number 16 (Lord’s Supper)

The Lord’s Supper is a participation in the emblems of the body and blood of Jesus as an expression of faith in Him, our Lord and Saviour. In this experience of communion Christ is present to meet and strengthen His people. As we partake, we joyfully proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again. Preparation for the Supper includes self-examination, repentance, and confession. The Master ordained the service of foot washing to signify renewed cleansing, to express a willingness to serve one another in Christlike humility, and to unite our hearts in love. The communion service is open to all believing Christians. (Matt. 26:17-30; John 6:48-63; 13:1-34; 1 Cor. 10:16, 17; 11:23-30; Rev. 3:20.) (1 Cor. 10:16, 17; 11:23-30; Matt. 26:17-30; Rev. 3:20; John 6:48-63; 13:1-17.)

 This fundamental was unchanged at San Antonio, except for the re-arrangement of biblical texts. It is interesting that the statement makes no reference whatsoever to the Adventist tradition of communion once a quarter. This once a quarter tradition is rooted in the Calvinism of Geneva, with its strong resistance to the daily eucharistic tradition of Roman Catholicism. The absence of the tradition in this statement leaves open the possibility that churches could do communion more often if they wished. After all, would we want to receive tithe only once a quarter? Some Adventist communities do the supper more often than once a quarter, but without having the foot washing every time (a colleague, on the other hand, noted that Mother Teresa did the foot washing every day).

The core of this belief is not related to the time when communion is performed, nor the liturgy or manner in which it is performed. The greater emphasis is on preparation for the service and the ideal follow through afterward. There is more focus on what you do before and after the service than on what occurs during the service itself. The spirit of the foot washing and the Lord’s Supper is to continually permeate our lives. Every aspect of church life could benefit from this kind of preparation and seriousness.

There is a quasi-sacramental tone to this statement. Unlike Catholics and some Lutherans, Adventists do not see a real presence of Christ in the emblems of communion (bread and juice). But there is a real presence of Christ in the “experience of communion.” In a secular world, this is a promising perspective. We need to expand people’s opportunities for living, real encounters with God. It is interesting that in the Western world Adventists tend to treat things like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day more seriously than they do Easter, Christmas or even communion. Loma Linda, on the other hand, takes the foot washing and communion principle and applies it broadly to the work place and the classroom. How can we “wash the feet” of those we lead or those we serve? How can our hearts be more closely bound in communion to God and each other as we continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ?

One of the best aspects of Adventist community is the open communion that is affirmed here. It is a powerful counter to the tendency to take the remnant doctrine of FB 13 to an extreme of exclusivism. Adventism rightly acknowledges the importance of avoiding the appearance of evil and experiences that might degrade our spiritual commitments. On the other hand, “abstaining from the world” can quickly degenerate into exclusivism and triumphalism (the sense of ultimate superiority). Given the Adventist tendency to exclusion, the openness of this fundamental is refreshing and affirming of the Christian commitments of others.

One reason people tend to avoid communion is that the service is often much longer than the regular service of worship. A long sermon on communion day can overwhelm the liturgy. So it might be better, given the tone of this fundamental, to have a sermon about communion the previous Sabbath and allow the communion Sabbath to be focused on the experience of foot washing and the Lord’s Supper.

An interesting suggestion was made to include communion in Adventist weddings. There is much marriage imagery in John 13 and 14 (the context of the original foot washing service—particularly John 14:1-3). It could be a beautiful experience for bride and groom to wash each other’s feet (signifying the daily forgiveness that both foot washing and marriage imply) and then share in the Lord’s Supper together. When both parties are lifelong friends of God it is inevitable that they will be lifelong friends of each other.

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