It’s New Year’s Eve, the time of the traditional watch night service, or foot washing and communion in many Pentecostal circles. It was one of the biggest nights of the year for me for the nineteen years I was “in,” and it’s a night that still brings many memories even after eight years “out.”
My views on communion have changed a lot since leaving. Tonight, considering some of the scriptures, I realized some things:
1) Regarding 1 Cor 11, which was always held as somewhat of a threat against us, “unworthily” has nothing to do with “sin in your life”. It has to do with eating selfishly, without consideration of others around you. The whole passage is about some people eating and drinking excessively while others remained hungry during the Lord’s Supper. Paul wasn’t warning them about being unclean or harboring secret sins. He wasn’t telling them to go on a soul-searching three-day fast, repenting of everything imaginable or “cleaning house” (literally and figuratively) before the once a year event, but of remaining considerate of others, shaming the church and disgracing the poor (v 22). This actually coincides with the very first Passover, in which the people were commanded to share the lamb with neighbors if the lamb was too big for one household. (Ex 12:4)
2) There was always debate and some shaming about who could take communion. Communion at Pentecostal churches was “closed” — so much so that they didn’t even serve communion in a regular service, but in a special one after hours. Visitors and children shouldn’t take communion, it was thought, because they hadn’t been baptized. My parent’s church (not Pentecostal) had taught this, too. Yet even strangers and foreigners could celebrate Passover, and communion is the New Testament “version” of Passover. (There were laws regarding how they should prepare, but they could participate.) (Num 6:14).
3) At the first Passover, they were slaves. I’m not sure how they all found lambs a year old, but I do wonder if this meal must have been an absolute feast to them.
4) It still amazes me that breaking bread in the Bible was an invitation to fellowship. Jesus broke bread and shared it, and invited us all to remember him through that broken bread. He invites us all into fellowship, both with him and other believers.
And so, I no longer participate in watch night services. And I’ve learned some things since last attending one.
Happy new year to all of you. May you find peace and freedom in the coming year.