Communion Commentary Concerns
William Penn (1644-1718) once wrote, “Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood.” Let’s be honest with ourselves — too frequently those who assume for themselves the right and privilege of addressing others are doing little more than engaging in pompous, pretentious pontification. In a word, they are simply showing off. Such a spectacle may very well gain the attention of an audience, at least for a time, but it is hardly designed to inspire them to action (except perhaps to boot the buffoon from the podium). Shakespeare (1564-1616) wisely observed, in his classic work Henry V, “The empty vessel makes the greatest sound,” which is somewhat reminiscent of the famous English saying, “The noisiest streams are the shallowest.” But, perhaps Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) summed it up most fittingly — “Every ass loves to hear himself bray!” Enough said!!
Speaking of public speaking, within our local assemblies and fellowships there are a great many opportunities for the Lord’s people, young and old, male and female, to share with their spiritual family what is on their hearts and minds. Preachers, obviously, have occasion to do this rather frequently, but so also do others within these local gatherings. There are classes, devotional talks, speakers at retreats and seminars and workshops, and, of course, there are the traditional, almost obligatory, or so it seems, “Communion meditations” one finds in many a faith-heritage within Christendom. Oftentimes, these fairly brief reflective talks are quite moving and inspiring, and they truly help to focus our thoughts upon the purpose and meaning of the memorial meal of which we are preparing to partake. At other times, however, the focus sadly shifts from the table of our Lord to the speaker at the pulpit. On some occasions these speakers have become so self-absorbed that I’ve seen them ramble on for 10-15 minutes, giving personal anecdotes and telling jokes. I can actually remember one or two times over the past 30+ years of my public ministry where I came very, very close to rising up and putting an immediate stop to the whole spectacle (and, indeed, I fault myself now for not having done so). In my view, and you are all free to disagree, I do not feel this to be the appropriate setting for joking and the promotion of self. It’s a time to call the people of God, and any non-believing visitors present, to focus their thoughts upon the selfless, loving act of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yes, the Lord’s Supper can be a time of joy (when properly perceived), as well as a time of sober reflection, and a time of hopeful longing, but it is not a fitting time for foolishness.
Thoughts from Al Maxey at Reflections