Thursday, January 24, 2008


I have heard it said that the church is like a chain, having many individuals linked together. I don't like this image of the church because of its implications. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. What happens in the church when the weakest link breaks? Are the rest incapacitated, as a chain would be? I don't like this image because it negates the strength of the other links. Elton Trueblood suggested that a better image would be that of a cable, consisting of many wires. If one wire becomes frayed or weakened in some way, and even if it should snap, the other wires with their combined strength would still carry on their work.

Actually, each strand is weak in itself, just as individual members of the body have their weaknesses. But, as Ecclesiastes says, "two are better than one ... and a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (4:9-12). The cable, with many strands making it stronger than any one strand, is a more scriptural image of the church. It speaks of the unity of the church, of each member supporting the others, and of the church banding together to accomplish God's will.

An example of this can be seen in Galatians 6:1-2, "Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ."

The Lord's Supper symbolizes this nature of the church as it pictures unity -- the oneness in which we support each other. The Apostle Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."

The very manner in which we observe the feast often speaks of this unity. In a few churches it is still the custom to use one cup for all. Occasionally, we have used one cup and individually dipped the bread. In other churches all hold the bread until all are served and they partake at the same time. When we say the confession of faith just before partaking, we say it together, as one body. All of this testifies to the strength of a united church.

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