By Mark Mayberry
The following article appeared in the Nashville Banner on Friday, May 9, 1997 and was printed on page A-10. This story, written by Frances Meeker, the Banner Religion Editor, and entitled “Communion Bread a Blessing to Hungry Man,” is a perfect illustration of political correctness run amuck. Read it and laugh. Read it and wonder. Read it and weep.
“Communion Bread a Blessing to Hungry Man”
By Frances Meeker
We am told that man does not live by bread alone. But a few Sundays ago, a street person found what he must have thought was bread from heaven. It was the Holy Communion bread at the historic Downtown Presbyterian Church on Church Street. On this particular Sunday, communion stewards had customarily placed the communion bread on a silver tray along with an empty silver communion cup on a table in the vestibule. When the communion service was about to begin, communion steward and church elder Jim Kelley hurried to get the bread and cup for the Rev. John Hilley, who was waiting at the altar. But the bread was gone. Kelley hurried back into the sanctuary and whispered his dilemma to Hilley. “John told Jim to go back out there and look very carefully,” said Luann Pilkington, who provides the communion bread. But it still wasn’t there.
Kelley frantically started down the stairs to the kitchen and met steward Kevin Haw carrying oatmeal cookies to serve with coffee after the worship service. “And in a lightning stroke of genius, Jim just took the cookies, put them on the silver communion tray and marched down the aisle,” Pilkington said.
Nobody could explain what had happened to the loaf of unsliced bread that should have been on the communion tray until that night, when choir member Tom Ashley ran into his friend, Mike Esslinger.
Esslinger said that he was bicycling down Church Street that morning and saw a street person coming down the church steps eating a loaf of bread “folded in half’ under his arm. The church steps come down to the Church Street sidewalk, making the tables in the vestibule visible to passersby.
“Mike said the man was really chowing down,” Ashley said.
The congregation was happy to learn that somebody who was hungry got the bread, Pilkington said.
“At least he got a loaf of bread for breakfast,” she said.
The next Sunday after worship services, the minister and his son, Aaron, 5, went to pick up the minister’s wife, the Rev. Janet Hilley, who is serving as interim preacher at Trinity Presbyterian Church.
It was communion Sunday at Trinity (the Downtown church observes communion on the first Sunday of the month and Trinity church observes it on the second). Aaron noticed the remains of the communion bread being taken out of the sanctuary.
“At our church,” he announced somewhat smugly, “we have oatmeal cookies.”
O.K., I’ll admit the story contains a certain amount of humor. The punch line delivered by five-year old Aaron Hilley is genuinely funny. However, the article is replete with politically correct errors and modern misconceptions. It would be an interesting exercise for us to play “Count The Errors” with this article, but for the sake of brevity, let us focus on just three. This article reflects a politically correct and totally erroneous view of homelessness. It reflects the widespread denominational view of the Lord’s supper. Finally, it manifests an acceptance of women preachers, which is also in direct opposition to the word of God.
The Issue of Homelessness
This article reflects a politically correct view of the problem of homelessness. “The congregation was happy to learn that somebody who was hungry got the bread,” Pilkington said. “At least he got a loaf of bread for breakfast,” she said.
Certain people are beggars because they suffer from a handicap or illness. For example, in the New Testament we read of beggars who were blind (Mark 10:46-52; John 9:1-9) and others who were lame (Luke 16:19-23; Acts 3:1-6). This reminds us that some people are destitute because of circumstances beyond their control. Such persons are de-serving of compassion.
The Bible also speaks of those who are beggars because they are slothful (Prov. 6:6-11; 20:4; 24:30-34). This re-minds us that some people are destitute because they are too lazy to work. There is a huge difference between those who cannot work and those who will not world
Many who are homeless suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction. A person does not go to bed one night as a normal person and wake up the next morning as a gutter drunk. A person certainly doesn’t plan to live on the street with only a cardboard box to protect him from the cold. How, then, do they reach that sad condition? In many cases, homelessness results from a succession of bad choices. They choose to drink. They choose to use drugs. They choose to be lazy and irresponsible. They run rather than face up to problems. Before too long, another life is irretrievably mined.
Thus the apostle Paul admonished the Thessalonians to work with their own hands so they would have need of nothing (1 Thess. 4:11-12). We should labor so we can support the weak (Acts 20:35) and help those in need (Eph. 4:28). However, if anyone is too lazy to work, he should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10-12).
The Issue of Worship
This article reflects a politically correct view of the issue of Christian worship, especially as it relates to the Lord’s supper. Many today would argue, “Worship at the church of your choice in the manner of your own choosing.” Thus substituting oatmeal cookies for unleaven bread was called “a lightning stroke of genius.” However, this was not the only error in this article relating to the Lord’s supper. It does not appear that they were going to use unleavened bread in the monthly communion service. The missing bread was described as “a loaf of unsliced bread.” A street person was seen coming down the church steps eating a “loaf of bread folded in half under his ann.” This doesn’t sound like a wafer of unleaven bread to me. Furthermore, note that the Downtown Presbyterian Church observes communion on the first Sunday of the month while the Trinity Presbyterian Church observes it on the second. This is another departure from the pattern of the early church, who met to break bread on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).
Authority for the Lord’s supper can be traced back to Jesus’ admonitions on the night of his betrayal, when he celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread with his disciples (Matt. 26:17-18; 26:26-29). Unleavened bread was used in the Passover Feast (Exod. 12:15). This prohibition against leaven was given in part because the Jews were to be ready to march out of Egypt at a moment’s notice (Exod. 12:11). It also reflected the idea that leaven represents the defiling influence of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-7).
Bible authority is established by direct command, approved example, and/or necessary inference. Furthermore, Bible authority falls into two categories: general authority and specific authority. At times, God has left the actual method of obedience to the judgment of Christians. When God has not specified what he wants us to do or the method by which we are to obey, we may use any action or method which comes within the realm of the general command or example. General commands and examples include all that is necessary to the carrying out of that command.
At times, when teaching by command or example, the Lord would specify the particular aspects of obedience he required. When God specifies what he wants us to do, or the method by which we are to obey, we are limited to what he says. In such cases we are not free to use any other methods. Specific statements or examples exclude anything out-side the scope of that which is specified (Num. 24:12-13; 2 John 1:9; Rev. 22:18-19). We must learn to respect the silence of God’s word. The silence of God often prohibits rather than permits.
This principle applies toward singing. The New Testament specifies singing as the type of music God desires in Christian worship (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). This excludes other types of music, such as instrumental music.
It also applies toward the elements of the Lord’s supper. Through the example of Jesus Christ, we understand that the Lord’s supper is to be observed with unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine (1 Cor. 11:23-25). This excludes any other element, such as coke and oatmeal cookies.
The Issue of Women Preachers
This article reflects a politically correct view of the role of women, especially as it relates to the ministry. It manifests an acceptance of women preachers, speaking matter-of-factly about the minister’s wife, the Rev. Janet Hilley, who is serving as interim preacher at Trinity Presbyterian Church. Such expressions of feminism, although widely popular, are in direct opposition to the word of God.
The Bible clearly limits the role of women in the public worship of the church. Women are to keep silent in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34-35). They are not permitted to teach or exercise authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:11-15).
This is not to say that women are inferior to men, but it is a reflection of the roles that God intends for men and women. Within the relationship of marriage, the Bible teaches that the man is to exercise loving headship, and the woman is to manifest a spirit of respectful submission (Eph. 5:22-33).
Despite the limitations expressed in Scripture, there are many ways for a woman to serve God. First and foremost, she can labor together with her husband to raise her children up in the Lord. She can instill faith, love, holiness and self-control in the hearts of her children (1 Tim. 2:15). She can also actively teach other children in the Bible classes at church. She can follow the example of Aquila and Priscilla who took Apollos aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26). Older women can teach the younger women (Tit. 2:3-5). Like Lydia, she can show hospitality by opening her home to other Christians (Acts 16:14-15). Like those women who labored with Paul in the gospel, Christian women can assist evangelists, pastors, and teachers in countless ways (Phil. 4:2-3).
In this lesson, we have considered a rather humorous example of political correctness run amuck. However, the subject is not really all that funny when you consider the sad consequences that befall those who reject the authority of Scripture (John 12:48). It is unacceptable for us to simply do what is right in their own eyes (Deut. 12:8). It is unacceptable for us to follow the crowd in doing evil (Exod. 23:2). Realizing that we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give account of our doings, let us be faithful to the will of God (2 Cor. 5:10-11).
Guardian of Truth XLI: 17 p. 6-8
September 4, 1997