David Warnick, Author of Is There More?, on Communion and Easter

Is There More? Resurrecting Communion by David Warnick | Deep River Books

With Easter around the corner, we decided to catch up with our very own Deep River Books author David Warnick to hear his thoughts leading up to the holiday. David’s book, Is There More?, which released last September, serves as an invitation to practice the Lord’s Supper as the early church did. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: How do you think the form or emphasis of communion could be implemented this Easter?

A: I think it could be implemented by families and households within their homes. A key to me is that communion should connect us relationally not just with the Lord but with one another. This is difficult to do in a large setting and is more easily implemented in a home context. The spontaneity and informality of early community is lost in modern communion practice.

Q: How does your perspective dialogue with the idea of communion as a “mark of the church gathering”?

A: I think that there have been a lot of misapplications regarding Paul’s commands regarding communion. Paul’s key concern was that everybody would be involved, poor and rich, and was not focused on excluding seekers or those who had not been baptized. I recognize however that it is difficult for people to transition from thinking of it as a covenant meal to a meal that expresses a covenant that’s open to everybody.

Q: What passages do you find central to thinking about communion in the way you describe?

A: Acts 2:46 says that they broke bread with “gladness”. When I read this I’m like, “Gee, that doesn’t reflect what I see almost uniformly in my church experience.” Additionally 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 centers on the inclusivity of the communion meal, stressing that to not include or neglect partakers is to dishonor the meal.

Q: Where would you say your vision for communion aligns within different sects of the church?

A: I think of it as a third way outside of that implemented by the Catholic and Protestant churches. Just recently I heard my own pastor (within a Protestant church) introduce the meal by saying “this represents the body and the blood.” The problem is that’s not what it says. It says “this is my body.” We need to maintain the integrity of the Word if we (as Protestants) emphasize our belief in the Word. I believe this opens up the door for dialogue with the Pope and Catholic church leadership, because if we agree that this is the body of the Lord, can we also agree that we don’t need an ordained person to obey the Lord? Historically this has been the divide, namely the issue of apostolic succession and their requirement that someone be ordained to obey the Lord in the institution of this command.

Q: It sounds like you envision communion as a path to unity amid the schisms within the church. How do you think that communion can promote this?

A: I do think it can function in this way. I haven’t thought through all the ways it could do so, as that is beyond the scope of my book. That being said, one thing I hope for with the election of the new pope is that he would say that the Mass is open, rather than saying it is limited to those who have been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. At one time I was visiting a Roman Catholic School in Scotland, and with great joy and excitement the headmaster served us all communion. At the time I was so new in the faith, I had no idea how revolutionary this was.

Q: You mention in your book a story of someone who although an unbeliever, encounters Jesus for the first time through the communion meal. In your book this story is fictional, have you heard of this happening before?

A: Yes. In fact, the story you mentioned from the book was actually based on a person’s experience that I had read about. I conveyed it as fiction because the story’s purpose was to invite the reader to entertain the possibility, not to try and convince them on the spot. I think the main aspect that might make some pause, is that it wasn’t accompanied by preaching, outside of the words spoken over the elements. For me when hearing this story, it seemed apparent that if God had done it to one person, why couldn’t He do it to someone else?

Q: You argue for this idea of an “open table,” do you think that we should more intentionally frame the invitation to communion within a gospel presentation framework?

A: I am personally of the conviction that the Holy Spirit will guide you in those moments. There is a story I didn’t include in the book, although perhaps I should have.  I was leading a small group one night, during which a guest was with us who was from a Latter Day Saints background. As you may know, the Church of Latter Day Saints (i.e. the Mormon church) celebrates their communion with water instead of wine. So when speaking over the elements I intentionally emphasized the aspects of blood and wine so as to enhance his understanding, confronting his theological perspective but in a gentle way.

Q: One intriguing point you make is that communion should include children. Could you explain your thinking there?

A: Whether the Last Supper was a Passover meal, or a preliminary meal (and I address that question in the book) it was clearly in the context of Passover. The Passover ceremony to this day is all about children – the youngest child in the household who can read starts off the ceremony. The children search for the leaven to get it out of the house before the ceremony proceeds. Jesus wants children to come to Him, to be connected to Him – as the King James translation puts His words not long before the Cross: “Suffer the little children to come to me…” In my book, I point out that children have a better grasp of the mysteries of the kingdom of God than adults do – that’s why Jesus commends childlike faith. He said we need to approach God as children to get into His kingdom. Once we see communion occurring in the context of a meal together, we realize both how easy it is to include children and how awkward it is to exclude them.

Q: How would you encourage the average Christian layperson entering into the season of Easter?

A: I am so glad you asked this. I would encourage them to take initiative. To me, the Lord said “Do this in remembrance of me.” It’s an easy command, it’s not like “Love your enemies.” It’s simply, “Do this.” It doesn’t threaten any comfort zone, yet I find even in my own life how difficult it is to take initiative and to remember and draw to mind. So my encouragement is to look for that occasion where the whole family is together and initiate taking the cup and the bread together as well. Maybe even if you and some others are out for a meal, enjoying good conversation, and decide to stop and realize, “Jesus is here, let’s remember Him!” Additionally, Appendix 3 in my book does discuss how to initiate the Lord’s Supper in a larger setting.

We greatly valued getting to hear more from David heading into the Easter season, and him taking the time to share with us. If you have found his thoughts as valuable and interesting as we have, you can learn more from his book Is There More?