A Scottish Communion Season

We have just finished our communion season in Knock & Point, a high point of the church calendar in traditional Scottish Presbyterianism. The season is, of course, a tradition, rather than a form of observance specifically directed by Scripture. However, it is a tradition based on experience, and on pastoral wisdom, and when followed carefully brings rich blessing.

Thursday: Humiliation

The Communion Thursday is known as the ‘Fast Day’. It is not kept as a fast from food; indeed the whole weekend is traditionally a time of hospitality, feasting and fellowship. Rather, the day is a fast from the world. The theme is Humiliation, i.e. acknowledgment of personal sin, confession and repentance, and this is the focus of the services.

The morning service is conducted in Scottish Gaelic. This is the only service of the weekend in this language, partly due to the declining knowledge of the language – only about half the members of our congregation are fluent speakers – and partly due to the very limited number of ministers available who can preach in Gaelic. Based on my rather distant memories of High School Gaelic, I can just about sing along with the Gaelic praise (a unique musical form, indescribably beautiful when done well), but the sermon is above my comprehension, and I just had to reflect on the given text (Amos 3:2) in the English version.

The evening was an exposition of Jeremiah 50:4-5 (headings: Wept before the Lord; Sought the Lord; Renewed Covenant with the Lord), thoughtful and experimental, bringing us to repentance in preparation for communion with the Lord.

Friday: Self-Examination

The Friday is for examination of yourself in light of the marks of grace identified in Scripture, to determine whether your place is at the Table on Sabbath, as one professing to know the Lord, or not. The morning service on Philippians 3:3 brought before us the following characteristics of God’s people: They worship in the Spirit; they rejoice in Christ Jesus; they have no confidence in the flesh.

The evening meeting is a unique aspect of the Scottish sacramental tradition, the Question Meeting. First, a text of Scripture is proposed as a ‘Question’, and is exegeted without prior preparation by the senior minister. Then a number of Christian men, usually senior men from visiting congregations, are called to speak of their own experience of God’s grace in their lives in the light of this text. This time, our question was the highly suitably text, Romans 6:22: ‘But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.’

Saturday: Preparation

The Saturday is for preparation to enjoy communion with Lord in the sacrament. The text was Exodus 33:18: ‘And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.’ The preacher discussed the appeal for God’s glory, the showing of that glory, and how it was shown, applying it to our desire for a sight of the Lord at his table. After the morning service is the distribution of the tokens for intending communicants. This I found an intensely moving experience, as I shook hands with each professing believer in my congregation and gave them their token for admission to the Lord’s Table.

Later on the Saturday is a prayer meeting for God’s Presence on the Sabbath.

Sabbath: Celebration

The Sabbath morning is a lengthy and deeply solemn service of worship. First the minister preaches, usually with a focus on the work of Christ and His achievement of salvation. Our text was in the highly appropriate words of Hebrews 10:10: ‘By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.’ Then the minister ‘fences’ the Table, by identifying who should come forward, and then proceeds to give that invitation. At the Table, he gives an address to direct our thoughts to the Lord, and to communion with Him, and follows the Biblical pattern of 1 Corinthians 11 in the administration of the sacrament.

The Sabbath evening service has an evangelistic focus, addressing primarily those not professing Christ. Our preacher gave us a moving, heartfelt message from Mark 5:41: ‘And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.’

Monday: Thanksgiving

The Monday evening service is an opportunity to return thanks to the Lord for the blessings of the weekend, and to direct our minds to the privileges that lie ahead for the believer. The text was again deeply appropriate: ‘But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept’ (1Co 15:20).


Overall, it was a tiring, busy weekend, with lots of visitors for meals, and fellowships going on late into each evening. But it was also an encouraging occasion, a chance to hear different preachers, to enjoy the company of the many visitors swelling our congregation to more than twice its usual size. Above all, it was an opportunity to meet with God in the Word and in the Sacrament, and for that, as a congregation, we are deeply thankful.

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