Tag Archives: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Communion

I Attended the Jehovah’s Witness Virtual Memorial

CommunionPhoto

From David Weber on Unsplash

In my previous post, I lamented and gave a pep talk to myself (and you, I hope) about God being at work even when we’re being ghosted by Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the time, it seemed like I was waiting for something to happen.

Well, something happened.

The Covid virus happened.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ annual memorial this year was done on Zoom video chat. Out of the blue I received an invitation from a JW acquaintance who attends the kingdom hall that my long-time friend Mark attends. This acquaintance (whom I’ll call Gary) offered to help me download the Zoom app, and provided the meeting access code on the day of the event.

So here’s what happened.

I thought I would be able to observe people passing the elements, whether where the speaker was located (Florida), or with the people and families I saw on screen. But no. While I could see people on screen before and after the talk, they were all blanked out during the talk. All I could see was the talking head. And he gave people hardly any time to pass the elements among themselves. In fact, it was unclear when they were supposed to pass the bread. Passing the elements seemed like almost an afterthought.

The talk was the same that I have heard every dang time I have been to the memorial. Same four questions. If I remember them correctly: (1) How is the ransom provided, (2) Who benefits from the ransom, (3) Who should partake of the bread and wine, and (4) What more can we do to show our appreciation for the ransom. Point number 3 is always a thinly veiled warning against anybody but the anointed 144,000 taking the elements. Point 4 is an appeal to attend meetings, participate in ministry, and take in Bible knowledge.

After the meeting, attendees were allowed to greet each other, which was actually a really nice, casual affair, everyone saying hello to each other. They’re obviously lonely and bored, and this was a much-needed connection time for their members. At least the control-freaks allowed it. Thank God. I actually heard a couple of hellos directed toward me; I don’t know who it was, but several members of the congregation know me. I was pleasantly surprised.

I have yet to talk with Mark and Gary about the meeting. That will be the big payoff—the talking points that came from the experience. I’ve already asked Gary what they do with the bread and wine that serve as props for the meeting. He said they eat and drink it later. That’s so bizarre. But at least the bread and wine are not wasted. (I read somewhere that those who believe in transubstantiation, like the Roman Catholics, have to pour out unused wine onto the ground, because it has actually become the literal blood of Christ. That’s bizarre too.)

My planned talking points include: The opening song, “A Special Posession,” (song #25) which is the perfect example of so much that is wrong with the Watchtower doctrine. The whole song applies exclusively to the 144,000. That means that my friends are actually singing about a group they’re not a part of. The song goes on and on about the anointed being a new creation, spirit-anointed sons, a holy nation, God’s people, etc. The whole thing borders on idolatry, praising the anointed class of believers. Ugh, it’s so annoying. What’s also annoying is that visiting evangelical Christians would have no clue about the song’s true meaning, thinking it’s just a nice song about all believers. Again, Ugh. BTW, a fun thing to do if you’re at a meeting and they sing this song: Substitute in the word “we” for every place the song says “they.” Instant evangelical hymn! Watch for reactions of those around you.

Another talking point might be that the speaker specifically said that the Bible talks about “two hopes,” a heavenly hope and an earthly hope. Nowhere does the Bible say “two hopes.” In fact, it says that there’s “one hope” at Ephesians 4:4. Only. One. Hope.

The speaker also talked about the anointed being “in contract” with Jehovah, as Jesus expressed during the Lord’s supper, when he said “this cup is the New Covenant in my blood.” He did not say the rest of the sentence, where Jesus adds “for many for the remission of sins.” If the Great Crowd believers are not in the New Covenant, what covenant, if any, are they in? What is their “contract” with Jehovah?

Finally, the speaker mentioned Romans 8 to answer how the anointed know that they’re destined for heaven. Paul says that “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Verse 16) Watchtower applies this blessing exclusively to the 144,000. I hope to read all of Romans 8 with Mark and Gary and express to them my sadness, anger, and offense at how the governing bully denies all the blessings from virtually all their disciples. They are, however, expected to live up to all the exhortations in the Bible. Harumph.

I look forward to talking with Mark and Gary. Please pray that their hearts and minds will be open to the truth and the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

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Top Ten Topics to Discuss With Jehovah’s Witnesses #9: The Memorial

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From Pixabay

Next in my list of the top ten topics to discuss with Jehovah’s Witnesses is “The Memorial,” their version of what most Christians call Communion, Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper. JW’s celebrate the event only once a year, an attempt to be biblically accurate, using what they consider the proper date. Anyone who has been to one of their memorials will tell you how bizarre it is. Their two-class system of believers necessitates that only the elite “anointed class,” made up of only 144,000, will eat the bread and drink the wine; so you might see only one, or more likely none of the believers present eating and drinking. Almost all of those present will only pass the plate and cup up and down the rows, since they are there to only “observe” the ritual. As weird and depressing as that is, it provides the visiting Christian (you and me) great opportunities for conversation with them after the meeting.

Here are some of the questions I like to ask them:

“Jesus said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ What did he mean? Do what? It seems like you’re not doing what Jesus said to do. I don’t understand. Can you explain that to me?”

“If we’re only supposed to observe, why do we even touch the dishes? Shouldn’t they have the actual participants up front at that little table, and the rest of us watch from back here? It seems like you’re half participating in the ritual. If you’re only supposed to observe, it should be all or nothing, don’t you think?”

“The speaker quoted Jesus, where he said ‘Drink out of it, all of you, for this means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.’ (Matthew 26:27-28) Does that mean you’re not in the New Covenant? Aren’t your sins forgiven? If you’re not in the New Covenant, what covenant are you in?”

And here’s a more advanced question: “Did you know that the Watchtower likens the Great Crowd believers to the ‘foreign residents’ in the Old Testament? Did you also know that the foreign residents, once they committed to Jehovah, could participate in all the festivals and feasts, including the Passover? I’m sure you know that the Lord’s evening meal is the fulfillment of the Passover. So here’s what’s puzzling to me. Since the foreign residents could eat and drink at the Passover, why can’t the great crowd believers eat and drink at the memorial?”

I hope this list of questions provides you with good ideas and inspiration, rather than being overwhelming. If for simplicity I were to lump all these questions together into one, it would be “What’s up with your Memorial? It’s so different from what we do at my church. Can you explain it to me please?”

With any of these questions, I’m not so much looking for reasonable answers (because there really are none), but rather I’m wanting my JW friends to attempt to explain the bizarre ritual. Sometimes the best thing for them is to hear themselves attempting to explain their strange doctrines, and for them to see them from the perspective of an outsider. Once they attempt to explain things to you, then you have the opportunity to share with them what Communion means to you. So when you receive an invitation to their Memorial (or even if you don’t), attend and take advantage of the opportunity.

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Attending the Annual Jehovah’s Witness Memorial

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None of this was eaten or drank. Really, none. Crazy, right?

I’m trying to remember how many Jehovah’s Witnesses annual Memorials* I have attended.

*The Memorial, in JW-speak, aka “Lord’s Evening Meal,” is their annual communion service, celebrated only once per year. In the JW system, the ceremony carries the distinction of ritually passing the bread and wine without partaking, unless you can confidently claim to be one of the 144,000 anointed believers. Non JW’s find it bizarre to see a room full of people passing the plates and cups around without eating or drinking.

I have definite memories of having attended four times now, but there may have been more. The first time that I remember, I passed the dishes along with everybody else, watching the empty ritual in awe. I didn’t think anything of participating along with my JW friends, other than feeling silly not eating and drinking. But the second through fourth times, things were different. During my second experience, I felt like I couldn’t bring myself to touch the dishes. My thinking was that I’m either going to fully participate, including eating and drinking, or else what business do we have even touching the elements? If the “great crowd” believers (those who are not of the 144,000 anointed class) are there only to observe, then why don’t they really observe, as in watching a small group of anointed believers around a small table up front? That would make more sense. So that year I sat on my hands and shook my head when the ushers and those next to me tried to hand me the dishes. They had to reach past me to give them to the next person. I even whispered to the usher, an elder, “Are we allowed to smell them?” (What a smart-aleck I can be. It just slipped out. Oh, did I say that out loud?)

Okay, so the last two times I attended, which was experience numbers 3 and 4 for me (or 4 and 5 if there was another), my thinking changed again. I found that I couldn’t even sit with the JW’s while the symbols were being passed. When the ushers began to pass them, I had to get up and stand along the side wall of the room. I felt like I couldn’t be any part of the ritual. I was truly “observing” and not participating in any way, as they describe the roll of the great crowd class. And it was not me trying to “make a statement” or protest–I was compelled to get up and get away from the passing activity. If any of the JW’s noticed or took what I did as a statement, then so be it; but I just could not stay in my seat.

I had a similar experience a number of years ago at a Catholic mass. I just could not take the elements at that time and place either, because what the priest had said about what the ritual represented for them, did not align with what I believe about the practice.

I realize that some non-JW’s and former JW’s are led by God’s Spirit to attend the memorial and eat and drink, either as a statement of protest to the JW’s, or as an expression of their freedom in Christ. I applaud them. But so far the Lord has not led me to do that. Nor do I think it wrong to touch the dishes and pass them along, if that’s what the Lord would have you do. We are free in Christ to do any of those choices, and perhaps others. And who knows; maybe the Lord will have me do something different next year. Meanwhile, here are some choices for you for the next Memorial:

  1. Pass the plate and cup along with your JW friends. Advantage: They aren’t scandalized and will still talk with you after the meeting. You are keeping your relationship with them, and thus your witness to them, alive and thriving.
  2. Stay seated, but don’t pass the dishes. Advantage: They likely still won’t be scandalized, and might ask you why you did what you did. Witnessing opportunity!
  3. Get up and stand to the side or the back of the room. Advantage: Again, they might ask you about what you did.
  4. Stay seated and eat some bread and take a sip of wine. Disadvantage: They will likely be scandalized, will probably label you as an apostate or opposer, and not talk to you ever again. Possible advantage: There’s a slim chance that an already-questioning JW might ask you more about what you did, on the sly.
  5. Eat some bread and drink some wine, stand up and make a disruptive statement aloud. If that’s what the Lord leads, then do so. Jesus disrupted the money-changers in the temple more violently than that. I won’t judge. Just be sure it’s the Lord’s leading, and not your own ego. In fact, seek the Lord’s leading in all the above options.

In all cases, the best reason to be there in the first place is to have conversations with JW’s both before and after the meeting. It is perhaps the best opportunity all year long. The JW’s attending are excited to be there. (Why are they so excited about such a dull, empty ritual? Two reasons: weeks and weeks of classical conditioning and hype.)  And they want to know what you thought about the experience. They all (as in all, as in every single one) ask me if I enjoyed the meeting. Take advantage of the opportunity that the Lord has provided, and engage with them! God will use it to plant seeds in their hearts and minds.

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