Early Anabaptist communion liturgy.
1. The brethren and sisters who wish to hold the table of the Lord according to the institution of Christ shall gather at a suitable place and time, so there may be no division, so that one does not come early and another late and that thereby evangelical teaching is neglected … Then they should prepare the table with ordinary bread and wine. Whether the cups are silver, wood, or pewter, makes no difference. But those who eat should be respectably dressed and should sit together in an orderly way without light talk and contention.
2. Since everyone should begin by accusing himself and confessing his sins and recognizing his guilt before God, it is not inappropriate that the priest first of all should fall on his knees with the church and with heart and mouth say the following words: ‘Father we have sinned against heaven and against thee. We are not worthy to be called thy children. But speak a word of consolation and our souls will be made whole. God be gracious to us sinners. May the almighty, eternal and gracious God have mercy on all our sins and forgive us graciously, and when he has forgiven us, lead us into eternal life without blemish or impurity, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.’
3. Now let the priest sit down with the people and open his mouth, explaining the Scriptures concerning Christ, so that the eyes of those who are gathered together may be opened, which were still somewhat darkened or closed, so that they may recognize Christ, who was a man, a prophet, mighty in works and teaching before God and all people, and how the highest bishops among the priests and princes gave him over to condemnation to death and how they crucified him, and how he has redeemed Israel, that is, all believers. The priest shall also rebuke those who are foolish and slow to believe all the things that Moses and the prophets have spoken, that he may kindle and make fervent and warm the hearts of those at the table, that they may be afire in fervent meditation of his bitter suffering and death in contemplation, love and thanksgiving …
On another day the servant of the Word make take the 10th or 11th chapter of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, or the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, or 17th chapter of John. Or Matthew 3 or Luke 3 on changing one’s life, Sirach 2 on the fear of God, or something else according to the opportuneness of the time and persons. No one shall be coerced herein, but each should be left free to the judgment of his spirit. But there must be diligence so that the death of the Lord is earnestly proclaimed, so that the people have a picture of the boundless goodness of Christ, and the church may be instructed, edified, and led, in heartfelt fervent and fraternal love, so that on the last day we may stand before the judgment seat of Christ with the accounts of our stewardship, and shepherd and sheep may be held together.
4. Now that the death of Christ has been proclaimed, those who are present have the opportunity and the authority to ask, if at any point they should have some misunderstanding or some lack, but not with frivolous, unprofitable, or argumentative chatter, nor concerning heavenly matters having to do with the omnipotence or the mystery of God or future things, which we have no need to know, but concerning proper, necessary, and Christian items, having to do with Christian faith and brotherly love. Then one to whom something is revealed should teach, and the former should be quiet without any argument and quarrelling …
5. Let the priest take up for himself the words of Paul…and say:
‘Let every one test and examine himself, and let him thus eat of the bread and drink of the drink. For whoever eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks a judgment upon himself, as he does not discern the body of the Lord. And if we thus judged ourselves, we would not be condemned by the Lord.’
Now such examination comprises the following: First, that one believes utterly and absolutely that Christ gave his body and shed his crimson blood for him on the cross…
Second: Let a person test himself, whether he has a proper inward and fervent hunger for the bread which comes down from heaven, from which one truly lives, and thirst for the drink which flows into eternal life, to eat and drink both in the spirit, faith and truth, as Christ teaches us …
Third: Let one also confirm himself in gratitude, so as to be thankful in words and deeds toward God for the great, overabundant, and unspeakable love and goodness that he has shown him through his most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. .. Further, that he be of an attitude and ready will to do for Christ his God and Lord in turn as he had done for him. But since Christ does not need our good deeds, is not hungry, is not thirsty, is not naked or in prison, but heaven and earth are his and all that is in them, therefore he points us toward our neighbour, first of all to the members of the household of faith, that we might fulfil the works of this our gratitude toward them physically and spiritually…
Fourth: So that the church might also be fully aware of a person’s attitude and will, one holds fellowship with her in the breaking of bread, thereby saying, testifying, and publicly assuring her, yea, making to her a sacrament or a sworn pledge and giving one’s hand on the commitment that one is willing henceforth to offer one’s body and to shed one’s blood thus for one’s fellow believers…
This is the true fellowship of saints. It is not a fellowship for the reason that bread is broken, but rather the bread is broken because the fellowship has already taken place and has been concluded inward in the spirit, since Christ has come into flesh…
6. Since now these ceremonies and signs have to do completely and exclusively with fraternal love, and since one who loves his neighbour like himself is a rare bird, yea even an Indian phoenix on earth, who can sit at the supper table with a good conscience? Answer: One who has thus taken to heart and has thus shaped himself in mind and heart and senses inwardly that he truly and sincerely can say, ‘The love of God which he has shown to me through the sacrifice of his only begotten and most beloved Son for the payment of my sins, of which I have heard and been certainly assured through his holy Word, has so moved, softened, and penetrated my spirit and soul that I am so minded and ready to offer my flesh and blood, furthermore so to rule over and so to master it, that it must obey me against its own will, and henceforth not take advantage of, deceive, injure, or harm my neighbour in any way in body, soul, honour, goods, wife, or child, but rather go into the fire for him and die, as Paul also desired to be accursed for his brethren and Moses to be stricken out of the book of life for the sake of his people.’ Such a person may with good conscience and worthiness sit at the Supper of Christ…
7. Since now believers have inwardly surrendered themselves utterly to serve their fellow members in Christ at the cost of honour, goods, body, and life, yea even to offer their souls for them to the point of hell with the help of God; therefore, it is all the more needful sincerely to groan and pray to God that he may cause the faith of these new persons to grow, also that he may more deeply kindle in them the fire of brotherly love, so that in these two matters, signified by water baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they might continually grow, mature, and persevere unto the end.
Here shall now be held a time of common silence, so that each one who desires to approach the table of God can meditate upon the suffering of Christ and thus with Saint John rest on the breast of the Lord. After such silence the ‘Our Father’ shall be spoken publicly by the church, reverently, and with hearts desirous of grace…
8. Now the priest shall point out clearly and expressly that the bread is bread and the wine is wine and not flesh and blood, as has long been believed. Whoever now desires to eat of this bread and drink of the drink of the Lord’s Supper, let him rise and repeat with heart and mouth the following pledge of love:
Brothers and sisters, if you will to love God before, in, and above all things, in the power of his holy and living Word, and serve him alone, honour and adore him and henceforth sanctify his name, subject your carnal and sinful will to his divine will which he has worked in you by his living Word, in life and death, then let each say individually: I will.
If you will love your neighbour and serve him with deeds of brotherly love, lay down and shed for him your life and blood, be obedient to father, mother, and all authorities according to the will of God, and this in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down and shed his flesh and blood for us, then let each say individually: I will.
If you will practice fraternal admonition toward your brethren and sisters, make peace and unity among them, and reconcile yourselves with all those whom you have offended, abandon all envy, hate, and evil will toward everyone, willingly cease all action and behaviour which causes harm, disadvantage or offense to your neighbour, [if you will] also love your enemies and do good to them, and exclude according to the Rule of Christ all those who refuse to do so, then let each say individually: I will.
If you desire publicly to confirm before the church this pledge of love which you have now made, through the Lord’s Supper of Christ, by eating bread and drinking wine, and to testify to it in the power of the living memorial of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ our Lord, then let each say individually: I desire it in the power of God.
So eat and drink with one another in the name of God the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. May God himself accord to all of us the power and the strength that we may worthily carry it out and bring it to its saving conclusion according to his divine will. May the Lord impart to us his grace. Amen.
9. The bishop takes the bread and with the church lifts his eyes to heaven, praises God and says:
‘We praise and thank thee, Lord God, Creator of the heavens and earth, for all thy goodness toward us. Especially hast thou so sincerely loved us that thou didst give thy most beloved Son for us unto death so that each one who believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life. Be thou honoured, praised and magnified now, forever, always and eternally. Amen.’
Now the priest takes the bread, breaks it, and offers it to the hands of those present, saying:
‘The Lord Jesus, in the night in which he was betrayed, took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and said: “Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in my memory.” Therefore, take and eat also, dear brothers and sisters, this bread in the memory of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he gave unto death for us.’
Now when everyone has been fed, the priest likewise takes the cup of wine and speaks with lifted eyes:
‘God! Praise be to thee!’
and offers it into their hands, saying:
‘’Likewise the Lord Jesus took the vessel after the Supper and spoke: “This cup is a new testament in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me.” Take therefore also the vessel and all drink from it in the memory of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins.’
When they have all drunk, the priest says:
‘As often as you eat the bread and drink of the drink, you shall proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.’
Now the church is seated to hear the conclusion.
10. Most dearly beloved brethren and sisters in the Lord. As we now, by thus eating the bread and drinking the drink in memory of the suffering and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins have had fellowship one with another, and have all become one loaf and one body, and our Head is Christ, we should properly become conformed to our Head and as his members follow after him, love one another, do good, give counsel, and be helpful to one another, each offering up his flesh and blood for the other. Under our Head Christ we should all also live, speak, and act honourably and circumspectly, so that we give no offense or provocation to anyone. So that also those who are outside the church might not have reason to blaspheme our head, our faith, and church, and to say: ‘Does your head Christ teach you such an evil life? Is that your faith? Is that your baptism? Is that your Christian church, Supper, and gospel, that you should lead such an ungodly and shameful life…?’ Woe, woe to him who gives offense! It would be better for him that a millstone should be hung around his neck and he should be cast into the depth of the sea. Let us rather take upon ourselves a righteous, honourable, and serious life, through which God our Father who is in heaven may be praised.
Since our brotherly love requires that one member of the body be also concerned for the other, therefore we have the earnest behest of Christ, that whenever henceforth a brother sees another erring or sinning, that he once and again should fraternally admonish him in brotherly love. Should he not be willing to reform nor to desist from his sin, he shall be reported to the church. The church shall then exhort him a third time. When this also does no good, she shall exclude him from her fellowship. Unless it should be the case that the sin is quite public and scandalous; then he should be admonished also publicly and before all, so that the others may fear.
Whereupon I pray and exhort you once more, most dearly beloved in Christ, that henceforth as table companions of Christ Jesus, you henceforth lead a Christian walk before God and before men. Be mindful of your baptismal commitment and of your pledge of love which you made to God and the church publicly and certainly not unwittingly when receiving the water and in breaking bread. See to it that you bear fruit worthy of the baptism and the Supper of Christ, that you may in the power of God satisfy your pledge, promise, sacrament, and sworn commitment. God sees it and knows your hearts. May our Lord Jesus Christ, ever and eternally praised, grant us the same. Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters, watch and pray lest you wander away and fall into temptation. You know neither the day nor the hour when the Lord is coming and will demand of you an accounting of your life. Therefore watch and pray. I commend you to God. May each of you say to himself, Praise, praise, praise to the Lord eternally! Amen.
Arise and go forth in the peace of Christ Jesus. The grace of God be with us all.
This extract is taken from Wayne Pipkin & John Yoder, Balthasar Hubmaier (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1989), pp393-408.