Friday, March 10, 2017

On Communion

I've been thinking about the Lord's Supper lately. The church I attend serves Communion every week; others do it less often. We line up at the end of the service to take a piece from one member's homemade bread and dip it in grape juice; some churches pass around small wafers and tiny plastic cups. There are other ways of doing it and I have absolutely nothing against any of them. I wonder, though, if the Church has missed out on something greater. I believe the Lord intended much more than an occasional bit of bread and a sip of wine or juice.

Aside from the actual event described in the Gospels, I suspect the most frequently quoted verses regarding Communion are the instructions given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11. Several key phrases stand out: "this bread," "this cup," "in remembrance of me." We're told the bread specifically symbolizes the broken body of Christ and that the wine specifically symbolizes His blood and the new covenant He purchased. We are to remember Christ's life, death, and resurrection and look forward to His return.

Over the course of time, "breaking bread" has come to mean having a meal with someone. That understanding may actually originate with the Lord's Supper; I don't know. I do know a meal is a time of food, fellowship, family, and friendship. Storytelling and getting to know one another over food that is, hopefully, a delight to all in attendance. So, what does "this bread" refer to? Is it only the leaven-free loaves shared that one day in Jerusalem? Or is it any bread, any meal? "Taste and see, for the Lord is good," admonishes the psalmist (34:8). Jesus said of Himself that He came "eating and drinking," and he often had meals with "tax collectors and sinners" (Luke 7:34, among others). May I suggest that "this bread" could be a pizza or a plate of smoked brisket with Texas toast, shared among friends? It’s worth considering.

What about the wine? The issue of Christians and alcohol has been argued, often angrily, or at least with great passion, for centuries. A friend recently summed his thoughts on the consumption of alcohol this way: "It should be used to make a good day better, never to make a bad day worse." However, that is not the subject of this article. I only wish to explore Communion. Jesus used wine; some churches today use juice. The symbolism is what matters most. Crushed grapes, fermented over time, become wine; a peaceful teacher was beaten to an unrecognizable pulp before being hanged on a Roman cross. He revealed Himself to be the Savior of humanity in a way only God expected, and it had been a long time for His plan to unfold. Wine makes one merry; the shed blood of Christ makes one right with God, putting an end to the misery of sin and uncorking the joy of salvation. Hmm... Wine is drink which makes a meal an even more cheerful gathering. A hot cup of coffee or a cold Dr Pepper, depending on the time of day, does it for me. Gatorade after an intense workout? Recuperative, replenishing, refreshing. So too is the comfort of Holy Spirit, the absolute best part of the new covenant.

"In remembrance of me" is, in my opinion, the single most important part of Jesus' and Paul's instructions for Communion. Eating and drinking are necessities for basic survival, but remembering what Christ did is absolutely essential for a robust, satisfying spiritual life. Without him, our lives have no purpose. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. A vapor in the wind. As we remember Him, we must honor the truth in the Bible and acknowledge the presence of Holy Spirit in our lives. This can be done alone but is best accomplished in the presence of other believers. "Iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17). Don't forget to get together, encourage one another in love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25, paraphrased). Remember that Jesus shared His last meal with beloved friends. There was singing, foot washing, and teaching; there was celebration, service, and learning. Our gatherings should be similar as we "do all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 31). That same verse begins with eating and drinking. Interesting.

In conclusion, I believe a weekly nibble of King's Hawaiian and an ounce of Welch's are good, ceremonial reminders of what Jesus has done. He doesn't want just ceremony though; He wants our lives. He already gave us His abundant life, and He wants to be involved in every aspect of ours, to be a partner in every conversation, and to have a seat at all of our tables. So, have a cookout with your friends or go to a coffee shop on a Saturday morning. Bring your love for one another. Share stories of how Jesus has been working in your life. Discuss the Word. Eat, drink, and remember. Have Communion.

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