This coming weekend, as we gather online, we’ll celebrate communion, a sacrament the worldwide Church has celebrated together for thousands of years. What is communion, and why do we keep coming back to it?
The gospels tell the story of Jesus’ final meal with His 12 closest friends – His disciples – just hours before He was crucified. As He tried to prepare them for the sacrifice He was about to make for them – for us – He gave them the symbol of what we call communion, as a way to tangibly remember – and He asked them to do so regularly. Though we don’t gather in the same room, though each of us collects our own symbols of remembrance, communion is still something we do together. So, let’s take a look at communion together.
Here are some communion thoughts from Pastor James.
Keep reading for the written version!
Look back to remember. That’s what Jesus told us to do. At the meal, as He broke bread He said,
“This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24–26, NIV)
We remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. We remember He died for our sins. We remember that because of Jesus we are forgiven and made new. We don’t just remember in our minds. We remember in our actions, in this meal that Jesus gave us. Look back.
Look within. Jesus said that this meal represents a new covenant, made in His blood. In Jesus‘ culture that’s how deals were made – usually with an animal sacrifice. It showed people were serious.
Sin is a serious business. We are seriously messed up. And Jesus came to rescue us. Came to bring us home to God again. He makes this new covenant, one promised so very long ago to God’s people
“The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:31–33, NIV84)
Are you a member of the new covenant community? Have you confessed your sin? Have you received the gift of faith? Have you said yes to Jesus? Are you following Him? Look within and respond to Jesus’ invitation.
And we look around. Why? Well, we’re not alone. This is a meal we share with others, even online.
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17, NIV)
All those grapes crushed together to make a bottle of wine. All those grains of wheat crushed and bound together to make a loaf of bread. All of us, individual people, joined together to make up the Body of Christ. It’s why we need to look around.
Communion is never a solitary or individual act. It’s something we participate in together as the Body of Christ. We discern the Body of the risen Lord Jesus who is our host and also the body of believers here at FAC of which we are a part.
Jesus is the one who reached out to us when we were far from God. It’s time to reach out to each other. Maybe we’re still working on strained relationships – but we’re working, and that’s what matters. We don’t give up. Because this is the place where we find the grace to help us keep on going. So, look around. Maybe call someone today.
Looking forward unites the past with the future, for we do this “till He comes.” Jesus said this at the Last Supper:
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, He gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:15–18, NIV)
He’s telling His friends that this meal is but a glimpse of a much greater meal to come. And when we see Jesus face-to-face there will be no need for this meal any more, because we’ll be with Him. There’s a place reserved with your name on it!
But in the meantime, we look forward. Do you know what that means? It means this meal is infused with hope. Sometimes life feels confusing, and complicated. We’re surrounded by chaos and uncertainty. Little seems predictable. But this meal tells us of another future, a better future. This meal tells us of the end of the story. This meal tell us that God wins! This meal is a celebration! So look forward with anticipation.
Looking now can mean that we observe the ritual, hear the words, eat and drink. There’s nothing wrong with that. Ritual matters – we wash our hands when we go to the bathroom! But ritual also has a weakness – it can mean everything or it can mean nothing. Is shaking hands an act of genuine friendship or just the expected thing? So too with this ritual of sharing this simple meal … It could mean everything or it could mean nothing.
We look now because there’s a strange and mysterious sense in which Jesus is really present to us in this meal. It’s why we call it communion – we are participating in the very life of the risen Lord Jesus. And so we receive these signs of bread and wine in faith that what they signify is true and that we really are participating in the life of Jesus. We look now at Jesus.
So, as you participate in this weekend’s service, take a few minutes to gather together simple symbols from your own pantry or fridge for this meal of remembrance – a few crackers or morsels of bread, some juice or milk or water … It doesn’t so much matter what symbols you choose as that we choose to remember together. And as we share this meal wherever we are, take a good look:
• Look back and remember Jesus.
• Look within and respond to Jesus’ invitation.
• Look around at your brothers and sisters you are sharing the meal with.
• Look forward to the great final party Jesus has invited you to.
• Look now – because Jesus is really present here with us.
At FAC we celebrate communion together approximately once a month. Connect with us on social media to be reminded when a communion weekend is coming up! Pastor James speaks to these communion ideas here.