By Ricky King
Much has been written around the subject of Communion, or the Lord’s Supper if you prefer, in terms of its timing and frequency. Many books, scholarly journals, and blogs have addressed both the frequency and significance of this sacred memorial meal. Given that, I don’t think I can add anything new to that discussion, since I am not a theologian, so I will leave the scholarly debates to those more versed in Greek, Hebrew and Biblical history than I.
What I do know is that communion has become my favorite part of worship; it holds a dear and significant place in my heart.
Over the years, I’ve been in different churches, and have taken communion with believers in various cities around the U.S. as well as in foreign countries. In each place, something transcendent happens. Regardless of language barriers, economic status, or way of life, during this memorial celebration, each of us comes to a table individually, but leaves the table united with one another and with Christ. For a period of time, race, gender, classism, and political differences melt away, to be replaced by humility, love, brokenness, forgiveness, and acceptance. It’s a moment when heaven and earth collide, and we get a small glimpse of the future.
I love communion because it gives me a chance to honestly examine myself and my relationships with those whom God has placed within my reach. It’s a time for me to think about my relationship with God and the sacrifice Christ made for me. It’s a small and quick meal — symbolic of the Passover meal shared by the people of Israel, made of the most common staples available — bread and wine. Throughout scripture bread and wine are used to talk about hungering and thirsting, and as symbols of life and renewal. I’m hungry to experience the fullness of the bread of life, and I’m eager to drink of the new wine that Jesus promised us in scripture. The elements symbolize both death and newness of life. Bread, symbolizes life, and in its breaking, we see tremendous sacrifice. The wine symbolizes life, and renewal as well as the blood poured out for our sins. The paradox to all of this is that we gain life through the sacrifice of the perfect lamb, once and for all. This is a time to repent, reflect, and to celebrate. This is a time when the only thing that matters is acceptance and atonement. There is mercy and grace at this table.
The church I attend has made communion the centerpiece of our worship experience together. Each week, tables are set throughout the great hall. A simple cross sets at the center of each table, with the elements surrounding. We’ve come to refer to this time as “family communion.” As we enter this time in our worship, each of us gets up out of our seat and goes to a table. The conversations, hugs, and healing that takes place around these tables is a holy time. It’s a chance to look a brother or sister in the eye and tell them you are praying for them. Sometimes it’s a demonstration of forgiveness and healing. Sometimes we just stand beside one another with our arms over one another’s shoulders, knowing that we are on a journey toward a better place, strangers in a strange land, awaiting the coming of the bridegroom and feast that we will one day be invited. Sometimes, there are no words, just silent thoughts and prayers. We mourn our sins, yet we celebrate our redemption—it’s a bitter sweet experience to be sure.
I love communion because we have the opportunity to see others and ourselves through the eyes of Christ — wounded sojourners, made whole by the blood of the lamb. It forces me to look at myself and my motives, and accept others with compassion, humility, and forgiveness while being grateful to the God who so freely gives us all things.
Whether a church does communion on a quarterly, monthly, or weekly basis, it is my prayer that we not ever forget the significance of this holy meal, lest it lose its importance or transformational power. It should never become something we do and check off a list, but something we look forward to as we repent and celebrate; accept and forgive; and share Christ with one another. That’s why I love communion.