Communion 5

Acts 2:46-47

One of our pastors from years ago asked about ways that we as a church could do more together. The first response was “pot-luck dinners.” This suggestion was not well received, but after some thought I realized how important shared meals can be.

With these meals we share a common space and a common time, spending time together as a community of worshipers. We also share of ourselves, preparing food that is intended to be distributed among many. It may seem superficial but carry-in dinners can be a way to achieve fellowship and a way for all of us to be made aware of the sacrificial attitude Christians should have.

The Book of Acts is an accounting of the very early church and the things (acts) they did. What did the believers do? What was their attitude? What was the result?

I am not advocating that covered dish dinners are the solution to all church problems, nor do I assert that these are a replacement for witnessing for Christ in the world.

But, as we look at the early church, we can see that sharing times of worship AND sharing meals was a wonderful way to build the church and strengthen the body of believers. The key is that these common or shared meals were a part of the worship. Bread was broken – a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice – and food was shared. But the attitude is key.

The people who shared this time of communing together did it with glad and sincere hearts. They celebrated the generosity of one another and took pleasure in one another’s gifts – a reminder of God’s abundance.

The result was that the church grew. More and more people were saved, hearing the good news of salvation through Jesus.

We are to take the same attitude in the rite of Holy Communion in worship. It is a celebration. It is still a part of worshiping God. It is an opportunity to join together with one another both physically and in spirit and celebrate the good news of salvation.

It is a reminder of God’s abundant table – not just of the physical needs which are met, but also the spiritual ills which are healed.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Will you have a glad and sincere heart during Communion? Will you praise God for His favor?

Communion 4

Luke 22:14-20

When our children were much younger they were part of a weekly program at a local church. Each Wednesday we would drop them off for the program and then join our friends (who also dropped off their kids) for dinner. My wife and I loved those dinners. It was a chance to relax and enjoy companionship with people we cared about.

We need to remember that Holy Communion is an opportunity to be in spiritual communion with our Lord and Savior, a chance for that time of intimate companionship with Christ.

Luke’s version of the Last Supper varies from the previous two (Matthew 26:26-29 and Mark 14:22-25). What is the first thing Jesus tells his disciples? What does he do next? What does he say about the bread? What does he say about the second cup?

Luke’s version has a first cup, a cup of wine that is blessed before Jesus takes the bread and wine that we are so familiar with in Communion. This can be somewhat confusing, but the Seder meal, or Passover meal, has many rituals and symbolic elements.

One of the rituals involves four glasses of wine at specific points during the meal. From my estimation, this first cup of wine in Luke is actually the second cup of wine from the Seder meal. This is the Cup of Sanctification. It is a cup used to bless the meal.

By taking up this cup and having it divided among the disciples, Jesus is sanctifying, or blessing, this gathering. He is making the meal holy. This act of sharing and of explaining the sacrifice he was about to make was consecrated, made holy.

Another aspect of this version of the Last Supper is the opening comment from Jesus. “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.” He is very open with the fact that he wants to be in the company of these people who are so close to him. He desires – not just a little, but eagerly – to be in their company.

The same is true of us. Christ eagerly desires to be in the company of us. He eagerly desires to share the broken body of his sacrifice and the cup of salvation with each one of us. We should eagerly desire to come to the table of the Lord and be in communion with the Holy Spirit.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you become eager to share in this encounter with Christ?

Communion 3

John 6:48-51

We are very excited by the fact that a Panera Bread has opened near our home. For Mother’s Day we even bought a loaf of fresh, country style bread and sliced it up as part of our brunch after church. It didn’t last long.

As much as we enjoy this bread, there is a better bread that is offered to nourish each one of us spiritually. What is Jesus? What does he remind the Jews about? What type of bread is Jesus?

Obviously, Jesus is speaking metaphorically. He is not truly made of wheat or rye. He is not literally a piece of bread.

Instead, this comparison is a foretaste of what he will do during the Last Supper with his disciples. He is comparing himself with bread.

Why bread? I believe it is because bread is such a mainstay in almost every diet of almost every culture throughout the world. It is one of the basic foods that we as people eat. It is a basic food that keeps us going.

But Jesus points out that even the Jews with Moses in the desert were given a type of bread – manna – something special from God to keep them going. Yet even this special gift from God was not enough to keep the people alive forever.

Only Jesus is the bread of life. Only Christ is that basic component for us, something that gives us strength and nourishment, not for our bodies, but for our souls.

If we can feed on Jesus – that is, if we can follow his teachings and imitate his life, if we can make him a basic part of who we are and how we live and love – then we can find that everlasting sustenance from God.

Jesus points out that his flesh, his physical body, was like bread. It was meant as something real and tangible that was broken for us. His flesh was broken as a sacrifice for us so that we may have eternal life. But to achieve this holiness, this sanctification, we must feed on Christ, symbolically, taking him into us and making him a part of us on a daily basis.

The bread of life, Jesus himself, is a gift from the abundant table of the Lord.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you feed on Jesus every day?

Communion 2

1 Corinthians 11:27-32

I sometimes find myself eating things out of habit rather than out of hunger. There are times where I sit down to watch television and immediately get out a bag of chips even though I don’t really crave them. I eat and then ask myself why I did it. I wasn’t hungry. I ate because I always eat chips when I watch television.

We can all fall prey to this activity of habit or ritual even in religious matters. Continuing in 1 Corinthians we have Paul’s teaching on Communion.

What is wrong with taking part in Communion in an unworthy manner? What should we do? What are we doing when we take part in Communion without spiritual preparation? What were the Corinthians experiencing? What is God’s judgment?

Holy Communion can be one of those rituals in the church service which can easily lose its meaning. Our church celebrates Communion only about five times a year in an attempt to keep it from becoming a ritual without substance.

But even celebrating Communion only a few times a year can be meaningless if we as participants do not allow the ceremony to hold meaning.

Taking part in Communion is not an opportunity for a person to go along with the crowd. People in the service should not feel compelled to take part if their heart is not open and receptive to the working of the Holy Spirit.

Communion is a time for exactly what it is called – communion – a time of sharing time and space on a spiritual level with God. This is a time of being in the presence of our Lord and connecting on a personal, spiritual level with the Almighty.

If we are taking part in Communion only to be a part of the service, or out of habit, then we are taking part in an unworthy manner. If your time during Communion is occupied with thoughts outside of God – thoughts of what you have planned for the day, thoughts of work, thoughts of what others are doing and saying – then you are taking part in an unworthy manner.

Communion is a time to recall the sacrifice of Christ. It is a time to symbolically invite the Holy Spirit to join with you in a time of holiness and reverence. It is a time to offer yourself humbly to God and accept His transforming power and His leading.

To prepare for the celebration of Communion we must first judge ourselves. Where are we spiritually? How do we feel about God? How do we feel about our faith?

When we are emotionally and spiritually ready, when our hearts are in the right place and we have the right attitude, then we can partake of this holy moment.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you prepare now for the next celebration of Holy Communion?

Communion 1

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

As our oldest child learns to drive I have ridden with him on several occasions, offering instructions on how to watch traffic, when to accelerate, when to begin breaking, and so on. I received most of this instruction from my own father. I imagine he received his instructions from his father, my grandfather. I imagine my son will pass on this training to any children he will have.

The knowledge, the training, the instruction, the tradition, is passed on from one generation to the next.

Paul is writing to the church at Corinth and offering his own instructions on what we have come to call Holy Communion. Where did Paul get this information? What did Jesus do and say? What is the bread? What is the cup? When we take communion what are we doing?

The practice of Eucharist, Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper is a very holy and sacred moment for many people. This is a time of quiet reflection, a time of soft music, a time of handing over oneself to the mystery of God. It is a time of recalling the sacrificial love of Jesus, and also of taking this Spirit of Christ into ourselves to be a part of who we are.

Holy Communion is that time when we can physically go through the actions of that Seder meal which took place in the upper room. We are remembering by doing, recalling the actions by imitating them. This is a way of teaching, a way of passing on instruction from generation to generation. And I think this ritual is so treasured and so holy because we are doing precisely what Jesus himself did – almost literally going through the same actions as Jesus.

As we go through the breaking of the bread, the drinking from the cup, we are enacting what happened with Christ and the disciples. We become a living witness to all who participate with us, especially the younger generations in attendance with us. We are also a living witness to others around us and even to ourselves.

By participating in the act of Holy Communion we are keeping the tradition alive, re-enacting the holy events of that last week of Christ. And in so doing we are teaching others and we are proclaiming the death of Christ – telling others about the sacrifice that he made. And we will continue to practice this tradition and ritual from generation to generation, until the day Christ returns.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What does Holy Communion mean to you?