Re: communion 4/9


Prior to this assignment I had been growing increasingly uncomfortable with the manner in which Communion is typically “celebrated” in my evangelical tradition.  My experience of Communion has, honestly, been gloomy.  I have become discouraged by the paltry, stale individualistic squares of bread and the small shot glasses of grape juice.  I have become critical in my heart of the solemn march of the ushers, who remind me of pall-bearers at a funeral.  In the past few years, even as I have “officiated” over the ordinance, I have rarely felt liberated or uplifted through the breaking of Christ’s body and the pouring of his blood. Instead, I have felt oppressed and heavy, focusing on the shame of my sin and practicing an increasingly isolated expression of faith.  I resonate with Eleanor Kreider who suggests that the current “observance” of the Lord’s Supper among evangelical churches today carries “little resemblance to the meal that Christ celebrated with his disciples.[1]  Robert Webber adds a concurring comment:

“In many churches, the experience of eating at God’s table is sober, uninviting, tense, and boring.  The faithful… need a refreshing and joyous experience of the meaning of eating… There is a need to recapture the warmth of God, the joy of eating, the transfer of God’s power to our lives, the formation of community.  For it is here in this act of eating that the faithful will find their continual refreshment and sustenance in the food that, by the power of the Holy Spirit confirms faith in truth.”[2]

Thankfully, the biblical characteristics of the Lord’s Supper trump the western, evangelical tendency to accentuate the dirge.  For instance, we know and proclaim that the crucified Savior is now the Living Messiah, in the grave no longer!  Communion is much more than the first half of the Passover event.  The story did not end with the pouring of blood!  How could we demonstrably stop telling the second half?  Communion, as God so graciously re:minds us, involves eucharistic hope!  Communion with God and others is partaking in the re:telling of the Good News- which, by the way, is a story that concludes when eternity ends!

            Communion, thankfully, is so much richer than my poor spirit is able to grasp.  Communion reveals in actuality a treasure-trove of God’s grace.  Communion is a tangible, participatory, collective re:enactment of the deliverance and exodus we have each and all received from the hands of God himself.  Robert Webber describes Communion as “perhaps the most profound act in which we engage” ourselves in the church.  “Eating at God’s table,” Webber states, “brings into sharp focus everything one experiences during the entire journey to Christ and into the church.”[3]  That re:focusing action serves as a re:minder to us of Christ’s saving work as the Passover Lamb.  It is a re:telling of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Communion is a symbol whereby we participate in with other believers in the past work and future hope of our Savior.  It is, as Paul teaches the Corinthians, the receiving and participating “in the benefits” of the body and blood of Christ.[4]  And, oh, what benefits we share!  Communion invites us to re:member and re:embrace the fact that our servant-hearted God came to this earth and washed our sin away through his death on the cross and, subsequently, he extended to us the re:storation of our re:lationship with him.  As Vander Zee suggests:

“One of the most powerful aspects of this meal that we celebrate in memory of Jesus is that it re-members us.  We are lost in our sins, separated from God our Creator.  Our lives may be broken and troubled, our relationships sometimes full of tension or bitterness.  When we do this in remembrance of Jesus, when we take the bread and wine that are his body and blood and share them with each other, we are re-membering.  We find our identity again in that stream of shared memory that is the Christian story, anchored in Jesus’ cross and resurrection.  We are being put back together, reunited through Jesus with our Father in heaven, and united with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.”[5]

[1]               Kreider, Eleanor.  Communion Shapes Character (Waterloo, Ont: Herald Press, 1997), 20.

[2]               Webber, Robert E. Journey to Jesus: The Worship, Evangelism, and Nurture Mission of the Church. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2001), 188.

[3] Webber, 182.

[4] 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

[5]               Vander Zee, Leonard J., Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Recovering the Sacraments for Evangelical Worship (Downer’s Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 211-212.

One Comment

  1. i’m tracking with ya man….
    what if communion began to have the same affects which the OT feasts had; that people were re-membered through honest interaction with each other and God?
    what if, on a sunday morning, you had tables set up instead of chairs in rows…and what if you shared a meal together and re-membered…going over to your brother/sister and making peace…sharing how God has delivered you…what kind of experience would that be compared to the usual passing of the plates.
    i suppose one could argue that the simplicity and unfulfilling nature of the small piece of bread and shot of juice keep us humble; make us want more. But i think i’d rather come back to a table surrounded by people, not old doilies with stale bread on them.

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