I know I’m supposed to talk about what communion means to me, and I’ll get to that in a minute or two, but first if you’ll indulge me I think it’s worth it to unpack our scripture for the day a little bit. I like to think that I’m a smart and insightful guy, but let’s be honest here – I’m no Saint Paul of Tarsus!
In this epistle, Paul is laying forth his theology to the church that he had founded a few years earlier in the Greek city of Corinth. In his letter, Paul touches on a wide range of topics including, among other things, the nature of God’s wisdom, the relationship between church leaders and their congregants, how best to conduct worship service, and the institution of marriage and how it fits into a godly life.
Paul’s thoughts laid out here are so fundamental to our understanding of Christianity that several familiar bible passages originate from this book: “Love is patient, love is kind”, for example, “When I was a child I thought as a child” and so on. In fact, you would recognize the Words of Institution that Jonathan offers over the communion table every Sunday as being from First Corinthians chapter 11.
But running through all of that is a dominant theme: unity in Christ. And the context behind the letter makes it clear why this is so—the church in Corinth was a church in turmoil. As hard as it is to believe, the Corinthians were actually bickering among themselves about things that didn’t really matter! What’s more, the members of the church were forming cliques! Can you believe it? Who would do such a thing?
Well, it is fortunate for us that the Corinthians would. Because Paul had heard of their struggles and was moved to write to them, two thousand years later we have the benefit of insight through a written record into what he—possibly the most influential founding father of the young Christian movement—thought was most important in the life of a healthy church. And right up there is unity and togetherness as a community of believers.
And I think to a large degree that’s what Communion is to me. It’s right in the name, isn’t it? ‘Communion, Communal, Commune’. We individually are in communion with Christ, yes, but also with each other. Surely it was no accident that the very first communion was a meal Jesus shared with all of his disciples. Not just Peter—whom Jesus knew was destined to be the foundation on which his church would be built—not just James and John—who were with Jesus when he was betrayed in the garden—but all of the disciples.
And so it should be with us. Now, in my opinion the literal act of communion which we will perform here in a few minutes is a reminder and a symbol of something far greater than the simple elements that we consume. Obviously, they represent the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf on the cross. But implicit in that act of unbelievable selflessness is an attitude of service toward others and, yes, togetherness and unity.
After all, someone willing to die for another would surely also, say, give that person a ride to the doctor’s office. Or make a blanket to keep that person warm. Or cook that person dinner on the third Sunday of the month. Or hang out on a Friday morning and hand that person a donut. Or play in a softball game with that person. Or serve as a chaperone on a mission trip. Or decorate a car in the parking lot and pass out candy from the trunk. Or do any one of a thousand things that you can find members of this and other churches are doing for one another and for our communities and for others day in and day out. Not necessarily because we enjoy it, because oftentimes it’s an inconvenience. And not necessarily because it’s rewarding, because we might not even get a “thank you” for our efforts.
But rather we do these things to follow in the example set forth by Jesus Christ. He loved us and so we should love and serve each other.
Christ demonstrated his love for us on the cross. When we take communion, that’s a reminder of how deep love can be. A reminder that as Christians, it is our duty to be there for others and to be prepared to share that love with others. A reminder that no matter our differences, and though we are many, as Christians we come together as one body to serve the same God.
That’s what communion means to me.
What does communion mean to me? Over the last several weeks, I’ve really taken the time to reflect on this question and I’ve narrowed it down to three things that I’ll share with you now.
To me, Communion represents remembrance.
At a Sunday morning service, when I was a sassy four-year-old young lady, I helped myself to bread and juice when the trays were passed. My older brothers had been taking communion already and I decided it was my time to start. That evening during my bedtime prayers, my dad asked me about it, wanting to see if I understood what communion was or if I just helped myself to a mid-service snack.
He was impressed when I clearly explained the reenactment of the Lord’s Supper that I witnessed during a recent church performance and how Jesus said to eat and drink in remembrance of him. Needless to say, my dad wasn’t surprised when I marched up to the alter, by myself, later that year and confessed Jesus Christ.
Communion is a time to remember the sacrifices Jesus made for our sins and is also a reminder to me of my family and the role my parents played in helping me grow and mature in my faith.
To me, Communion represents Unity.
Communion literally means “sharing”. First Corinthians 10:17 says “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” In a world where our differences often divide, communion brings us to the same table and unites.
When I was in junior high, I got the opportunity to serve communion on a Sunday when the youth took over the service. I remember watching the deacons closely the weeks prior, wanting to pass those trays perfectly. What I didn’t anticipate as I was busy worrying about spilling juice or skipping a row, was the impact that serving communion would have on me.
As I watched each person take communion that day, I noticed that I felt closer to them, like I was a part of a personal moment within their Faith and that we were all united in this simple act.
I feel that privilege each Sunday I serve here in our church and am grateful for the opportunity to serve Christ and all of you in this way.
To me, Communion represents Peace.
I know you all can relate when I say that life is busy, right? And can be downright hard at times! When I take communion, I take this quiet moment and allow God to fill my heart with love and peace. It often feels like hitting a reset button for me and I’m renewed for the week ahead and whatever might come with it.
When cancer took my mother’s life eighteen years ago, I was fourteen years old and it was my faith that I turned to in moments if pain. When others were angry and asking why, I was filled with understanding, love and peace. Losing my mother much too early strengthened my relationship with the Lord.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve trained myself to take moments to pray in times I’m overwhelmed by stress and feeling too busy. I may not always be on my knees, or have my eyes closed, bowed head or hands together. Often, it’s while I’m driving, on the elevator at work rushing to a meeting, or even while I’m at the gym. Regardless, I often find myself reaching for that moment of peace. Taking communion weekly keeps my heart full and that peace close.
So what does communion mean to me?
To me, communion represents remembrance, unity and peace. The next time you take communion, perhaps you’ll remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, or maybe you’ll remember the first time you took communion. Maybe you’ll feel closer to your neighbor or maybe you’ll be welcoming a moment of peace. Regardless, I ask you to take some time to reflect on what communion truly means to you.
It took longer than I expected to actually write down what communion means to me in 800 words or less. It’s been a great exercise for me to focus and contemplate this question and I thank the Worship Team for the opportunity.
I was trying to remember the very first time I took communion and I must admit that I failed to extract that bit of information from my brain. That saddened me since it meant that it must not have had a significant impact on me at the time. I must not have understood its meaning.
I am now blessed to attend a Disciples of Christ church that recognizes the importance of that first time. Fifth graders spend about 5 hours with the pastor learning about the denomination and our beliefs so they have an understanding of and look forward to the day when they are baptized and take communion for the first time. It is a big deal as it should be.
So why is it a big deal to me?
There are several different settings in which I regularly take communion and one not so regular. Each has a unique feel and meaning in my spiritual journey.
Most frequently, of course, I take communion with all of you, my church family. Additionally, we invite any visitors to join us at the table. As in all Disciples churches, we welcome all believers. But at the same time thousands of others, our wider community, are also partaking of the bread and cup and this gives me a feeling of comfort and peace.
Less frequently, I take communion with a homebound member. First we’ll chat about a variety of things. I’ll share some recent news from the church. Then I’ll say a short prayer and we will take communion together. My hope is that it brings that member the same feeling of comfort and peace that I feel every week with my church family.
And once a year, I take communion as part of the Prayer Vigil. Although, I am usually alone in the chapel when I do so, it an especially impactful moment for me since I have spent the last 30 minutes or so in solitude, focusing on my relationship with God, reading the bible, reading devotions and praying in complete silence. When at last I rise and take the bread and cup, I feel extremely close to God. As many of you already know, this time of quiet reflection followed by the opportunity to take communion with only God present in the room is very powerful.
And lastly, a once in a lifetime communion supper for me was nearly 8 years ago.
I’m relatively sure that after my 2011 trip to Chile, I began to cherish the opportunity to take communion every week much more. Witnessing the taking of communion in a Pentecostal Church in Chile had a lasting effect on me. It was an extremely emotional experience. The entire service was beyond joyful. When they sing, they move, A LOT. They clap, they yell, they show their love for God. It was certainly not boring. They only take communion about once a year. Otherwise, they need special permission from the bishop, as they did when our delegation joined their service. There were many hugs and tears of happiness. For me tears are contagious so I felt even more a part of the wonderful celebration of the day that Jesus Christ died for our sins. To taste the sorrow and the sacrifice mixed with jubilation for the blessings bestowed upon us ever since that day. To know that our sins have been forgiven and God is ever present in our lives.