Yesterday David Kneip led us in communion by giving us a better understanding of this time in our worship. It was a Communion 101 so to speak. I thought the organization and thoughts were brilliant! I have decided to include them here:
Communion Comments, 3-2-08
This is the time in which we share in something that goes by various names, but which we here most often call “Communion.” What we’re going to do is pass around some trays of bread and grape juice, and everyone is invited to have some. Even if this is your first time – you’re invited. Now, if you’ve only been with us a couple of times, you may not yet have noticed that we share in Communion every Sunday. That makes us like some churches you may know, and unlike other ones. But because we do this every week, Communion can potentially become stale, or rote, and so I’d like to share with you a bit of our thoughts about this activity – about why this is so important for followers of Jesus in general and for us specifically. Keep in mind that these are all parts of what we do – no single one is the whole – and they’re all important.
1) At its most basic level, this time is simply a little meal. The Bible says that the early church shared in the “breaking of bread” – in other words, they ate together. As the church grew, people began to meet together in homes, and when they ate, they set aside a specific time to remember Jesus . The importance of this is that it emphasizes how God works so often with common things – bread and wine.
2) But the church and the Bible also speak of this time as the “Eucharist,” a term you may have heard which is from a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving.” In this time we give thanks to God for the sacrifice of Jesus, and this is important because it reminds us constantly of Jesus’ death for us.
3) The Bible also calls this time “Communion,” like we do – it means that we have something in common. It reminds us that we share our lives with God, and with each other; this is important because it emphasizes our sharing things together.
4) The reason we remember Jesus’ death specifically in this time is that we trace these specific actions – eating bread and drinking wine – to Jesus’ Last Supper – the meal he ate with his disciples the night before he died. It was bread and wine then, too. In doing what he did with his disciples, we remember him, and we also remember that we didn’t make this up on our own – Jesus instituted it for us, and that’s why it’s sometimes called the “Lord’s Supper.”
5) But Jesus didn’t make it up, either – he was celebrating Passover, a Jewish holiday, at that Last Supper. The things we do here actually go back over a thousand years before Jesus to God’s original deliverance of his people from slavery. This is important because it reminds us that our roots are actually in Judaism, and they are very old.
6) But we don’t only look back at this time – we also look forward. Jesus, and the Book of Revelation in the Bible, both speak of the time when God will renew everything in the world as, in part, a great banquet. In this time, we anticipate that banquet by warming up our palates, so to speak.
7) Finally, this is sometimes called the “Mass,” especially in the Catholic churches with which many of us have had different kinds of contact. The word “Mass” didn’t originally mean “Communion”; it means something about “being sent out.” And that’s important, too, because another way the Church has looked at Communion is as spiritual food – energy for the mission God has called us to, that he sends us out to.
Now, if you’re keeping count, you’re going, “Dude, that’s like seven different things! How am I supposed to keep them all in my head at once?!?” I know that there may be one or two of those images that will resonate with you more than the others – so first of all, I’d say focus on those. But at the same time, I’d challenge you to try to keep the others in mind, if you can. All of these are important, and it is good that God speaks to some of us with some images and others with others, because we need each other’s perspectives to hold on to that fullness of what’s going on in Communion.
To be honest with you, that is a huge idea here. You see, the things that Communion is also tell us things about what it’s not. And the first one is just that: it’s not individual alone – that is, while it is personal, it is also communal – it’s not all about you. Second, it’s also not just something we do here and now – rather, it’s something that looks forward and backward, and that Christians literally all over the world are doing right now. Finally, it’s not “halftime” in our worship service – while it is usually around 10:45, it’s not really the time to refill your coffee, get another donut, or talk loudly with your friends. There are deeper things going on here – things God is inviting us into.
You may be wondering, what kind of deeper things are you talking about? How do I access those deeper things? Well, God has given us lots of different ways to come into contact with him – paths that have been tried out and found to be good and solid. Some of those are connected with the different aspects of Communion we talked about.
Because this is a meal, let me invite you in this time to meditate on how God uses small things for big purposes.
Because this is a thanksgiving for Jesus, let me invite you to focus on the cross we have up here – imagine Jesus there, dying for you and me.
Because this is a Communion, a sharing, let me invite you to look around at those that are here, and to pray and give thanks for them.
Because this is the Lord’s Supper, in memory of the Last Supper, let me invite you to read in the Gospels the stories of that Last Supper.
Because this is our Passover, let me invite you to read the stories about the first Passover, as recorded in Exodus 12, or perhaps some Psalms that talk about God’s mighty acts.
Because this is a foretaste of that great banquet when God renews the earth, let me invite you simply to thank God for what is to come.
Because this is our little Mass, the spiritual food for our “sending out,” let me invite you to think about those you know who aren’t here, who aren’t connected with God, and to consider sharing the invitation you’ve received with them.