Last week I preached a message on Communion. It was good to look at the subject again, I mean it begs a question, what place does it have in the experience of the Spirit-filled Christian/Church, after all, we seek and know the presence and power of God, why would we want to go through what appears to be a ritual?
Then again I think of being asked as a pastor by a Christian of many years, “What is meant to happen when we take communion? What am I meant to do?” I wonder how many others think the same?
As a boy I remember observing communion (or the Lord’s Supper as it was known) in the church I grew up in. The Christian adults at the end of the meeting once a month all got up and went to the front and had their own little meeting, while we children stayed quietly (and I mean quietly) in our seats… The Table was covered with a cloth, there was bread and wine, a reading, prayer. It was quiet, solemn, serious (not that quiet, solemn and serious is neccessarily wrong)… after that it was a mystery…
So what of it? What is it and what is meant to happen?
Well there are those who think the bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Jesus once the priest has prayed – it’s now consecrated, holy, and when they take communion it’s at an altar where Christ is offered afresh.
For others the bread and wine don’t physically change but nevertheless there is a very real presence in and under the elements, much as a sponge dipped in water is a sponge with real water in it.
Still others say, no, Real Presence is wrong, but there is a Spiritual Presence in the Bread and Wine, somehow Jesus is present in them, though not physically.
And others reacting to both of the above say, no, there is no real physical or spiritual presence, they are only emblems, its just a means of remembering Jesus – his death and resurrection, and we shouldn’t be looking to experience anything.
Present at the Table
Now the fact that Jesus said ‘this is my body’ can mean no more than he intended it as a representation is revealed in the fact that he was sitting there in his body, and the bread he held was just bread – nothing had changed. Yes he was present to them and yes his desire is to be present to us. The drama was in the action. Jesus said elsewhere that when two or three are gathered in his name he is there among them. The same I think applies to communion, it’s a meal he invites us to partake of, its a table and not an altar – thats important as an altar separates and needs special people to officiate and offerings to be made, whereas tables put us all at the same level and are the place of fellowship. The presence then is not in the bread and wine but in the act itself when done in faith.
In a world where much of our worship can be about what we are doing, “I worship you,” “I give you my life,” “I trust in you…” (and theres a place for that) the communion table is solely about what he has done, and invites us to.
More to come…