Eucharist , Holy Communion, Holy Sacrament, Last Supper, Lord’s Supper, communion, the Sacrament. Whatever you call it.
Yesterday we celebrated it at church and I realized that I don’t understand what it really means. I’m willing to bet you don’t either, because we live in a culture that’s so completely removed from the foundations of this rich tradition, and really from any traditions.
And whether you use wine or grape juice or Black Currant Fanta (as they did in a church in Africa I had the pleasure to visit).
What I’m wondering is, when you tip that cup up to your lips and let the (usually) purplish-red liquid trickle down you throat … what does it mean to you?
Because I’ve always gone to churches that practice “open communion” or letting any professing Christian take part regardless of denomination or church membership, for years it was just a recognition of the fact that I was a Christian.
But my dad, as my pastor, always talked about the importance of having our hearts in tune with God before taking the bread and cup. It comes from I Corinthians 11:17-31, when Paul finds out that the church in Corinth has been getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper, eating their own meals and ignoring the poor. He says to remember why they’re there, what Jesus did for them. This tells the real meaning, the basics, which is great. Except that because I was so young the first time I heard it, I latched onto the first part, the part about being right with God. And so, even though I already had God’s forgiveness, I would try spend those few minutes of silence dad of prayer over the bread or cup frantically praying away any sins I’d committed recently.
To be fair, this was not at all what my dad was suggesting. And as I’ve gotten older, his preaching and others’ on grace has helped the panic fade. All he was saying was, “stop, remember why you do this before we start. If you’re not walking with God right now, take this chance to come back and commune with him.” Hence, I think, one reason for the word communion.
And I knew why, I really did. But I didn’t KNOW. I thought I did. This morning while I was reflecting on the cup in my hands a bit of history about the meaning of the cup came back to me. But I wasn’t sure I remembered right, so I had to go looking.
I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Or what I was letting you in for. Because there’s no way I could go into it all in one post.
In fact here’s all I’m going to say about it today. That cup means you are TREMENDOUSLY loved. Written in that amber liquid is a story that started when the first squirt of juice rolled down Eve’s chin from that forbidden fruit and won’t end till the last drop of blood on earth is spilled and we get to see the Epilogue. And it’s center is love.
Jesus said “Do this to remember me as often as you drink it,” I Corinthians 11:25. Remember what I did for you, how I love you, how I want you near me.
I didn’t really get this until my one afternoon of research, which told me I need to know more. So I’m going to be learning and sharing with you what I find along the way. Maybe you could help me out. What confuses you about communion? Do you have any questions that only seem to come up when the church gets really quiet in the midst of the passing of the cups? What are some things you already know about its history and meaning? Suggest those things in the comments and I will do my best to work them into the posts as I go, and learn the answers where I don’t know them (which I expect will be a lot).
But there’s one thing you can do now, without waiting for me to finish my research or to do some of your own, and without waiting for the next time your church celebrates this remarkable tradition. You can sit down and remember. Remember Jesus … what has he done for you? What does he mean to you? Remember. It’s the only instruction he gave aside from “eat” and “drink.” And I think that’s because he knew we could get it, even if were weren’t Jews and didn’t know the whole story. After all, we still have lots to remember.