March 15, 2017

Communion strengthens community

Depending on denominational background, another church practice (besides baptism) is called “The Lord’s Supper” or “Communion” or the “Eucharist.” Paul describes it in a passage often read during this ritual.

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
“But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–34)

While some believe that these elements of bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, it seems to me that the Bible does not go there. Instead, this is a symbolic reminder of what Jesus did for us. His body was broken beneath the weight of our sins; His blood poured out by death whereby our sin was taken from us and its penalty paid by His substitutionary death.

By taking the elements, I am focusing on God’s grace and love in sacrificing Jesus to redeem me. I am also giving my full attention to Jesus Christ and His obedience to go to the Cross on my behalf.

This passage warns not to eat the bread or drink the wine in an unworthy manner. Each time we have communion in our church, the pastor reminds us that this is not about our worth or about being sinless. We do not participate because we are perfect, but because we believe. Our faith is in Christ’s finished work. He makes us accepted by God. Unbelievers can never be worthy, yet those who are able to take the elements are made worthy by faith.

We are also told that keeping short accounts with God is important. That is, if I have unconfessed sin in my life that I am aware of, it needs to be cleared before I participate in Communion. Again, this is not about perfection, but an opportunity to take care of anything that is hindering my relationship with God. I’m not certain Paul includes this in the matter of “examining” ourselves, but how could I focus on Christ’s sacrifice for me and fully celebrate what He has done without confessing sin?

As solemn as this ordinance is, very often my heart is filled with joy. Jesus died for my sin; I am set free, no longer condemned, no longer under God’s wrath, forgiven and free to serve the Lord! I’ve told our pastor that I often feel like ‘dancing in the aisles’ because of what Jesus has done.

Lord Jesus, I’m so glad that You gave us this command to remember You and Your sacrifice for us, not that I would forget, but taking time to really think about it does amazing things in the Body of Christ. First of all, You are glorified. We sing louder and with great joy that You are our God and Savior. Also, we are united in our worship; our hearts are turned to You in unison. Nothing else matters except that we are Your children and we have Your gracious gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

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