I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t spend much time thinking about communion – I’ve been a Christian for somewhere around 10 years, which means I’ve taken it hundreds of times in life. It’s something that many churches do every Sunday, which means it can become quite routine and even mundane. But, when you do stop and think about it, as I’ve been doing recently, it’s pretty striking.
At the Last Supper, just before he is about to die, Jesus says this to his disciples:
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Luke 22:19-20 New International Version (NIV) [emphasis added]
Isn’t it incredible that thousands of years after this conversation, we are still doing this? ‘Tradition’ can feel like a dirty word in some respects these days, and there are valid reasons for this. To me, it’s a complicated word; I wrestle with a lot of different ideas and worldviews, trying to work out what should be kept or let go. But communion is a reminder of the beauty that can still be found in it.
Communion reminds us who we are, what Jesus did for us, and that we can’t earn salvation, because the highest price was paid for it. We’re participating in something that he told us to do, and that he did himself, setting a model for us that’s still upheld. It reminds me that we’re standing on a foundation that’s been built by him, which has continued to be built upon for generations, and will continue.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Matthew 26:28 (NIV) [emphasis added]
I think it’s significant that Jesus chose this as a way for the church to corporately remember him – what is essentially the sharing of food and drink between friends and family. On a practical level, communion highlights that we weren’t made for isolation. Though we have our own personal relationship with God which we should cultivate, Jesus is clear that there is importance in worshipping him together. Many of us grapple with our own dissatisfaction and disappointments surrounding church life – I’m sure I’ll write more about this at some point. However, it can’t be dismissed that God loves church – it was his invention, and he wants us to participate, where possible. We should never forget how important communing with other believers is, not just on Sunday but in everyday life, over tables, on sofas, over the phone, during celebrations, etc. – we should pursue friendship with each other.
Also, we’re encouraged that we can be literal friends with God! We see in this act, how much Jesus desires relationship with us – to sit with us, and share stuff with us. I take this for granted so much. What if every time we took communion, we imagined sharing with Jesus himself? He wants us to remember him. He shares everything he has with us. That includes his righteousness, his authority, and even his name. Sometimes, we have to share his persecution. Importantly, we share in his victory. We get to connect with him – not just in formal communion but all the time! Jesus says in John 15:15, “I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you”
“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you”
John 15:15 (NIV)
He isn’t the faraway God, he’s the up close and personal, shoes-off, toes out, face-to-face, eye contact God. Imagine going to your best friends house, or your family home – you probably know where everything is, you’re opening the fridge, you help yourself to food and drink. Your feet are on the sofa, you have a favourite chair. What I’m saying is, Jesus is comfortable with you, and you can be comfortable with him. As a Christian, you have full access to him. That doesn’t mean he condones sin, or that he won’t correct you. But, he isn’t bored or grieved spending time with us – he actually enjoys it.
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. “
Hebrews 4:16 New Living Translation (NLT)
I believe that God is changing us as Christians, both individually and collectively, to be more like him. That’s an incredibly personal act. He can do it because he knows us so intimately – our personality, insecurities, wants and needs.
Jesus is the righteous king, who we worship, and who will be glorified forever – but he’s also our best friend and our family. It’s a beautiful contradiction. Because of what he did on the cross, we can take a seat with him, eat and drink with him, talk about whatever we want, and receive forgiveness and help. Let’s remember that there is no one better to be in communion with.