If you’re visiting with us, especially on the first Sunday of the month, you may experience this Ordinance of the Church. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it can seem a little strange. In fact, this particular practice of our faith is why some ill-informed outsiders in the first few centuries AD actually labeled early Christians as “Cannibals!” Obviously, that’s not the case, so what exactly is Communion?
What’s in a Name? Names like “Communion,” “The Lord’s Supper,” or “The Lord’s Table” all refer to this same event. Other traditions within the Christian stream may use terms like “Eucharist” or “Mass.”Also, we call it an “Ordinance,” that is, something which Jesus has instructed His followers to observe. Our church recognizes two such Ordinances: Communion and Believers’ Baptism (don’t worry—no one is going to try to dunk you today!).
What’s it for? As Christians, we celebrate Communion first of all, because Jesus has instructed us to do so. We also use it to reflect on what Jesus’ death on the cross has meant for us personally, to be drawn closer to God and each other, and to remember that the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection to forgive our sins and restore our relationship to God (the “Gospel”) is something we want to share with others.
Who’s it for? This is a celebration for anyone who has decided to commit his or her life to following Jesus. What church you’re from doesn’t matter. If that’s not a commitment you’ve made, feel free to let the plate pass by you and you can sit back and observe. No one will be giving you any funny looks—after all, sometimes as followers of Jesus we’ll choose not to participate in Communion for one reason or another, such as a personal issue we might be struggling with.
What is it? Essentially, a cracker and some juice. When Jesus first started this, He was sitting at a table with his closest followers. After eating, He broke a new piece of flat bread and handed it out, instructing them to eat. Then He passed around a cup of wine. Small, broken pieces of matzo crackers and cups of unfermented grape juice stand in for those original elements for logistical reasons.
What do they mean? Of the bread, Jesus said “this is My Body, broken for you.” It is picture of how Jesus’ body was broken in His death on our behalf. Of the wine He said “this is the New Covenant in My blood, poured out for you.” It serves to remind us not only of the blood Jesus lost when He died, but also of the promise of New Life and knowing God He fulfilled. This is what earned Christians that accusation of cannibalism, and I suppose it were actually a piece of Jesus’ body and a cup of His blood, they’d have a point. But it is only bread and juice, and it stays that way. It’s meant to be an illustration, nothing more, but in taking part we’re saying, “Thank you for doing this for me, Jesus. I’m going to follow you wherever you take me.”