These next few weeks as we worship God during Lent, we want to focus on three key aspects of our worship as a community: worship through praise in song and prayer, worship through communion, and worship through giving. At Evergreen, we desire each person to grow in worship of our great God.
One of the central pieces of historic Christian worship has been communion or what is commonly called the Lord’s Supper. You can read endless works on how that has been understood and developed through history. But there are some key elements to what communion is that helps us to understand the importance and the rationale behind why we celebrate it every Sunday at Evergreen. I wanted to simply remind you of a few:
As we gather at the table….
- We reaffirm our new identity in Christ.
We are reaffirming what we initially declared in baptism-namely, our new identity in Christ. Through this act, we are publicly confessing our loyalty to Christ. Each week we have a chance to reaffirm our personal faith and publicly identify ourselves with the Body of Christ as we celebrate the miraculous gift of salvation.
- We proclaim the good news of Christ’s death.
In one of the most well-known passages about communion in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is seeking to address some problems that have arisen in the church around the practice and writes:
For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. 1 Cor. 11:23-26
By this representation of Christ’s broken body and shed blood we as a community are proclaiming to one another (and I think Paul would go on to say the ‘principalities and powers’) the good news of Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and evil in his death and resurrection.
- We commune with Jesus.
Over the centuries there have been many questions raised as to exactly how Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper. It’s one of the major disagreements that separate Catholics and Protestants and even denominations within Protestantism. Many protestants believe that the Holy Spirit mediates the presence of Jesus “which transforms our observance of the Lord’s Supper from a solemn memorial into a joyous celebration of the risen and returning Lord who is present among us” (Grenz). While there will always be mystery surrounding what happens at communion, we believe that the Lord’s Supper is a time where we commune with Jesus.
- We commune with one another and affirm our unity.
Communion is not only a symbol of our present community with Christ, but also with one another within Christ’s fellowship. Our eating together from a single loaf symbolizes our common participation in communion with Christ. The Spirit reminds us that we belong to each other and are to be concerned for the welfare of one another. The death and resurrection of Jesus is central to everything we do. Despite our vast differences with our own backgrounds, experiences, and ideologies, it is this that unifies us and that we rally around weekly. (Grenz)
A Note to Parents:
If you’re a fellow-parent, our job is to help our children understand the importance and value of communion and help them to take it in a way that is respectful and reverent (as much as possible!). One of the things I always try to do is to ask my boys, “Do you remember why we do this?” They have started to have a correct, but relatively rote response to that question so I’ve started to ask a different followup each time to make sure they’re still thinking about what they’re doing. Questions like, “And why did Jesus die for us?” or “What does it mean that God loves us?” However you chose to do it, the important thing is that we’re intentional in how we’re teaching our kids about communion.
As we come together to worship this Sunday and we get to the time of communion, I hope you’ll pause for a minute as well and consider one of these powerful aspects of the Lord’s Supper as we gather together to celebrate what Jesus has done for us!
(Much of this article is inspired by Stan Grenz’ tremendous book “Theology for the Community of God.”)