Sharing holy communion
In remembrance of Jesus' last supper
|We all like a good get-together—and so did Jesus. The Bible tells how he attended at least one wedding (where he even stepped in when they ran out of wine!) and a funeral. Jesus often used references to festivities in his parables, too, putting his teaching into an everyday cultural context.
In fact, the religious leaders of his day criticised him for befriending the lower ranks of society and for eating and drinking with them!
Jesus used such a festival to show his disciples how to remember him after his impending death. He did it at a Passover meal, the day before he was crucified. (The annual festival of Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of his people out of Egypt.)
At the meal, Jesus picked up some bread, gave thanks to God for his food, broke it into pieces, and passed it around the circle, saying, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He did something similar with the cup of wine, saying, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this is remembrance of me.”
Christians have continued to obey this command for over 2,000 years. But what happens at this eating and drinking? We use various names to describe the act: the Lord’s supper, holy communion, the eucharist (which is Greek for thanksgiving), and is one of the sacraments (the other is baptism).
The four main elements in the service consist of taking the bread, giving thanks to God, breaking the bread, and sharing the bread and wine. Different Christian groups may add prayers, readings and hymns.
There are two essential aspects to communion: the outward and visible sign, and the inward and spiritual grace. When you give a gift to someone you love, there is both the material gift and the affection that the giver shows. The bread and wine are the outward sign, but the inward and spiritual grace consist of God strengthening us and reassuring us of his acceptance and love. Most of us do not feel anything tangible when we take the bread and wine, but we believe that, since God has promised to work in our lives, he will be true to his word.
It is important to prepare in prayer for taking the bread and wine. Because we do it in memory of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection—and especially his sacrificial death—we cannot treat it lightly.
Normally, communion is shared in the company of others (indeed, the word communion implies sharing and togetherness). This emphasises the fact that, although we must come to Christ as individuals, we are not alone and, indeed, we cannot really live the Christian life without the help of other believers. To help us understand that this belonging together is important, many of us use pieces broken from one loaf, and we drink the wine from a common cup. The method of receiving is not important; it is the fact of taking bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus that really matters.
Pray: God, what a mysterious idea taking communion is. Help me to understand and appreciate it; draw me into a place where I can share it with others, and experience their fellowship. Amen.
Read about the Last Supper from the book of Matthew (NT)
Look up the eucharist in Wikipedia
Watch the music video for the song Communion, by Green Day
Watch an animation clip of the last supper
Read about the eucharist (communion)
See the painting by Rubens of The Last Supper
See the painting by da Vinci of The Last Supper
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