Communion…

Shortly after I published “Unity…”, I realized that I had omitted what is probably the most divisive “issue” facing the 21st-century church, and that is Communion. Communion, which is also know as the Lord’s Supper, the Table of the Lord and the Eucharist, is that special meal which our Lord instituted on the night before His crucifixion. I am not going to get into how various denominations view this meal, because that is not what is particularly divisive.

Ownership…
Who “owns” the Lord’s Supper? The answer should be self-evident, but one would never know it by the way some churches and denomination treat it. If the Lord’s Supper truly belongs to Jesus Christ who instituted it, Christians should be able to walk into any church in the world and partake, no questions asked…

The way it is…
Quite a few years ago, when my oldest daughter was in elementary school, we were invited to go to a “First-Communion” celebration for one of her classmates. Her family was Roman Catholic, and we were Protestant, and we were told in no uncertain terms that we couldn’t partake of Communion, because we weren’t Catholic.

I had a similar experience a few years ago when I participated in a funeral at a Catholic church.

Several years ago, my parents were excluded from partaking in Communion at an Orthodox Presbyterian church, because they weren’t members of THAT church. The real irony is that my dad was a pastor, ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian denomination. What was up with that?

I have been in churches where the Elders won’t serve anyone they don’t know. What about people visiting for the first time or on vacation?

A brass-ensemble has performed as part of our service a couple of times at my church, but when communion was served, they were passed-over, even though one of the members of the ensemble is also a member of my church. Was that arranged ahead of time, or did it just “happen“?

Children…
When are children “ready” to start partaking of communion? Only God knows for sure, but their parents should be the best judges of their “readiness“, lacking some formal “procedure” for communing-member status. When my own children were young, their mother and I determined when they were “ready“. My own experience probably more parallels that in the Catholic Church, even though we weren’t Catholic. When I was in fifth-grade, a group of us went through Catechism classes which were taught by our pastor. At the end of those classes, if the pastor was satisfied with our profession-of-faith, we were accepted into the church as communing-members, entitled to take communion. That was my “first-communion“.

My own participation…
There have been times in my life when I didn’t feel comfortable partaking of communion because of what was going on in my life. Because my marriage was in shambles, I didn’t partake of communion for several months a couple of years ago. One of the Elders, who noticed that I wasn’t partaking, asked me about it. After I explained it to him, he reminded me that my marriage being in shambles wasn’t my “fault“, and that I should partake in good-conscious, because I had done everything in my power to mend the marriage. Communion isn’t about my “goodness“, rather it is about what Christ did on my behalf.

Table of restoration…
I love the way Pastor David Hatton served communion during our service at the end of the Christian Naturist Festival. He read the words of institution and set the elements out, and then each of us was free to go to the Table when we were ready, leave our burdens behind, and take the elements as symbols of our restoration in Christ. That speaks to the depth of the meaning of the Lord’s Table. In Christ, we leave what we were behind and are given His righteousness in return.

The institution…
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mark 14:22-26)

Final thoughts…
No one is “worthy” to approach the Table of the Lord in our own merits, and that is what Communion symbolizes. We bring our sinfulness and brokenness to the Table and we receive His grace and mercy in return. Jesus Christ’s disciples were broken men, but He didn’t tell them to “get their act together” before they could partake. Jesus served them, brokenness and all, because what He was going to do for them, and what He did for us, mended their brokenness as it does ours.

I pray that each time you approach the Table of the Lord, that you do so in humble and total reliance on His grace and mercy. If you do, you will be blessed in partaking of Communion.

In Christ,
Steve

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2 thoughts on “Communion…

  1. I have been blessed to be involved mostly with churches who practice “open communion,” encouraging any Jesus-follower to share the Lord’s Supper whenever it is served. Yet I know it is not so in all churches. I wish it were. Jesus prayed for all His followers to be and remain united–but look where we are, or rather where we aren’t.

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