The communion meal (also known as the Eucharist. Lord’s Supper, or agape feast) is an element of our worship that derives from the most ancient Christian tradition. It traces its origin back to the early church remembering Jesus’s last meal with his disciples before his arrest and execution and the blessing that he gives them. This event, in itself, is also an appropriation/adaptation of the Jewish Passover meal blessing. Each of the four gospels includes this story and it is described in 1 Corinthians 11 and Jude 12.
Because of this ancient origin, there is a diverse spectrum of practices throughout the world. Some traditions are quite formal, utilizing a specific type of bread and drink, considering the forms to be sacred in and of themselves (think of communion wafers and sacramental wine). Other traditions see the symbolic nature of the food and drink and feel free to substitute local replacements for what would have been unleavened bread and wine (think of pizza and beer). Each of these types are blessed in their own unique way to help us remember the presence of Jesus.
Our tradition includes communion at every Sunday service for a few reasons. For some, it is because of a somewhat literalist readings of Acts 2:42; 20:7; and 1 Corintians 11. For others, it is to be respectful of traditions that would celebrate annually, quarterly, or monthly. For others, it is a holdover from an era of frontier expansion where people may not have been available for church consistently each Sunday and you wanted to assure that people could participate regardless of what Sunday they arrived. For others, it has become our expression of gratuitous welcome and inclusion, as the ritual can sometimes be the means of exclusion from the family of God in other traditions.
While there is a lot that could be said in this space about communion, the theme that I choose to focus on is fusion. At the table, we have seemingly disparate aspects brought together into one another. We have the physical elements along with their spiritual and mystical significance. We have an ancient meal and a future hope. We have diversities and unity. We have individual orientations and community. We have brokenness and wholeness simultaneously. And in these fusions we see God’s invitation to us, with all of what makes us who we are, to follow the way of Jesus in a new family of faith.
Experiment: Pay attention to all of your senses as you participate in communion- the feel of the bread in your fingers, the smell of the juice, the way that the flavors mingle together in your mouth, the sound of chewing- and consider how God’s presence is as immediately present as those experiences. How does that challenge or empower you to live as a result?