Christians have spent a lot of time making bread and wine something holy over the last 20 centuries. Its pretty weird when you actually stop and think about how Holy Communion became what it is today in our churches.
For those of you who are not aware, Communion or Eucharist is that time during a worship service where Christians will go forward or be served a bite of bread and a shot of wine (or grape juice) to remember Jesus Christ's sacrifice of body and flesh when he died on the cross for our salvation. We remember that we are given new life because of him.
I love communion. I was born of a very mystical father who adored Holy Eucharist and modeling this wonder to everyone who participated in the ritual with him. I have always found that communion is an intimately awesome part of worship when the participants are intentional and reverent.
I still get teary when I see a host of people heading up to the table and watching pastors and elders look folks in the eye saying "This is Christ's body broken for you, Claire..." However, as much as I love and believe that the purpose of this ritual is to do what Jesus commanded us to do (which is to REMEMBER him), I can't help but wonder if we have boxed this idea in a little too tightly.
The more that I have learned and the more time I have spent studying the history, theology and tradition behind communion, the more I am convinced that our Lord must giggle to himself each time we set this grand processional of elements into motion.
Jesus created the Lord's Supper the night he was with the Disciples in Jerusalem for Passover (the Holy Seder meal still kept by the Jews). The Passover meal was a traditional MEAL served and eaten by practicing Jews for their families to remember Moses and the great Exodus out of Egypt. They remember all that God has and will continue to provide for his people. In fact, it is symbolic of the journey and the last meal that the Israelites were eating during the final plague when the Angel of Death took the lives of the first borns from families who did not have the blood of the lamb on their door posts. So, Jesus is in this upper room with all of his bros eating the Passover meal just like all good Jews would and should have been doing at the time.
Did you catch that this was a meal? All food groups were represented, there was chatting, lounging, he washed every one's feet. We are talking hospitality, hosting, serving, passing the food, talking about God, laughing, singing, and hanging out together. In short, I like to think of this as a time of communing with one another.
Communing with God.
Jesus told the Disciples a lot of life changing, important stuff that night. They argued over who was the best or his favorite. They found out he was going to be killed and then come back to life again. They realized that Judas was going to betray Jesus. Peter made a promise that he would never abandon Jesus (which he broke). Jesus promised he would never be lost to them because he would leave with them (and all of us) the Spirit (Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth, Counselor, Friend, Advocate, whatever you want to call it). This was a really good meal that Jesus's community shared together. It was also a meal that honored God and an ancient tradition laid down by the forefathers.
In worship on Sunday mornings, it seems a little diluted now to sit in the pew and wait for an usher to invite you forward to receive a small hunk of bread and a taste of wine to remember Jesus.
I have vivid memories of (as Preacher's kid) waiting on Dad after worship and nibbling on bread and sipping grape juice that was still sitting on the communion table. I would take my finger and trace the carving on the side of the table that read "This DO in Remembrance of me."
Do this in remembrance of me.
Jesus said that when we take a cup and take bread we should remember him and all that he has done for us. Think about that.
Just like all the unlikely chosen people of scripture, Jesus chose these ordinary, everyday, mundane elements to become conductors of our remembering his life and love.
What I hear Jesus telling us, as he sits at a full table communing with his very best friends over a meaningful, traditional, and hearty meal, is that when we gather together, eat, and drink he is there too. When we commune together, we commune with his very Spirit. We become his very life living and whole.
That is not just 5 minutes at the end of worship when everyone eats a tasteless wafer and takes a half shot of Welches.
This is dinner with your family.
This is lunch with your co-workers.
This is a break over coffee.
This is having a beer with your friends.
This is sitting in staff meeting.
This is hosting a party.
This is celebrating a birthday.
This is sitting around a bon fire roasting marshmallows.
This is a deep 1am discussion over wine.
This is jamming on your back porch with your neighbor who brought over his guitar.
This is lounging around your living room talking about the meaning of life.
THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.
Communion that we practice in worship has become a symbol of the communion we are called to live into in each and every moment of our lives as followers of Christ. This Spirit that binds us all together is living fully in community. Where three or more are gathered together, Jesus is there also.
When we commune together, we commune with God. Our ordinary, mundane, common as bread and wine lives, are the communion that we invest, ingest and embrace in so fully that in all that we do, we become the LIVING memory of Jesus Christ himself.
THAT is communion. THIS is our calling. This is what fills my life to overflowing.
This is the cup of salvation.
Thanks be to God.